Politics, Religion & Weight

“Have you seen all those signs around town?” my friend asked. “The ones that show all those hip, cool people and say ‘I’m a Mormon.’ What’s up with that?”

“I can’t say for sure,” I answered. “But I would guess that it’s because Mitt Romney is Mormon, and his supporters don’t want that to be an issue in his presidential campaign. After all, Kennedy was the first Catholic president and it was a big deal.”

“Really?” my friend answered. “But Catholic is so common. Go figure.”

Then he asked a question that sparked a fabulous discussion, “Why do we even need religion?”

We talked about the personal experience of the Divine, the cultural experience, and the history of political power plays.

My friend finally concluded that he was very grateful to his mother for being so open-minded and raising him without any specific religious dogma. Unlike many of his friends, he had no underlying religious fears or beliefs from his upbringing that needed sorting out. He was free to be himself and to learn and experience and grow as a human being.

As with most “catch-up” conversations with old friends, the topic eventually turned to my work – the book I’d written, the practice I’ve built and the new programs I continue to develop.

“Whoa there!” my friend exclaimed. “You can’t tell people they can eat anything they want! They’ll all just go out and eat Big Macs all day!”

That remark fascinated me. This is the same guy with whom I just spent hours discussing how, for centuries the powerful have used religion to control the masses. This is the same guy who made the point that the fear of going to hell is a highly effective tool for manipulation. At best, political and religious leaders sought to serve and protect their people – with some arguing that the masses were not smart enough to take care of themselves. They would unwittingly succumb to their base instincts, and they needed government and religion to “save them from themselves.” Could he not see that the “diet and exercise” weight-loss paradigm in our culture follows the same energetic dynamic?? Apparently, he could not. And not only could he not see that, he bought into it as well!

In our culture, the equivalent of going to or being in hell is getting or being fat. And there are very specific dogmatic rules on how to avoid eternal damnation. You must eat only your “daily allotment.” And you must pay a penance to eat – namely exercise. You shall not covet that cookie – that is a sin. But according to some, if you ate that cookie you could still avoid hell – if you confessed, paid for your indulgences with more exercise, or suffered without your next allotment of food.

And these dogmatic teachings, veiled as they might be, permeate our cultural consciousness. The media regularly features “experts” who give you tips and tricks to help you overcome your base, carnal yearnings and avoid hell. Or these ideas are reinforced by advertisers selling products that let you give in to temptation without suffering the consequence – “this tastes just like dessert but it only has 100 calories!”

The dynamic of this “diet and exercise” consciousness is no different than the dynamic of any other institution seeking to control the masses. And what fascinates me is that our current cultural ideas about diet, exercise and weight are stronger and more pervasive than any particular political or religious ideology.

I’m glad that my friend unwittingly brought this to my attention. Not all free thinkers and revolutionaries have been successful – many have been martyred. But the Truth has set me free. And in freedom lies Heaven.