I tried to post this to Balthazars blog, but I have too many characters so I will post it here. I am sure that most of my readers also follow his blog, but just in case THIS is the post I am replying to.
Balthazar, I am usually right on with your thinking but I have to say that you are WAY off on this one in a number of ways.
1. First and foremost, Esoteric traditions are not made to appeal to most people. They provide a direct experience and self-transformation and all that you say that they do, but all of that is NOT what 90% of the world wants from religion. To borrow a term from Ken Wilbur they are not looking for transcendence, they are looking for translation.
People want a faith tradition to tell answer basic questoions (ie: translate the world). What happens when I die? How do I be a good person? What is the meaning of it all? The reality is that most people in this life are not mystics or magicians yet they need a spiritual outlet and spiritual guide. And that is OK. Most people are not mystics and not meant to be mystics. The roles of Pistis and Gnosis are VERY different. Complimentary but different.
Paganism is going through the change of its esoteric core growing an exoteric body of people around it who like the festivals and seasonal rites but have no interest in Witchcraft. This is a good thing overall for the growth of the current.
2. If you take any Diasporic or esoteric religion you mention above and make it serve the same function and sheer size of population that an exoteric religion does it, will become just as susceptible to corruption as any other. A look at the history of Haiti, or neighborhoods like the Bronx with a large enough Santeria population will spell that out for you real quick.
Catholicism has done a lot of harm in Africa by preaching against condoms, on the other hand African Traditional Religion has also done much harm in recomending people NOT take AIDS meds that are available and instead relying upon ‘traditional’ cures like raping virgins, usually VERY young girls. Think this is exaggerated? One of my best friends counselled battered and raped women in South Africa – she will tell you different.
2. The Athiests argument is entirely based on straw man versions of the religions they attack and selective evidence. Yes horrible things happen in the same of religion. Horrible things happen in the same of politics. Horrible things happen in the same of national, tribal, and ethnic pride. This does not make these things evil, it makes them of the world. Human nature is such that we do shitty things out of self interest and use whatever is nearby to justify it. Religion is quite convenient. Without religion it is easy to see how evil men would find some other justification.
On the other hand it is not so easy to see what would replace exoteric religion for what it has done good. I know a woman who just recently gave up everything to go help start a school in Honduras. Another who dedicates her life to serving those on death row. Others who have risked their lives to feed and shelter people in war zones where even the UN and secular agencies have pulled out. There are entire countries in Africa that were only held together by churches who were standing up and talking peace and order when the government was dissolved. In all these cases people have been moved by Jesus or the teachings of the Buddha.
Cases like this are ignored by the Athiests or written off as humanities naturally good inclination despite religion. BULLSHIT.
3. You mention in your comment that you are speaking of all exoteric religions. What great evils have been committed in the name of Buddhism? This has been something that the Athiests have had a hard time with. All the talk of Dogma and Afterlife that you do above has absolutely no bearing on Buddhist or Taoist thought.
4. Your statement that the African Diasporic religions hold older unbroken traditions than other religions is unsupported by anything. In what way is it an older unboken line than other religions? The lines of the ATR’s are no less (or more) broken than any other religion and definately not older by any means.
Again, I think you are an amazing writer, a great Rootworker and a very spiritual fellow but in this you are dead wrong. Your post really boils down to the same old ‘your religions suck and mine is awesome’ argument that causes the worst religious conflicts.