it's no accident that the most revered sages are dead
The sage whose words are ambiguous you call great.
Those who advocate discipline you shun.
With one, you treat words the way you want.
With the other, you resent having no [private interpretation].
People love ambiguity, especially when it comes to religion. They can interpret things the way they want. If they are unhappy with the cast given to a particular teaching, they invent ways to circumvent it, which is why we have so many authorities, schools, and sects.
It is no accident that the most revered sages are dead. They aren’t around to correct our misguided notions… Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, Lao Tzu – how many of us are actually devoted to the wisdom that they embodied? Or have we made them mere screens upon which we project our own ideas [and prejudices]…
[Y]our goal should be to bring yourself to a state of [personal] independence [rather than a perpetual mode of “follower” or “disciple,” which is the spirit of cultism]. All teachings [even the greatest] are mere references [or signposts, and no substitute for spiritual maturity]. The true experience is living your own life. Then, even the [so-called] holiest of words are only words.
Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao
Editor's note: Yes, "it is no accident that the most revered sages are dead." This way, we can put words into their mouths to support whatever cockeyed "infallible, holy" teaching we'd like to sanctify.
In my city, yours, too, there are several churches, of different sects and denominations, dedicated to "Saint Paul this" and "Saint Paul that" -- not only contradicting each other in their "holy doctrines," but, in this charade, putting into the mouth of Paul things that he would never say, things that would make the real Paul spit nails concerning all this fake-news misrepresentation. Religious hucksters have commandeered the prestigious name of Paul -- as they do with "Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, [and] Lao Tzu" -- pressing these stellar ones into service of small and fear-based religious ideas.
How do I know this? I spent many years, more than a decade, investigating every word, every phrase, and its context, of Paul's earliest writing, the first document of the New Testament, Galatians. And I will tell you this: even the concept of sectarianism, of "hurray for our side," of dogmatic statements of "infallible this" and "infallible that," of elitism, is utterly anathema to Paul.
You will discover that Paul was no fan of religion; any religion. He considered it a temporary necessary evil, a "prison" as it limits our freedom, a kind of moralistic "kindergarten nursery," just "the rudimentary ABCs" of what's important in life. These are Paul's metaphors, not mine, as you will learn when you study Galatians.
In Galatians, we find Paul attacking an empty god-talk religious hoopla, a disingenuous posturing of authority over people's lives, a merchandizing of the crowds, that today paints his name on church buildings. Sometimes Paul, it could be said, strays over the line of civility and propriety. On a bad day, he makes reference to "circumcision," linking it to the suspect manhood of his detractors. And we need not doubt that Paul would be equally pleased with those who misrepresent his words today.
Yes, there's a reason why churches are named after a dead Paul. With this apostle, you'd better make sure the body is no longer warm and good-'n-dead. Much safer that way when you're in the business of deceiving and bilking the unknowledgeable masses.