Tag Archive for: religion


Armodoxy for Today: Opium

The words of Karl Marx are often quoted by people trying to discredit religion. “Religion is the opium of the masses (or people),” wrote Marx.

The first time I read this statement, I was a student in college, and, honestly, I was not offended. I was somewhat sympathetic to what Marx was saying because so many people lean upon religion to deal with their pain and suffering. But I also saw the power of a turn-to-God in the life of people. The opium is not in religion, as much as the false security that is granted by religion.

We each have different tolerance levels for pain. For some that pain can be alleviated by a couple of aspirin, Tylenol or Motrin, as their preference may be. These are temporary fixes, as the instruction label tells you on the pill bottles that if the pain persists beyond a time limit of (usually) two weeks, then consult with a physician. Of course, greater pain levels require more potent solutions and under the care of a physician, we have laws and rules as a society that allow for those drugs. Again, these are temporary fixes. Opium adds another dimension to pain relief in that it is habit-forming. Drug dependency no longer recognizes the drug for its medicinal value.

I believe this is why I was not upset or offended by Marx’s statement. In context, his entire statement reads, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” There are people who become religion-dependent and the religion is no long recognized for its redeeming value.

Our journey through Armodoxy these few last weeks has taken us through a maze of mystery and supernatural phenomena, to making and understanding that within us, the supernatural can become natural and normal. Religion should not discount personal responsibility. Just the opposite, by demanding personal accountability for actions, it empowers the individual to take control of his/her life. The original gospel, that is the good news, was heralded at the Nativity and Revelation of Jesus Christ: Peace on Earth, Goodwill among all people. Pure and simple. Everything beyond this earthly life is in the domain of the Divine. The goal of religion, and most especially Christianity, is to make this life – the one we have been graced and gifted with – a better place, by teaching us to love, respect and forgive one another. This is why we pray, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We pray that God give us the strength, patience and tools in this world. When religion loses its focus and pushes us to be consumed with end times, and qualifications for entering the afterlife, then it has lost its main direction, just as a drug which loses its function and becomes the substance of addiction.

The second time I came across Marx’s statement about religion was when I was a student in the seminary at Holy Etchmiadzin. The country of Armenia was occupied by communists and Marx, Engels, and Lenin were quoted on billboards and posterboards throughout the country. The communists tried to dissuade the Armenians from their religion. To the degree they succeeded, it was not on philosophical grounds, rather it was because of the number of churches they closed, their anti-church propaganda and the destruction of the priesthood.

Today, the words of Marx seem to be echoed beyond communists in various fields and environments. We spoke earlier about the prejudice, the pre-judgement of people toward Christianity. And so it is important to study and learn the early understanding of Christ’s message. This is Armenian Orthodoxy connected to today, or what we call Armodoxy. The more we learn about the ancient traditions as expressed through the Armenian Church, the easier we can debunk myths and understand Christianity not as an opium, but as salvific, a means of surviving and living in the world God has given us.

Let us pray, Psalm 27, The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.

Cover photo: EnvatoElements

Prejudging Prejudice toward Religion

Armodoxy for Today: Packaging the Supernatural

At the end of the last century, musician/guitarist extraordinaire Carlos Santana put out an album of music under the title Supernatural. The album was a huge success, including breaking the record for most Grammy Awards, which up to that time was held by legendary pop star Michael Jackson. The album featured artists from CeeLo Green, to Dave Matthews to Eric Clapton, and many others. Santana used the name “Supernatural” for his album because it was beyond natural, that such greats would come together to put together this music. He felt that the call to come together was also supernatural.

Often, we find ourselves in unexplainable situations, and when we run out of those explanations we appeal to the supernatural. For instance, how is that that all of these top, renowned musicians would come together? How is it that together they would produce such music that it would win critical and popular acclaim? Yes, we can say that it was a talented group of musicians, to say the least, but Carlos Santana chose to say the most, and said it was supernatural.

Some will doubt that there was anything supernatural. Others will swear by it. While still others, will not even care how the music was produced, as much as it was good music which they are able to enjoy it. In other words, not everything needs to be analyzed. But over the last few weeks we’ve been looking at mystery, at practical and impractical approaches to the big issues that confront us, and most recently with the question of genocide, which is being waged in Artsakh. To date, all of the solutions that are being proposed are on political grounds, even with the request for aid from governments, including superpowers. But the option for supernatural solution is pushed to the wayside by the prejudice we harbor toward the religious and religion.

Before the Civil Rights movement and legislation in the 1960s, Black Americans were asked (or forcibly placed) to the back of the bus. That was “their place,” they were told by people who pre-judged them, which is what “prejudice” means – to pre-judge. Because religion has not presented the supernatural in an accessible manner, or, as Einstein alluded, “our dull faculties” are not tuned to understand senses beyond us, we harbor these prejudices.

It is not enough to speak about the supernatural, it has to be presented properly. Packaging and presentation are important. At the beginning of today’s message, I placed our story at the turn of the century. The year was 1999, slightly over 20 years ago, but to present the supernatural, terms like “last century” or “turn of the century” will attract the listener into a frame of reference that can’t be matched with merely “20 years ago.”

Within that packaging, the effects of the supernatural have to the presented as well. Think of Santana’s album; finding the effects is easy because it is the product itself. Armodoxy strives to make the effects of the supernatural just as easy to find in the work of the Church. The fact that that Armenian live life is more than a miracle of the supernatural. A group of people who have no military strategy, no military, no political might, no political ally, and not only live but thrive can only be attributed to a supernatural force. It is on the same scale as Santana’s claim of a supernatural force bringing the musicians and music together. Today’s challenge is to drop our prejudices and not confine religious experience to “their place” where “they belong.

Supernatural occurrences are more common than we are led to believe, if we are willing to look within. Yesterday, we spoke about dropping the ego. With the ego dropped, looking within is even easier.

We take another break here today, only to continue tomorrow. Pray today for introspection. Lord, help me to look within. Allow me to inventory my life and see the true miracles, including my life, my family and the relationships that sustain me. Amen.


Armodoxy for Today: Cognition

One of the greatest gifts given to us by God is the ability to think, to reason, to wonder and ponder, to question and then arrive at a conclusion. In fact, the idea of thinking is tied in intimately with the Christian understanding of life, that is, because we think we have the ability to make decisions, good or bad. God calls us to exercise our free will and make decisions from the most mundane, such as getting out of bed on the right or left side, to the most extreme limits of life, such as deciding whether to drive recklessly while intoxicated. Accordingly, our actions have consequences – rewards and punishments – because we have the ability to think and make decisions. If we didn’t have a choice in decisions, we would be living according to fate and therefore not accountable for any of our actions.

As children, we learn early that our actions have consequences. Our learning is assisted by memory. The first time we place our hand near a hot stove, we feel the heat, perhaps we burn ourselves, and we learn that stoves are hot. Imagine if we didn’t learn and every time we saw a stove we stuck our hand into an open flame, our safety and long term chances of survival would be severely diminished. Thinking is good. Reasoning is good.

Often, religions call on their followers to blindly accept doctrine without putting it to the test, hence the expression, check your brain in at the door. This develops from a misunderstanding of Jesus’ words to trust. He asks us to trust and to have faith. Actually, to truly trust and have faith one needs to fully engage with the powers of reason and rationality. Jesus used parables to explain some of the most complicated and complex concepts in human understanding. The use of parables presupposes the use of intelligence to decipher, to make connections with metaphors and to understand.

There are, of course, many concepts and ideas that are difficult to decipher, for instance the origins of the universe or the extent of time and eternity. When we designate these to the great “mysteries” we are not advocating for an abstention from brain usage. Quite the opposite, we’re saying through the cognitive process, we have exhausted the possibilities of our humanity, but do not discount the possibility of more beyond our sensory perception. Here, we confront God. These are the primal instincts that draw humanity to religious understanding.

Armodoxy begins with a challenge to allow God to be God and us to be human. When we relinquish what we cannot understand or comprehend to the divine realm, we are taking a very real and practical approach to life. Eternity can wait! We have faith that Christ will lead us there. We then focus our attention to the world at hand and how we can become the instruments of peace, the workers for righteousness, the Children of God who by living for peace (Matthew 6:9). Armodoxy is about the here and now. It’s following Jesus’ words, that God’s will must be done on earth as it is in heaven.

We end today with the words of our Lord Jesus, who proclaims, (Matthew 5:3-10)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
 Blessed are the meek, or they shall inherit the earth.
 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Children and Religion

Armodoxy for Today: Children & Religion

It is interesting to me that as adults we want to impose on our children systems that have not worked for us. Jesus, turns the tables on that discussion, as he usually does, by calling a child as the example of what he wanted to see in us all.

We read in Matthew 18: At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them,  and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.

Children are pure, but we know that purity can soon be diluted and corrupted. It seems there are more opportunities and quicker means by which children can be corrupted today. And so, we create ways of passing on knowledge to our kids. The challenge for us, is not to lose track of our goal. I have heard many well-intentioned teachers of scripture do so in literal terms. For instance, presenting the story of Noah’s Ark as literal truth, will certainly backfire when the children ask simple questions like, “What do you mean everyone was so bad that God flooded the world? What about the child that was born the night before, was she evil too?” Instead, the stories of the Old Testament are there to be used as metaphors and templates for some basic truths, such as God has rules and regulations.

The best lessons we can give children is given not with words but by action. When children see their parents and teacher live the life they preach, a greater lesson cannot be learned.

At the Armenian Monastery at Geghart, there is a room to light candles, as there is in all the monasteries. In these rooms are large trays holding sand, where people can light candles of prayer, reminding them of the Light that comes from Christ. At Geghart, however, they have a few of these candle areas that are only a few feet above the ground, making them accessible by children. Right next to their parents, children have an opportunity to stop, light a candle and begin a habit that they will carry with them through their lifetime. These habits are the way traditions are born.

The easiest and most meaningful lessons in life are those which are passed along sincerely.

We pray a prayer by Archbishop Hovnan, “Lord, my God, Your light shines upon me this morning. I lift up my heart to You and with Your blessings I walk to school to enlighten my mind and soul and to become a kind student. Lord, bless me day and night and I promise to live a meaningful life for your glory. Amen.”



Armodoxy for Today: Order

Chaotic life is difficult life. Chaos is characterized by random or unpredictable behavior. Hence, chaos carries a negative connotation because unpredictability leads to undesired results, disorganization and confusion. As people we opt for organization. The laws of gravity are organization on a large, astronomical scale, but on a human scale, we like things to fit properly and have order to them.

And then there’s life, which can be unpredictable, almost to the point of randomness, but not quite. In gambling casinos, slot machines are very popular, and though they are computerized and have schedule of payouts, we know that they are a very popular attraction as people try to beat the odds of a seemingly random spin of the wheels. In fact, most gambling games are based on certain formulas that include random factors, and yet the popularity of these games is a testament to people trying to beat the odds, or we can say, predict the unpredictable.

A chaotic life is a difficult life. Religion is a means of bringing order to the chaos by explaining the unexplainable. Something as beautiful as childbirth, for instance, is accompanied by excruciating pain. In the Book of Genesis, when God says to the woman, “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children…” (3:16) we find one such example of an explanation. With a curse by God, we receive an answer to the question of why does a lovely and natural event such as childbirth come with massive pain?

Much of life is filled with these puzzles, some are associated with the mundane, while others address issues of war, pain and suffering. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do good things happen to bad people? These twin questions usually stimulate people to seek answers in the spiritual world, in religion. There seems to be a random distribution of goods in the world. Why are some born to poverty and struggle through all of life, while others, of no effort of their own, are born in prosperity and seem to enjoy a life of luxury?

Religion gives, or should attempt to give, answers to these questions. At the end, the object is to bring order from seeming chaos.

In Christianity, the answer is given by Jesus Christ. His answer is pure and asks that we engage with Him in such a way that “Thy Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” That engagement is the gravity that brings order to the chaos of our lives.

Today, by way of prayer, we read the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10) – Jesus’ definition of a life lived with the order of God:

  • “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  •  Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.
  •  Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.
  •  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.
  •  Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.
  •  Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.
  •  Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.
  •  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Self Elimination

Next Step #768 – March 2, 2023 – Self eliminating jobs, e.g., psychologists, therapists, and comparisons in religious life. Lenten Primer. MLK after the Civil Rights battle and the Vietnam War. Defining moments in our lives and personal history. The boundaries for religion. History: when do we remember and when do we let go? The foundation within religion.
Lenten Primer
Martin Luther King Jr. & Vietnam War
1927 – 95 year after a picnic
Cover: Spy System Tracking in a Crowd, Envato
Armen Chakmakian
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for http://Epostle.net
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We’re on StitcherPandoraSpotify and Apple Podcasts


Impacting Hope

Next Step with Fr. Vazken #718: “I love God but I feel God doesn’t love me enough,” says a Ukrainian soldier and analysis leads to paralysis: A look at hope, faith, religion in the face of war. Prayers that won’t “stop the bleeding or ease the hate.” Maternity ward bombing: Why would they possibly kill babies? An answer from Rwanda 25 years ago. The rules of war and the end game. TV was to Vietnam what the Internet can be to Ukraine, and War Games gives a solution. This Lent: A different attitude toward prayer: Adding the first lines to the Lord’s Prayer.
Maternity ward bombed in Ukraine
War Games
Jesus at M*A*S*H* 
Eric Burdon and the Animals
Cover Photo: Peace Shadow, Fr. Vazken 2008
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
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Cellophane Reality

Next Step with Fr. Vazken #715: A check on reality- altered, augmented, synthesized or processed, from radio to ntf’s to the latest Webb telescope images. The groundwork for understanding: religion, belief and disbelief. The endless cycle of war and stepping out of the game via Armodoxy.
Does s/he exist?
Webb telescope
Monster galaxy discovered
Sarky Mouradian/Armenian Classic TV
Moog synthesizer
Wendy Carlos, Switched on Bach
Cover: Cellophane Reality, Fr. Vazken 2022
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
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Open Cafe

Next Step with Fr. Vazken #711: Ordering and consuming exactly what you want and need – whether a meal, a matter of faith, a hamburger, a bowl of soup. Vantage points, geography and life circumstances in defining our religious understandings. The scorecard on chosenness.
Samaritan Woman and Jesus
Jesus beyond the three years
Joni Mitchell
Cover: Clifton’s Cafeteria
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
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The Searching Game

Next Step with Fr. Vazken #704: Pyramid scheme and math explained for beginners of hypothetical religion. Searching for answers, from myth, to science fiction, the religion, to science and then to the search: An Armodox approach to some of the big searches.
The Hunt for Planet b – CNN
Einstein on God and religion
Center of Attention: FLY
Pyramid Scheme
Chicago Christmas Album
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
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