Saturday, January 03, 2009

Meta-Religion: RHP vs LHP

One of the main concepts that need to be addressed when analyzing religions is the difference between a Left Hand Path (LHP) religion, and a Right Hand Path (RHP) religion. Since the exact definition of the RHP and LHP is not well established, I will approach those concepts from a point of view that is most meaningful for my personal views.

Most mainstream religions follow the RHP; Examples include all Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism). Most Satanic divisions follow the LHP.

So what do those paths entail?!

The main difference between those two paths is their views to individualism, morality, meaning, and the way their followers perceive idealism. First of all, LHP religions emphasize individualism and self-reliance. The RHP emphasizes the need for a deity or a divine being. The RHP believes that humans cannot achieve goodness on their own. The intent of "Right-Hand Path" belief systems is to attain proximity to divinity, or integration with divinity. Thats why we find RHP followers try to connect with a divine being through different methods. The RHP conceives perfection of its deity, and tries to achieve that perfection through methods dictated by that deity, or by imitating that deity.

We find that this issue in particular is a major attack point of RHP followers against LHP followers. Although atheism is not strictly a LHP (some atheists might subscribe to the RHP), but we find that RHP followers are afraid of atheists. Atheists are usually described as being immoral while "God" followers are described as moral. A common argument that RHP followers usually present is that they attain their morals from their holy books and their God, then they ask where do the atheists get their morals from?!

"Codes of morality, of course, have always been grounded in religion. For those of us in Western civilization, its tenets emanate from the Judeo-Christian ethos. By casting this heritage aside, and replacing it with nothing more than the conscience of lone individuals, we lay the groundwork for moral anarchy." — Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League

"How do we define 'good' if we don't believe in God? God in his word, the Bible, tells us what's good and bad and right and wrong. If we are each ourselves defining what's good, it's going to be a crazy world." — Tim Wildmon, American Family Association

If we look in depth at that argument we find that those RHP followers cannot perceive morality to be attained without a deity. This approach is very dangerous; A good article on this subject called: "Positive Atheism: Ethical Stability" demonstrates the volatility of the RHP approach to morality.

"If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed." — Albert Einstein

While the above quote handles a slightly different issue that might not apply to all RHP religions, this is another argument about the moral volatility of some mainstream religions.

In short, the RHP religions are based on the belief that humans need a deity to achieve goodness, morality, idealism, giving their life meaning, deliverance, and many other concepts that they believe that they cannot achieve on their own. In contrast, the LHP is based on the belief that humans need to work on and make an effort to achieve goodness, morality, meaning, ...etc, and that humans can achieve those results on their own. Results may vary, one person might find meaning different than another, another might find morality different than another, and some might define goodness different than others. Some might achieve their set goals, other might not. No deities are needed, no supernaturals, only the work of human hands. As we can see, choice and responsibility are very necessary for the LHP.

RHP is based on the belief that humans need to be part of something larger than themselves. They need a deity to give their lives meaning. The RHP religions usually require submission to a collective group and\or a deity. For this reason, we find that RHP followers are usually involved in working for a "greater will", a "divine plan", or "God's will"!! All those concepts diminish the value of the individual because those individuals are only perceived to have value through their connection to the deity. On the other hand, the LHP emphasizes the value of the individual independently of any groups they might participate in. The LHP is solitary, individualistic, personal, based on self-development, self-analysis, and self-empowerment.

This shades some light on the common questions Satanists receive by those with a RHP background. "Why do you worship Satan?", "Who do you worship?", as pressing as it might seem to the RHP followers to know "who to worship", this question is of least significance in the LHP, and is also pretty much meaningless question. The need of an object to worship is a characteristic of the RHP that can be very blinding when applying this methodology to a LHP religion. The RHP followers fail to perceive a religion where there is no-one to worship, where there is no leader to follow, where there is no absolute book of truth.

Another aspect where the LHP and RHP differ is their attitude toward the concept of darkness. LHP usually embraces darkness, while RHP usually fears darkness. Darkness symbolizes lack of sight, or more generally lack of knowledge. Darkness also symbolizes the unknown.

So why does the RHP fear the darkness while the LHP embraces it?!

The reason is that RHP is based on the belief that the humans lack the ability to learn and to explore the unknown. RHP is based on the concept of guidance. RHP depends on a divine being guiding its followers, a divine being to light up their path and show them the way. In contrast, the LHP is based on self-reliance. LHP encourages exploration of the darkness. LHP is based on the the humans' ability to create light in the darkness. So LHP does not avoid the darkness, but encourages its followers to explore that darkness, uncover its deepest secrets, and bring it into the light.

The conception of "God" is an obvious example of the RHP disbelief in the humans' ability to explore the unknown. While the exact details of the origin of the universe is unknown, the RHP simply does not give humans the chance to explore, and discover the reality of the origins of the universe on their own. Instead, the RHP provides unfounded conception of "God", thus releasing its followers from the need to explore.

In addition to what has been said, the LHP differs from the RHP in that the LHP emphasizes on freethought, whereas the RHP is usually dogmatic with strict rules. The LHP expects its followers to individually investigate, analyze, and decide their own set of beliefs, morals, ethics, make their own decisions, and plan their own lives. This is evident in all LHP literature that leaves so much for the individual to decide on their own. On the other hand, the RHP expects its followers to follow a strict set of rules and dogma. Many followers of the RHP become too engaged with following rules, and if no rules exist in their books, they might consult a theologian of their respective religion. Some RHP religions reach ridiculous extents in such rulings, that some RHP religions interfere with the personal life of its followers. For example, Islam and Judaism have strict rules of what its followers may and may not eat... In my personal opinion, those fine-grained rules that handles the most trivial issues, such as what and what not to eat, shows how much those RHP religions are absorbed in the process of dogmatism and the dire need for submission.

To make it in few points:
  • RHP is the path of dependence on and\or submission to an ideal being, with perceived perfection, usually a deity.
  • RHP is the path lightened by the perceived ideal, and guidance is provided through that ideal or its teachings.
  • RHP is the path of integration with something larger than oneself, usually a deity, or the group of followers.
  • LHP is the path of independence and self-reliance.
  • LHP is the path of freethought.
  • LHP is the path of responsibility through choice.
  • LHP is the path of creating your own conception of morality, goodness, and idealism.
  • LHP is the path of unguided explorations, and uncovering the unknown.
  • LHP is the path of appreciating your own individualism and uniqueness.