Is Religion really that bad?

(Find the german version: here)

Short answer: Yes. And No.

For the (very) long answer please continue reading.

I didn’t want to write this article, but because of the recent terrorist attack in Paris I think I have to. There is a lot of sh*t happening out there. Fundamentalists use religion to implement their own world view (which of course includes the forceful removal of other-thinking people), atheists often joke about religions and do present religious views often as stupid, discussions about reversing the dividing of church and state are happening (e.g. in the US), people refusing to follow the law in giving gay marriage licenses because of religion, discussions about women, abortion, celibate and “family values”, “good” and “bad”, big contradictions about what’s written in “holy” texts and what people who say to follow them really do etc. Power misuse, child abuse, control, patriarchism, oppression, suppression, superstition, creationism,  whatever you like, everything “bad” is somehow present in religions.

So on the first look, there are not really much positive things in there. Even on the second look it’s still very bad. So let’s get a bit deeper and get behind some of the mechanisms in religions. Maybe then we will be able to differentiate a bit better instead of throwing all into the same pot, cook it up and then feed this poisonous mish-mash into people just to be able to feel better than these pitiable misdirected creatures we are discussing with.

Some general things

Even with more “healthy” views on religion, there are many different views, most of the time contradicting each other and each requiring for itself to be the one and only truth. Which one is right? The atheists? The religious fanatics? Creationists? The “spiritual but not religious” group? The New Age esoteric style stuff? The well grounded “in the middle guy” who believes in something but also features science? Or even terrorists? Transpersonal psychotherapists? Buddhists? Christians? Hindu? Moslem? Shinto? WTF?

So which in your opinion has the real “truth”? First think about your own standpoint!

The real answer is simple: none of them. They all have only partial truths, some more, some less (and some seemingly none). Why? Because we develop, we evolve. Even evolution deniers admit that a child evolves into an adult (well, at least the body), an acorn develops into a tree and not vice versa. And spiritual views (and that’s what religions are) develop and evolve with us. And each step in this evolution in itself is a whole but also is a part of the next step. And a part, by definition, is no “single, absolutely true truth” (if you are interested in this topic, look up holon theory. Ken Wilber has a detailed discussion in his book Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (deutsch: Eros, Kosmos, Logos), we will only take a little of it into account for now).

And the million Euro question: Can these views be integrated somehow into one big view without contradictions? And the answer is a big Yes. Ken Wilber has done this in his Integral Model AQAL. Note that I will present only a small part of AQAL here. There have been written quite some books about it.

So “the world is only 4000 years old and god put dinosaur skeletons into rocks to challenge our faith” Creationists and Materialistic Scientific Atheists fit into one model? Religious Terrorists that kill people and e.g. Mother Theresa can be put in relation to each other and explained with this?

Yes, exactly. If you want to know how and why, read on.

Human Development

We start simple. Imagine a child is born. First it isn’t really able to do much more than to wag with it’s arms and legs and possibly lift the head. Then, after some time, it develops e.g. the ability to turn from the belly onto the back and back again. Then it starts to sit. Then it usually starts crawling. Then it stands up. Then it learns to walk. And then run, jump, turn pirouettes, play death metal drums or whatever humans can do. How exactly you define these stages and how many you introduce is not that important. But there are some general principles behind this:

  1. Every child starts at zero. It would be very unusual that a child jumps out of the womb, turns a pirouette and then bows in front of the puzzled parents (and possibly midwifes and doctors).
  2. On each stage the child learns something, that is used as a base for the next stage. If you have never learned to stand up, there is no chance for walking on two legs, and absolutely no chance to turn a pirouette. Also I doubt that you would be able to play a blast beat on a Tama drum kit. You can still crawl (if you have developed to this stage), because this stage is lower, which brings us to the next point.
  3. A higher stage includes all lower stages. Admittedly I can walk, run and perform complex movements from martial arts and guitar playing. But if something falls from my desk, I can still crawl under it to get it. Also I (fortunately!) still have the possibility to turn from the belly onto the back, which comes in handy during sleeping. Don’t think of a linear sequence of steps following each other. Think more of an onion that builds the next layer (step) around the previous ones.
  4. You can’t skip stages, you have to go through them. This is a direct conclusion of 1 and 2. If you have not learned something on a stage it is not possible to build on this ability (see the pirouette baby in point 1 above).
  5. It is not determined, how long you spend on a stage. You can go through stages quite quickly, but you can also stay a life long on one stage. Most people stop on running and some basic gymnastics. Some go further and get acrobats. Or martial artists. Or drummers.

Ok, but what has this to do with religions? Well, quite a lot! Research has shown, that the development of movement abilities, cognitive functions, world views, spirituality, emotions, self and so on do follow these principles as well!

So let’s look on the stages of these developments and maybe you will discover something new to you.

Development of World Views and Religions

There is very much research available on these developmental stage models. This research has extensively been carried out across nations, continents, cultures and traditions and no real exceptions have been found. So this seems to be some “universal” property of humans. Well, why not? Almost all humans have two legs, two arms, two kidneys, one liver, nearly the same amount of bones, a neo-cortex etc. Why not have the same inside the mind?

The same principals of development as above apply to world views, and therefore also to religions and how they are acted out and interpreted (which of course is a very important topic). The stages follow a spiral in development, which is oscillating between more individual oriented stages and community oriented stages.

Each stage has a healthy characteristic (which generally helps the development upwards and is able to solve problems of the earlier stages) and a pathological characteristic (which does not only block development, it finally also aggressively turns itself against the stage and also against other stages).

So how does this development look like?

Generally, all these developmental systems show that egocentricity declines, while the openness for others rises. This is because the development happens through differentiation (observe and make sense of it) and integration on the next stage (be actually able to use the observed principal/technique/movement etc).

A discussion of egocentricity (what it actually is and not what people believe it is) would go to far for this article, maybe in another article.

And the most important thing: a stage CANNOT understand a higher stage! It is “way beyond their head”, literally! They haven’t developed the ability to do that! This is very important as we will see later. For example, this explains, why a Creationist will never understand scientific arguments or will be able to accept them! He does NOT have the necessary mind structures developed yet exactly like a child which has not learned to stand cannot do a pirouette.

I will keep myself to Integral Theory and the Graves Model (or it’s successor Spiral Dynamics) to elaborate on this.

Also for religions, I will mostly bring the example of Christianity, since it is the most widespread in our culture, but it can be applied to other religions too.

Stage 1, Infrared (Survival)

On this stage, the “child is born”. So the primary values are food, warmth, security (and just genetic reproduction in case adults are on this stage). The actions are driven by reflex and instinct, it is sometimes called the archaic or autistic stage. People live in herds, the differentiation between me and the other ones is not really done. Since all is about survival, the instincts are quite sharp and adapted very well to nature (which some people find pre-indigenously romantic). There is no real religion on this stage as well as no culture (when you are spending the day with survival and getting food you don’t have time to write poems)

of• “What has been the effect of your sexual difficulties generic cialis.


Where to find: newborns, very early humans, Alzheimer patients, soldiers which have been abandoned in enemy territory, hunger children in Africa

Healthy: sharpens senses and instincts for better survival, high “embeddedness” in nature (though very undifferentiated and egocentric), prepares well for the next stage

Pathology: death, stuck on this stage (no higher development possible)

Transition to next stage: If there is time and energy available, observations of nature and the others in the herd bring the next level.

Stage 2, Magenta (Identification, Security)

The survival is secured. The environment is frightening and more people bring more security and more ability to handle situations. So families (blood lines) and the clan or tribe is first. All others are seen as “outer people”, curiosities or even “devils”. The clan acts most of the time quite organic. For animistic religions each nature phenomenon has a god or entity which has to be worshipped and given sacrifices so they avert harm and danger, so harmony with nature is searched.  Also the ancestors are very important
. So the tribe normally has a spiritual leader (most of the time a shaman, in Christianity it is called priest) which communicates with the spirits and interprets their will (and judges what or whom to sacrifice). There is magic everywhere and a lot of fantasy wishes. Practically all superstitions come from this stage. In Christianity on this stage god is a supernatural being up in the sky which is often angry and has to be appeased with sacrifices. But he is there to save my tribe (and only my tribe!) with his supernatural powers, because we have the only right religion. Therefore god often gives the order to slay other tribes, because they are bad and must therefore be devilish (of course this might also be just the interpretation of the priest or shaman, but who cares about little details on this stage). Of course the supernatural stories in the Bible are all real and god will whack all people who don’t agree to the right faith, which is of course the one of my tribe. Conflicts, life events, harvest etc are handled with rituals, which play an enormous role on this stage, because there is not really an understanding of law and rights (right is what the shaman/priest says right is). Prayer is asking the deities for protection. The chief is often more a mediator than a leader. There are no real hierarchies on this level (except for the inner circle of shaman, chief etc), which is why the postmodern green higher level have high romantic feelings about this level. Also real mysticism starts here, as well as culture (cave paintings, war dances etc).

Where to find: some clans and tribes (most are developed higher), began in humans ca. 50 000 years ago, early childhood, fanclubs (football, hooligans), amulettes and talismans, Pooh the Bear, kitschy “american christmas”, Santa Claus or the Christkind, female names on ships and airplanes

Healthy: often inline with nature (can find easily water, herbs etc), security inside the clan/family/church, people can specialize if rules  and rituals are considered. People which can balance relations in the family/clan/church are highly valued because quarrel lowers the ability to act organic.

Pathological: individuality is restricted, ethnic cleansings (like Bosnia, Afghanistan, Islamic State etc), incest, human sacrifice, nepotism. Aryan mythology (symbols and rituals) can have a high impact on humans, the nazis and extreme right wing gain power when adressing Magenta values

Transition to next stage: If there is time and energy available to make observations, superstitions are questioned and left behind (at least some). If the security need is fulfilled and resources are free, the development to the next level is done. Also emergency concurrent situations with other tribes (which in the normal case could be solved with a ritual) rewards the tribe which takes the power.

Stage 3, Red (Power)

On this stage, the self starts to develop. The clan/tribe fades into the background, all I want is power about myself and nature. Therefore I have to be independent. This starts with children in the “terrible twos” (some humans never leave this stage). Since I am the most important person, I have to free myself from all bonds that restrict my wishes. Might is right, therefore what I say is right. The hierarchy is very strict (the strongest is on top and the rest follows the pecking order). I follow all my impulses immediately, whether they are adequate or not does not matter. If I have to learn something from you, you have to be stronger than I am (or to put it more polemic: if Red comes with a tank, the only thing it understands is a bigger tank). This is important to keep in mind, there is no sense for right, law or order, these things cannot be understood, because the necessary mind structures have not been developed yet. Red also always wants to be the hero, the body is a cult object, respect is valued very high, Red likes to insult others but very much dislikes to be insulted.

The animistic religion changes from sacrificing and worshiping entities to manipulating them into doing what I want (with magic). In Christianity, god is still a supernatural being up in the sky, which has the highest power and smashes my enemies to my personal well being. Jesus is also a representative on earth which heals me with his superpowers (because, you know, I am always right). The god is the god of the early old testament which destroys cities, lets it rain fire and sulfur, wipes out nearly the whole mankind with the flood. It is important to understand, why it is this way, it is because Red only understands a bigger tank, therefore discussions (especially rational ones) will NOT help in arguing with Red. The Bible is of course all real and a fully colored action movie demonstrating the supernatural cataclysms that will be let loose on my enemies, hah! And of course, they all will go to hell, where they will be tortured for eternity while I will throne in the heaven. Red has a warrior attitude and always wants to fight (at least if it is clear, that it is stronger than the opponent), so other beliefs have to be wiped out. Also the Bible is believed to be literally true in every letter and the book itself has magical abilities, so e.g
. it is not allowed to lay other books on it. Priests have high power and of course are preaching hell fire and damnation. Praying means to get deities to do what I want, resp. change the world for me so that I get healthy, better, more powerful. Red sees Magenta as weak and anxious.

Where to find: knights of the crusades, defiant children, repressive regimes (e.g. Gadaffi, Assad), machism, youth gangs (leaders are Red, followers are mostly Magenta), the Imperium in Star Wars, James Bond villains, Ego Shooter games, Cocaine, the mob, military- and sport-heros (individual sports with fighting aspects like boxing or skiing), the preacher in the US which wanted to burn himself if the law for gay marriage would be ratified.

Healthy: creativity, self-responsible, clear and simple rules, can throw away old and dusted traditions

Pathology: violence, corruption, misuse of power, extermination of humans, collection of trophys (e.g. finger, genitals or scalp are cut off from corpses)

Transition to next stage: feelings of guilt appear, problems appear that cannot be solved on this level, dismay about selfish impulses, but much energy is used to rationalize them

Stage 4, Amber (Order and Rules)

The goal of Amber is to get control over the chaotic behavior of Red. To control Red, a strict hierarchy is generated, but where in Red on top is the strongest, in Amber a higher goal, a principle or in case of religions, god is put there. The chaos of Red is canalized with rules, law and order. There is an absolute truth there (which is the Bible) and only with the right faith and subservience against the authority a just life can be reached. One control is guilt (in religions: sin) which is applied to keep Red in order. Think of it as the tank to make Red calm. Everything is divided in “good” and “bad” and in this sense, everything that serves the strict hierarchy is good and everything other is Red and therefore bad (e.g. My country, right or wrong). If you watch Hollywood movies where the main topic is the fight good against evil, you will notice that evil is always Red and good is always Amber (to a great point). Evil has to be punished (of course!), duty, loyalty and patriotism are very important, because they show that you have developed higher than Red (especially if you can sacrifice yourself for others, which Red would never do). Learning is done via indoctrination, understanding and tolerance are quite limited. There are fix structures, exact timetables, clear consequences. But also it is the development of a higher sense, ground and direction in life. Also moral and ethics start to develop here. The first social- and health systems are developed. The impulsiveness of Red is stretched out, because you have to work now and get your wages later (possibly after death), so the awareness of linear time starts here. Codices, marriage, vows and so and cannot be broken and are for eternity (otherwise they would be Red). God is still a supernatural being up in the sky and he is still powerful but he wants to enforce the law for his people (of course only for his people). And “his people” does not mean only the tribe or family, but all who obey the law. The ten commandments were a step into Amber. The Bible is the word and law of god and all the myths in it are literally true. Jesus is seen as the son of god (so as god itself or part of him) which died for our sins to ease the guilt that has been put on us (and especially the women of course). So if you belong to us, you can feel good because another one died for your sins (isn’t that nice? Nobody does that on Red!). The belief of hell is mostly kept, only that Non-Christians are going there. And of course, if you don’t follow the law, I am quite happy to help you a bit to go there. Praying is saying things to god, most of the time to confess sins or express the felt guilt as well as begging for help. But instead of making god to do what I want (like in Red), the begging is here more for that he enforces the law and order of the religion (so that non-followers can go to hell). No answer is expected in praying, if there comes one, usually one is charged of being in contact with the devil. Of course prophets could talk with god, but they must be dead, and the longer they are dead, the better. Today it is not expected that something like this happens, this is for the glorious time 2000 years and more ago.

If you have an Amber ideology and a Red self, you have the possibility to be a fundamentalist to a terrorist (depending on the degree). We will revisit them on the next stage.

Amber is the main stage for actual religions and is of course always a target of criticism from higher stages. But we should not forget, that it does it’s main function (which is controlling Red) very well. So if you feel that you need to mock Amber next time, think that without it, we would be in Red chaos (think of the dark middle age). And even atheists stand on these shoulders. And no, they wouldn’t be there, if Amber wouldn’t exist (remember that you need to go through all lower stages in order to get there? Atheism comes on the next stage).

On the other hand, look at the pathologies, which are quite serious and of course are well debated everywhere on the world. What we need is a healthy Amber and not a pathological one. But this is also a point for the higher levels.

Where to find: Most traditional religions are here (e.g. Catholic church), Military, absolutistic kingdoms, bureaucracy, fundamentalism, patriotism, castes (e.g. in Hinduism), uniforms, anonymous alcoholics

Healthy: security. The main function of Amber is to control Red (and therefore egocentricity). Social systems and nations, moral, ethics, a sense in life (what the religions tell you, but it is still more than the “eat or be eaten” with no sense at all from Red)

Pathology: stiff, unmovable, new things cannot be brought in easily, misuse of power is secured by the structure of the hierarchy, double moral standards (e.g. celibate and abuse of children), fundamentalism, over-control, inquisition, crusades, burning witches, prosecution of people with other faiths

Transition to next stage: Amber has stabilized the world (or their part of it), there is no immediate threat of Red anymore. The rules are too stiff, doubts are exchanged between people about the absolute nature of the absolute truth. Individuality is again on the rise.

Stage 5, Orange (Success)

Since Amber is perceived as very stiff and unmovable, with less individuality and fun and you get paid in the afterlife, how about success now? This is the aim of Orange. You need to be flexible, individual, have success and fun and get the benefits here and now (or at least in foreseeable future). How to do this? Well, break the allmightyness of the church with pure rationality! Let science to the work! I mean it is absurd that observations of Galileo Galilei, which everybody can see with a telescope cannot be real because they are against the Bible. So everything, that is stated has to be objectively checked if it can be real. The world itself is run by the laws of nature (and science), so learn them and we can get more productivity, money and fun! There is an absolute reality, which is observable from everybody and a strict linear cause -> effect relationship. Technology can be advanced and it is fun to have it (I need a good house, a swimming pool, an iPhone, a fast car and so on). The truth is out there (not from the priests), if you do good work, you get a bonus (sometimes absurdly high with no relation to the work done). Anyway, you can’t have enough money. Why? Because the money doesn’t count! It’s the hunt which is interesting, not the having. If you have the right knowledge, the right strategy and tactics, you get the reward! But don’t look behind the facade! What you find will scare you! Despite the reaffirmation of individuality Orange still needs conformity (you have be “in”, you have to wear this suit/dress, you have to have a pretty “trophy” partner, you have to be a celebrity, so where exactly is the individuality?). If you don’t look good, do some cosmetic surgery! Who cares what’s inside of you? Honey, you have to always look good!

Materialism is key, environmental problems are taken into account, humans are resources (yeah, that’s why the departments in companies are called like this). If you work hard, everybody can make it, like in the American Dream (since Orange doesn’t know about development through the previous levels, it ignores the ones, which definitely can’t do that). Anyway, Orange has brought human rights, democracy, gender equality (at least theoretically), it abolished slavery (yes, slavery is present in all stages until Amber. But Orange in pathological form has no scruple to use other countries which endorse slavery for it’s own productivity) and it is the beginning of the worldcentric view (not only my rights, not only the rights of my group, but for all people in the world). It can think about others (Amber is the first level, where you can take roles and therefore understand other people, Orange can go a bit further but it only feels sympathy and no real empathy).

The great achievements of Orange is the differentiation of the subjective things (religion, art), intersubjective things (moral, ethics, culture) and objective things (science) so that each could develop further on in it’s own way. The great problem with it was, that this differentiation got into a dissociation where science tries to rule the other ones or simply declares them as non-existent (materialism).

The leading “religions” (or spiritual systems) on Orange are Atheism and Agnosticism (there is also a small fraction of traditional religions, satanism and paganism, all with a more or less rational background). But in reality, in large circles science has been raised to the new religion, though technically it can’t be seen as such, as it has a different purpose and by definition can’t answer the questions, religions provide answers to. Atheism of course uses science to show how ridiculous the beliefs of the lower levels are. There is no heaven in the skies, there is space, stars, galaxies. There is no supernatural being which watches over people and divides them in good or bad and sends the first into heaven the other into hell. The earth has not been created in seven days, but in quite some million years as well as the human race appeared out of evolution and was not just put there by the non-existant supernatural being, which by the way looks like the old Zeus from the greeks. By the way, this god in itself is quite illogical. Think about it:

  • If he is really allmighty, he is cruel because he lets a lot of bad things happen in the world
  • If he is loving, he can’t be allmighty, because he still lets bad things happen in the world. So why the hell care about him?

So all in all, let’s say, Douglas Adams was right and god said: “I see!” and dissolved in a logic cloud. The Bible is a fairy tale collection. There are some quite cool sayings in there, Jesus was quite an influential man, but a man. He said a lot of good things, but there is no real proof of all the things he has allegedly done.  Sin? What the hell should that exactly be? If sin is not-obeying to god and god is non-existant, what exactly should it be? Shouldn’t we have better ethics than this antiquated sin? And hell? Does somebody really believe we go there because we didn’t help this old woman across the street? Nah! And besides: I think all this religion stuff is just because weak people need to believe in something and if they have no science to show them the truth, then they need something like this “god”. Stupid, but true. And if you look at all the cruelties, that have been committed in the name of this “god”, all religions should go to their hell, exactly where they belong!

This is a bit of an extract of the view of atheism. And from the view of the Orange stage this is an absolutely valid and true form of spirituality. There is only one problem with it: it causes more problems than it seems. If we look at it from the whole development spiral, we see the following:

  • People are born in Infrared. They have Infrared values, world views and so on
  • They develop upwards the spiral to Magenta, to Red, to Amber. There they have a Amber belief system, which is of course not the best, but it answers some questions, which science can’t really answer (more of that later)
  • Some form of spirituality is needed by humans and while a lot can at least work with materialism and atheism, some cannot. So if someone needs some kind of spirituality (and there is really nothing science can do about that), and is currently on making the step from Amber to Orange, he/she discovers that there is no place for spirituality there. So he/she gets into a very bad situation and has 2 choices
    • Fall back to Amber and be a fundamentalist. In bad cases, this will be a terrorist (if he/she has a Red self). The (terrorist) view behind this is: “in the new (modern, Orange) world there is no place for my god, so I destroy this world”.
    • Live his spirituality in the secret (somehow like homo-, bi- and transsexual people on this level often have to do this). But there is no real spirituality on this level which explains the view of this level to him (there are some Orange churches in the US, but here in Europe the ice gets very thin), so if he manages to get through in somehow developing his own spirituality, all is good. If not, see the bullet above, and we have a fundamentalist in the best case, a terrorist in the worst case

And yes, this is a real threat! The atheism does indeed breed the religious fundamentalists, that it so strictly tries to avoid! This is what Ken Wilber calls the “spiritual pressure cooker” of Orange. I myself first had a hard time to see that, but from my observation over the last years, I can confirm that this happens far too often.

The second big problem with spirituality on Orange is that it thinks that all religions are Amber, so it links religions to Amber. This is understandable because all of the major religions have their center of gravity in Amber (70% of the world population are below Orange). This is also bad, because it doesn’t recognize, that there are lower level religions (Magenta, Red and Amber), which are pre-rational and higher level religions (above Orange, namely Green, Petrol, Turquoise and so on), which are trans-rational (Orange itself is strictly rational and unfortunately sees both pre-rational and trans-rational as irrational and abandons both, not realizing that trans-rational is just the next development after rational). This hinders some development to higher levels.

So what would be the best? Of course if religions would provide an Orange version (in fact, the best would be that there are versions for all levels inside a religion). As said above, there are some modern churches in the US which already do that. How would an Orange Christianity look like? Well, it would be rational. It would not deny evolution, and accept scientific facts and embrace them (in fact, both the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis have stated things in that direction which hints to some movement). It would also contain women as priests, would accept divorces, contraception and abortion, would accept all sexual orientations. It would not see god as a supernatural being up in the sky, in fact in rationality there is little to make out of god, a trans-rational background is needed for this. So for the hardcore rationalists, god would be let out of the story. But see also the function of religion below. Jesus would be the main figure. He would be accepted as an influential human with much charisma, possibly good NLP and hypnotic skills, which could explain some of his wonders. The resurrections was not a physical resurrection, but Jesus was raised into the meaning of god. The rest is fairy tales or fables for showing principles added by authors who wrote that stuff about 40 years after his death. The Bible would not be literally true, but a collection of sayings of Jesus and other people with a lot of parables, analogons and such stuff. Sin would be to act non-ethical, but because the word is really loaded, especially with guilt (why? Literally “sin” means “to miss the mark” and nothing more!), so it could be dropped and ethics pulled in. Hell would also be out of the race, it could be re-interpreted as e.g. (this is just a silly example) the repentance of things not done in life shortly before death. It could be left out completely anyway. Praying is more a kind of meditation or resting in inner peace, answers from god are not expected. This is also just a raw sketch, Paul R. Smith has described real Orange churches in more detail in his book “Integral Christianity”.

Ok, so enough about Orange. Let’s see the next higher levels.

Where to find: First world, manager, Wall Street, capitalism, golf, cosmetic surgeries, lawyers, bankers, modern technical oriented youth

Healthy: prosperity, fun, rationality (better: reason), beginning of world-centric view, equality, democracy, belief in getting better through intelligent, constant work and repeated checking and testing of ideas, ability to solve problems, differentiation between subjectiv-, intersubjective and objective methodologies

Pathology: burn out, living on others costs, win – loose, destroying and wasting of resources, success at all costs, environmental problems, exporting of problems in other countries which are lower than Orange, dissociation of the subjective-, intersubjective- and objective methodologies, the objective (science) explains itself as the only one which is real

Transition to next stage: loneliness comes up, health problems (burn out, stroke, heart attack, stomach- and intestinal problems) lead to a revision of the life, emotions get more important, search for a sense in life, openness and honesty are taken into account for the first time

Stage 6, Green (Community)

The basis for Green are the problems of Orange. The people have to be freed from greed, materialism, there has to be sense in life, which the pure materialism cannot give you. The rational, materialistic world is “without feeling, tasteless, empty, without sense”. It is what Wilber calls “flatland”. So Green wants do to something about it.

Decisions are made through discussions and a consent about the result (this can take long and the result might not be functional, but hey). The group is more important than the individual and helps the individual to get contact to the sensible self, emotions and harmony. This can lead to situations, where emotions are more important than content. In this case, a successful discussion is when everybody was able to express his/her emotions in the discussion and not that there is a outcome. The isolation of Amber and Orange are dissolved. The resources have to be for all humans, not only for the rich first world people. The drive is to sacrifice oneself to win for oneself and the others. Animals also have rights and because they cannot stand for them, somebody has to do it. Humanity is the highest goal. Gender roles start to dissolve, there is absolutely no problem with sexual orientations. Where Orange only had sympathy but no empathy, Green for the first time has real empathy. This brings the ability to take many different perspectives and viewpoints which one of the real strengths of this level. It brings together people from different countries, cultures and origin without prejudice (at least theoretically. People violating the Green rules and values can be put into the enemy role quite quickly). The democracy developed at Orange can now be lived (to see in things like Avaaz, Open Source Movement, Kickstarter, the Rockin’ 1000 etc). A lot of reactions with the refugee crisis here in Europe, which show real helpful people, humanity and welcoming of refuges is largely based on Green. Green also likes anti-authoritarian education (there are no bad boys, only misguided and misunderstood juveniles), which doesn’t work since children (as we know) start at Infrared and on Red there is absolutely no understanding for the sensible Green psychological theories. Red sometimes needs a tank thrown at it, which the anti-authoritarian movement (of course!) doesn’t do, which hinders development from Red upwards. The great achievements of Green are:

  • Pluralism: see and accept of multiplicity from world views, cultures, religions, life styles and conventions
  • Relativism: there is no absolute truth, but truths in contexts in contexts in contexts (contextualism)
    • But: extreme relativism (ALL views are equal) leads to the performant contradiction (because all views are equal, but if all views are equal, then this view (that all views are equal) is equal to the view that this is not the case, hence the contradiction. The extreme relativism contains a subtle elitism requirement in that it’s own view is superior, but all other views are equal)
  • Sensibility is learned, which transcends the cold rationality of Orange
    • But: sometimes the rationality is thrown over board which leads to other problems (boomeritis)
  • Inequity is pulled to the surface without mercy (sometimes with very much emotional color)

Though it looks quite nice and harmonic, Green has two very, very serious problems and pathologies, which are really, really bad.

  • Boomeritis: this is a really really big topic (in fact Wilber has written a whole book about it, ok it’s a novel but it demonstrates the many colors and flavors of boomeritis very well), so it can only be explained very shortly. The real name is the Pre/Trans Fallacy and we have already seen a bit of it in Orange (pre-rational looks kinda like trans-rational and is therefore often confused, where rationality simply discards both as irrational). The same happens with values, world views and so on. Trans-conventional (world-centric) values (e.g. the right on abortion because of a high developed value system (higher Orange, Green and above)) are confused with pre-conventional (ego-centric) values (I have the right to abort because I just want to fuck around unprotected and nobody has to tell me what to do (Magenta, Red))

    (much lessnature of erectile dysfunction, comprising both organic and cialis online.

    . The conventional values are something like: life is untouchable, hence there is no right on abortion (Amber, lower Orange). So the confusion arises, when a higher developed stage is influenced by lower ego-centric motives (because it sounds so similar). The other direction is that high values are translated down to feed my own ego-centric needs. This is a really long topic and can’t be discussed here, but it leads to some problematic situations, some of which are listed here:

    • conspiracy theories (especially the really wild ones)
    • political correct sex
    • blame all others, even for the own faults
    • culture of victims. All are victims, nobody wants to take responsibility (especially not for oneself’s problems)
    • Some exmatriculation rules on universities (if you feel offended by someone you can report that person and this person can be thrown from the university. So happy witch-hunt, the dark middle age is greeting again!
    • Green searches for it’s values in history because it doesn’t know the development spiral. It can’t find them (the real uprising of Green was in the 60ies), so of course it must have been suppressed by the evil patriarchsim (or exchange with a an arbitrary other -ism). So my sensible Green fellows: there was no Green a few hundred years ago and the indigenous non-hierarchical structures of most tribes are Magenta, not Green.
  • Allergy against hierarchies (notably Amber and Orange). Hierarchies are very very bad for Green. Green HATES Amber and Orange and wants to delete them. And it tries very hard to do that. But imagine, if Green really would do this. Still new people are born and start to develop up the spiral (from Infrared to Magenta to Red) and then… Upps! There is no Amber anymore! And no Orange! So the development stops at Red! And we are back in the dark middle ages, welcome and please keep the fire warm for the witches (which are then the Green people). Green does not only cut the branch on which it sits, it cuts the whole tree! This can be seen as in the example above of the anti-authoritarian education above. This is exactly removing the rules and order from Amber, so the children cannot develop higher and stay (mostly) on Red and another generation of “terrorists” is here, voila! And to be clear: no, I am not for introducing back the indoctrination systems of the 50ies in schools. A healthy Amber is needed to let children grow (with the emphasis on “healthy”), which can also be included in Green education systems, so you have no excuse.

So how does Green religion or spirituality look like? Like Green itself it is very diverse. There are Green atheists, pagans, followers of shamanistic traditions, light worker, traditional religions (especially Buddhism because some of the foundations of Buddhism fit the Green values quite well), the “spiritual but not religious” people, and all sorts of mixes between them. How does a Green Christianity look like? God is not clearly defined (most Greens think it is what ever they believe it is). First of all, it is spoken more of the mother goddess because god is often understood as a patriarch, which of course is bad for Green. Some see god as the web of life, some as the laws of nature, some as the background of all being, some as the collective consciousness of the cosmos. Jesus was a brave man who taught that love is the law, that everyone is equal and everyone can reach salvation (in Green terms: all people are Green). The Bible is a collection of sayings of Jesus (some of which are indeed Green and this 2000 years ago!) which can be a source of inspiration. The myths of Amber and the Old Testament are thrown away, seen as allegories or analog thinking. Some are visions which you can experience in altered states of consciousness. Also some of Green spiritual practices can be found in the Bible like trance states, channeling, parapsychological phenomena and so on.

Green is currently massively on the rise and will be the next ruling stage (currently it is Orange).

Where to find: pretty all of postmodernism, social networks, flower power, peace corps, environmental protection organisations, open source, skandinavian countries, Boulder, Amsterdam, Wikipedia, WikiLeaks, political correctness, most academics, non-profit organisations, Occupy movement

Healthy: harmony, feeling good, development of the sensible self, belonging to a group, nature-human-animal relations, pluralism, discussion culture is learned

Pathology: consent at all costs, “all are equal – some are more equal”, emotions go before content, and the big one: Boomeritis

Transition to next stage: doubts about the effectivity appear, the costs of human energy is too high, mind, spirituality and quantum mechanics start to converge, the words “I” and “me” come back to usage, other competent groups and individuals are studied. The finiteness of life is accepted, the security of the tribe (Magenta), raw power (Red), redemption into eternity (Amber), personal success (Orange) and the need to be accepted (Green) loose their importance. New, big challenges are appearing on the horizon…


We have now reached the end of so-called 1st tier. The first six stages have some common characteristics:

  • Each of this world views sees itself as the one and only truth. All others are just misguided or simply idiots. In the worst case, they have to be prosecuted and killed
  • They cannot change their world view by will. It is not possible that a Orange guy gets down to Red by will and then back to Orange. It can happen, when the circumstances in the environment need the power of Red, but it is not controlled and voluntary. See the next higher levels, which can do that
  • They see no structure behind it (they have no clue that the development goes through all stages)
  • The development goes from ego-centric (Infrared, Magenta, Red) to ethno-centric (Amber, Orange) to world-centric (late Orange, Green and above). This has some very important implications. E.g. we have democracy, but only Orange and above can understand it. So the first thing, that Amber or Red will do, when it wins the voting, it will install absolutistic structures. That’s what extreme right is doing. Another thing is that a lot of problems are now global problems (global warming, financial crisis etc.) and can only be addressed on a global level. The first, which could do this is Green because it is the first real world-centric stage, but it has too much bad pathologies, so in it’s current state it fails quite miserably. Would you really want e.g. atomic weapons be controlled by Red? Or let Magenta, Red or Amber solve global problems? They don’t even understand them! They CAN’T understand them. Just think about what statements are brought into public from politicians, you will recognize their stage and then know, if they can really solve the problems with their presented solutions.

This inherent inabilities of the 1st tier get resolved in the next stages. The jump from Green to Petrol is a really big one and unfortunately there are not so many on this stage (and above). There are estimations about 2% but from observation I would set this below 1%, really.

So let’s look at it.

Stage 7, Petrol (Synergy, Functionality)

While the first six stages are largely ideology driven, this is the first stage which is functionality driven. Petrol doesn’t care about ideology, politics, rank, status or power, it can use all of them or none. All that counts is the output, the functionality. And in this case, the functionality which is a win-win-win (a win for oneself, a win for the other, a win for the development spiral), so without harming others. Petrol can deal with paradoxes (it even likes them sometimes) and conflicting realities and insecurities. It values personal freedom as far as it doesn’t harm others or pushes the self interest too far. Systems have to be integrative, integral and open. It can use hierarchies, law and order if it needs to, it can use power if it needs to, it can use rational scientific thinking (it is an important base of Petrol), it can use sensible emotional exchanges. Knowledge and competence are the keys. Differences can be merged into independent natural flows. Fear is decreasing. It reacts on necessity and competence, not on authority and rules or ideologies. Petrol can reach better results in shorter time. What is right today, doesn’t have to be right tomorrow. If it is realistic to be happy, then Petrol is happy. If it is realistic to suffer, Petrol suffers. If authority is needed, Petrol can do this. If heterarchy, democracy and group work is needed, Petrol can also do that. Petrol doesn’t like to spend energy on superficial pleasentries, except they are important for the conversation partner. It can openly express anger or animosity if necessary, but more from an intellectual viewpoint. All of this it has learned from the previous levels. And the most important thing:

Petrol accepts all other stages as legit. It discovers and uses the whole development spiral and knows: the WHOLE spiral has to be HEALTHY.

This means, that it is ok, to eradicate pathologies in the spiral (we don’t have to accept Nazis or the crusades or ethnic cleansings or terrorists), but we need to also provide healthy structures in ALL stages, a point that is mostly overlooked in the “war against terror”, which is largely driven by the pre-conventional and conventional views of Amber (our tradition is threatened), Red (nobody has to tell me what to do. You are attacking me? I am more powerful than you), Orange (well, we can make a lot of money if we invade that country).

There is no typical religion on Petrol, not much has developed up there. Paul R Smith describes in Integral Christianity his own church which is one of the first ones to include the integral thinking into christian religion. There are also attempts from other religions like Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism and also Islam. So no, not all what religion is, is simply the Amber which everybody likes to see when bashing them.

So what could be Petrol characteristics of a Christian religion? This are just examples. First of all, it is an experiental religion and not solely just an execution of rituals. So altered states of consciousness which all of the old traditions describe are an important content. Petrol sees the development across the spiral, so it sees the development of the Bible from Magenta to Red to Amber to Orange with a little Green in it. It throws away pathologies and doesn’t take the myths as literal but merely as teaching constructs. It uses much rationality and much trans-rationality. God is not a supernatural being, but is understood as a direct experience which all of the mystics from all religions describe very similar like the nirvana (or nirvikalpa samadhi), the All-One, ground of being, god, Allah, neti-neti and so on. Often it is not called god (because the word is loaded), or even different names are used, depending on the context. Petrol can take all perspectives, from the I-am-ness of Buddhism, to the more dialogical nature of Christianity to the solely objective description and experience of the cosmos. Because of the experiences, a inner, spiritual science is developed. And because of this the panentheism is the predominantly perceived view, simply because it matches the experiences best. This makes Jesus a human which was one with the inner “god” (or the transpersonal self if you prefer). Sin is put back to the original meaning (to miss the mark) and is context specific and doesn’t mean that you go to hell. It is accepted as a direct consequence of the dual nature of the manifest universe and cannot be avoided, let alone taken from you if some other guy dies. Hell is also more understood as a state of mind. Paul Smith notes that the real word for hell that Jesus used was gehenna which was a waste dump south of Jerusalem where the waste was sometimes burned. So hell is interpreted as the “inner waste” which you should get rid off, which actually means: start development! This is consistent with the written words of Jesus in the New Testament. Jesus is also understood as a Jew (and he was his life long a Jew), which always challenged the conventional (Red and Amber) values of his own religion, which his (later) followers didn’t quite get (hence the current Amber view). He also put some of his disciples into altered states of consciousness (e.g. the transfiguration) and wanted to give on the direct experience of what he called god. Unfortunately, the early Christians eradicated this direct experience from the canon as the orthodox interpretation became the dominant mode and only allowed contact with god through the priests, bishops and the pope. Petrol understands, that this was clearly not Jesus’ aim. Praying is a direct contact and experience with “god”, which all of the mystics, who really had this experience, describe as much more real than what we call reality. Petrol also have reproducible methods on how to get there. It might just take quite some time, like studying Quantum Physics also does. Also Petrol actually knows, that other religions, traditions and spiritual paths are valid and lead there and can even use things from these. Still it doesn’t end up with a mish-mash of stuff from here and there which finally doesn’t work because the uncomfortable parts have been left out, like (boomeritic) Green often does.

Where to find: Integral Community, Integral Theory, System Theory, Quantum Physics, interdisciplinary networks, the intention of Wikipedia (the actual realization is Green)

Healthy: self-reflection, social competence, win-win-win, flexibility, problem solving capability, tolerance

Pathology: isolation, elitist thinking, aloofness, arrogance, appears ruthless and without feelings

Transition to next stage: Petrol is on it’s own so Petrol people start to form groups. Great problems and questions cannot be solved by Petrol, so the next step is necessary. Spirituality comes into mind in astrophysicians , philosophy, mathematicians and so on. Respect for greater, holistic wisdom grows.

Stage 8, Turquoise (Holism)

I won’t describe this stage here, as the article is already far too long and there are practically no religions here yet. There are also higher stages which have not fully formed yet because not enough people have evolved that far that the characteristics would be visible.

The Functions of Religions

If you have come this far, I really congratulate! I’m really sorry for this long article, but it is really hard to explain some stuff without some background. So here we go to the finale.

Religion has three functions (the third did arise with the integral culture and was not visible before):

  • Translational functionality
  • Transformational functionality
  • Elevator functionality


This is what most people think of the functionality of religion. It provides myths and stories, views and wisdom and methods to make sense out of life. To make it short: it’s purpose is to make people feel better to cope with life. This is called translational function, because if you use it, you just shift around on the same developmental level. It’s for making people comfortable (like: the guy died on the cross and therefore freed you from your sins! You had nothing to do, see?)

To tie on some things said before: this is something science can’t really answer. So why can science not answer some questions?

Imagine the following: there is a book from Goethe “Die Leiden des jungen Werther” about a man who in the end commits suicide. If science looks at this book, it can look at the pages, analyze the ink, can count the words and letters and provide a statistical correlation about the letter “A” to suicide. BUT it cannot explain to people WHY the protagonist committed suicide. In order to know that, you have to read the book, interpret it’s content and then make sense out of it. Science does not value and judge (in a qualitative way), it always and by definition does this only in a quantitative way. That’s it’s key point in the argue against religion, because of course religion judges. But for science nothing is “better”. For science a desk is not better than a chair, they both are just a bunch of molecules. Science can’t value the things you feel when you hear a song that brings you to tears or powers you up to headbanging. Because science is not expected to do so. The domain of science is that of objective things, of looking at something from the outside, while the subjective beauty and intersubjective moral are NOT a domain of science (they can’t be). This is the domain of consciousness. This is the domain of religions, philosophy and spirituality. Questions like:  What’s inside consciousness? Is there a soul? What’s before birth and after death? That’s just it? Then if we are only dumb matter, dust to say, this all makes no sense! Why do the scientists then behave as if it makes sense, if we are just a random mutation selected result of evolution which are determined and have no free will (which would also be a result of materialism)? Why does this dust write poems or songs (or play death metal drums)? Nobody can tell me this is a requirement or a trick of nature for evolution where the fittest survives (I think the cases that a poem saved materialistic evolution are very very rare). Also note that strict materialism in the last logic consequence contradicts itself. A very detailed discussion about this can be found in Ken Wilbers book “The Marriage of Sense and Soul” (deutsch: Naturwissenschaft und Religion), which is really recommended if you are interested in this topic

Still, this questions and it’s answers (which of course depend on the religion and on the development stage) still are there to make people comfortable. All spiritual practices, that “repair” something fall into this category.


Transformation is not there to make you comfortable. It is there to develop you. In fact, it is very uncomfortable. While the self is caressed in that translation it is burned and torn apart in transformation. Development always hurts. Parts of the ego/self have to die, have to be differentiated and then transcended and integrated back in the next level. Translation does not transform, it just shifts you around, but it is necessary to build a solid base (you feel comfortable enough) to make the jump of the transformation. Still, parts of you dying is not what people really like. Wilber estimated that about 98% of spiritual practices and religions are translational, while only 2% do really transform. It also explains, why there are so few mystics in history. Because it is hard. Because it is much pain and agony. Most people don’t like that. Still, transformation is a real function of religions which brought up some of the most amazing people in history.


If you look at the stages so far, and we are concerned with bringing people up to the 2nd tier (Petrol and above) as quickly as possible (at least before the inability of the lower levels wipes out mankind), we have one big problem: each of them thinks, that it is the only right one. Remember that Petrol is the first level which is able to really accept all other levels (lower and upper levels). We need one discipline, which is consistent across all levels and also has at least some ability to accept other levels (Infrared to Green). And the only discipline, which can do this is: Tada! Religion! Sorry anti-religious people, yes it’s unfortunately true.

Why? Well, normal development disciplines get to a new level and then throw away the old stuff. For example in medicine, nobody today does cures with mercury anymore. So all old stuff is thrown over board and only new things are accepted. The only exception is religion. It still does accept for example the old myths and fairy tales that he lower levels need (yes, there is no way around that). If we want to pull or push people upwards the spiral, there has to be stuff for the lower levels (that’s the reason we still use Santa Claus or the Christkind for our children). As all other disciplines will never accept that, they cut off this development possibility, leaving fragmented and antagonized stages fighting with each other. Because religion can accept the myths and just reinterprets them on higher levels, it lays something like a red carpet which can connect the stages more easily and allows for a smoother development up the spiral. This is the elevator function, Wilber speaks about. And also the religions can give the legitimation to do that (84% of the world population belong to a religion, that makes a damn high legitimation). So what other discipline could do this? Science? They laugh about the mythic stuff. Culture? This is so split up and diverse, there is no consistency behind and it got way below science.

So the fact is, that ONLY religion is able to accept at least parts of other levels from Infrared to Green. The problem is, that the main religions are still on Amber and the parts which are on Orange to Green are very few. As said above, even the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis started a small push from Amber to Orange, which is a bit of hope.


I hope you could follow the argumentation. I understand non-religious people. Religions have done much shit the last couple of thousand years. I myself am not a member of a religion (because I am not at Amber anymore and there are no religions suitable to my level here in Austria). I got through my scientific materialistic phase, got through my “we all love each other” phase and now I really like Integral Theory as it really answers a lot of questions, gives you a map to orient on all the stuff which is going on, shows you pathologies, which you have to be careful of, so it simply WORKS. And it is always expanded with new findings, scientific breakthroughs and so on. I was a strict opponent of especially the Catholic church (which I was raised in). But Integral Models gave me more background about what really happens here from small scale to global scale and after some years of observation I have seen that the Models were right in it’s predictions (and that is what models should do). So I corrected my view on religions. And this new view works much better than the old one. I still don’t like many things in the Catholic church, I don’t have to. But I have also seen more of what works in it (especially for lower stages), which got me a bit more optimistic. So I understand very well non-religious people, atheists, scientists and so on, I really value science a lot (hell, I helped to bring a space probe to a comet to land on it). But from an integral standpoint, these views are incomplete and lacking.

I could not present all details, bells and whistles of integral theory about religions, just the core points. But I hope that I could shed at least a bit of light on some issues, which are mostly unknown, ignored or simply dismissed as stupid, especially in discussions on social media.

So to get back to the beginning, let’s repeat the question. Are religions really that bad?

Answer: Yes (they have a lot of pathologies, which must be corrected). And no (religions are themselves developing and serve some important functions, which other disciplines cannot fulfill)


Suggested Literature
  • All from Ken Wilber, some notably:
  • Integral Spirituality, Ken Wilber
  • The Marriage of Sense and Soul, Ken Wilber (which discusses how science and religion can be integrated and work together)
  • Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (dt: Eros, Kosmos, Logos), Ken Wilber
  • Boomeritis, Ken Wilber
  • Gott 9.0 (only german), Marion Küstenmacher, Tilmann Haberer, Werner Tiki Küstenmacher (uses the Graves Model and Spiral Dynamics, which has other color codings to the stages)
  • Integral Christianity, Paul R Smith
  • Integral Consciousness, Steve McIntosh


3 thoughts on “Is Religion really that bad?

  1. Pingback: Ist Religion wirklich so schlimm? | Random Thoughts

  2. Subuddh

    Hello Michaelo, thanks for your reply to my previous comment. I was curious and so looked for other articles on the same subject.

    This one is also very good, I especially liked the healthy/pathology/transition to next stage description at each level that was very informative.

    Do you get the National Geographic TV series Banged Up Abroad in Austria? It is a fun watch, each episode goes into the story of someone who travelled abroad and got into trouble.

    In one episode a Californian woman shares her story. She grew up in a very ‘hippie-boomer’ family. Her mother divorced and then had many lovers over time. She lived with her Mom and the environment in the home was very ‘green’. No rules, you can do anything you want, and the adults would finish the day relaxing, smoking weed.

    She remembers a big anxiety as a child. When was dinner time? There was never a fixed dinner time, as her parents would relax, smoke, and randomly sit for dinner.

    For the adult it does not matter, for the child, and it is a little heartbreaking in a way, such a small thing is very important.

    On a deeper level as she grew up she felt lost and confused in this sea of openness. She had not been given a structure and a map to navigate the territory, no idea of right and wrong, no idea of how to plan and make a life. She had been taught no healthy amber.

    So she ended up living as the wild teenager, and longed to escape. An opportunity came to be a bar hostess in Tokyo and she took it. For a while she was enjoying the party life then money became a problem. She ran into some bad people who convinced her to bring in hashish from Nepal to Japan for money.

    For a while she managed to do it without getting caught, then she got careless one time and was caught at the airport and thrown in jail.

    Now Japanese jail is very strict and disciplined as you would imagine (they are very amber that way, maybe even pathalogically but that is a different story). Initially it was very hard for her. She struggled and one day snapped and got in a fight with the guard.

    So they threw her in solitary for a week. There she felt moments when she was going to lose her mind. But she didn’t and instead the solitary ‘meditation’ helped her realize that all her anger was really at her mom, for not giving her a useful structure.

    So when she got out of solitary she wrote a letter to her Mom(whom she had not spoken to for many years) explaining her anguish.

    She also realized that the structure of the jail, difficult that it was, was exactly the structure she had longed for her entire life. She acquiesced, accepted the structure and became a model prisoner, doing her best to help her fellow prisoners as much as she could.

    Her mother wrote back saying how sorry she was, how she did not even realize the pain she had brought to her baby girl.

    She was released early for good conduct and flew back to California. Her mom and step father were waiting for her at the airport. The reconciliation was tearful and joyful and she started a new better life with her family close by.

    This is a happy ending and a wonderful cautionary tale also of skipping steps in the developmental process.

    This is the danger of the malfunctioning green we have right now. They are doing children a disservice and causing them harm by skipping the steps.

    Anyways, nothing is fixed, the pendulum will surely swing over at some point.

    1. michaelo Post author


      I am not sure if we get this series, but I will have a look, maybe they have a online mediathek.

      Thanks a lot for this story! I think it really would help some people if they see real life examples.



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