For the purposes of this discussion I wish to establish the following historical and logical givens. Now all of these are certainly subject to debate on their own merits and I have no problem doing that on a different thread (citations for reference to any historical given I will be happy to provide on such a different thread and by request); however, to focus on the actual point of this thread I suggest that for the sake of argument, lets assume the following to be true. Note: the term the church refers to the central governing body of any religion and/or the Vatican depending on the time frame being referred to. Historical Facts 1) In the early stages of Christianity, there were various sects all who had different beliefs and used their own books of scripture. One sect would use the book of Matthew for example while another rejected Matthew but accepted James. Yet another might reject both Matthew and James and instead only used Mark and Thomas. Essentially, every sect kind of did their own thing. 2) In AD 313 the Roman Emperor Constantine established the Edict of Milan decriminalizing Christianity and he eventually declared Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire summoning the Council of Nicaea where Christianity was defined and organized according to a given set of beliefs. 3) The Biblical Canon was first officially organized by what would eventually be the Catholic Church at the Third Council of Carthage in AD 397 during the reign of Emperor Honorius and under the supervision of Augustine of Hippo. 4) After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the late 5th Century AD, the church arose as the dominant political power in Europe holding significant influence (even over kings) until the Reformation in around AD 1517. This period of time we will refer to as the Middle Ages. 5) During the Middle Ages the church, enjoying great power and influence, became corrupted by political and financial issues, engaged in acts of atrocity, and introduced and/or altered significant tenants of Christianity using the tradition of Midrash, terror, and suppressing education in order to maintain control and force the obedience of the people. 6) Many of the changes to Christianity outlined in point five endure to this day and significantly influence modern Christian thought. 7) After the Reformation the influence of the church continued albeit in different forms and spread over multiple governing bodies. Still, the church retained significant power and influence whether directly (i.e. direct influence on matters of state) or indirectly (influence of the state through the influence of the people) until relatively modern times, arguably even today. Logical Givens 1) An organization of any kind that relies on the willingness of followers to obey must enforce obedience. 2) Fear is an extremely effective method for establishing obedience. 3) Absolute power corrupts absolutely. 4) No Roman Emperor or Pope will ever allow a scripture that they deem as rebellious or anti-establishment to become part of the mainstream theology of the state religion. 5) The political need of the church for obedience by the faithful has not ended. For the church to survive it still requires the willful obedience of the people. Spiritual Givens 1) Communication with the Holy Spirit represents perfect guidance according to the will and wisdom of God. Initial Conclusions 1) Constantine provided an opportunity for what would eventually become the Catholic Church to tip the balance of power in their favor against other sects who did not agree with their views. By forcing a definition of Christianity (the Nicaean Creed) and enforcing it through Roman power, opposing viewpoints were essentially eradicated. 2) With the rise of total spiritual authority by church, the need to establish the submission of the people and the kings in order to maintain their power, riches, and influence, led to the evolution of Christianity into a fear based theology; something that persists to the modern day. 3) If initial conclusion #2 is accepted as valid, it means that the original theology of Christianity has by definition been eradicated. 4) Ancient mainstream scriptures, such as the Gospels of Thomas, James, Mary Magdalene, etc were not accepted in the Biblical Canon as they were too rebellious and anti-establishment to be accepted by the church (who requires obedience) and the Roman Emperors (who required obedience, order, and efficiency). 5) If initial conclusions 1-4 are accepted as valid, it means that Christianity became Romanized and altered in order to meet the political and financial requirements of the church and the Emperors of Rome. 6) Because obedience and submission of the people remains necessary to the current day for the church to maximize their power and influence, the modern church has no motivation to dispel the alterations and Romanization of Christianity. In fact quite the opposite, the more they can enhance it the better for their future prospects of remaining as a viable and influential political and economic force. 7) If all the givens are accepted as true it means that the teachings of the church are not spiritual teachings. Instead they are political and financial teachings intended to maximize the power of the church. 8) If conclusion #7 is accepted as true it means the practice of Christianity according to the specific guidelines endorsed by the church is the practice of the desires and requirements of ancient Roman Emperors and religious/political despots. 9) If conclusion #8 is true it means the practice of Christianity according to the specific guidelines endorsed by the church is contrary to the guidance and wisdom of Jesus. Final Conclusion 1) The practice of Christianity according to the specific guidelines endorsed by the church is contrary to the best spiritual interests of the individual. Instead of enhancing a personal spiritual relationship with God it actually interferes with it. As such organized religion should be rejected, each individual should establish their own religion based upon guidance gained by meditation and opening themselves to communication with the Holy Spirit. I will now brace myself for the onslaught of attacks.