Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Thoughts on Religion

"A human being is a part of a whole, called by us _universe_, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."       Albert Einstein

Someone in a Blog comment asked me to express my personal beliefs about Jesus.  Though it may have been an innocent query, my experience has been that this is frequently a transparent and loaded question.  If my beliefs happen to be in agreement with theirs, they are satisfied.  However if this is not the case, they might take it as their personal mission to change my beliefs to match theirs.  The real question they intend is, “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?”  First, despite their protestations of only caring, the answer is really none of anyone else’s business.  I respect and admire the goodwill of providing aid and comfort to others less fortunate through the service activities of a Church, but that’s about as generous as my regard for organized religion gets.  It is my feeling that the thought to, and the action of seeking to convert another persons over to one’s own beliefs is primarily an ego based activity that makes the proselytizer feel good about their selves when they can persuade someone to accept Jesus as their Savior.  If they cannot, they may feel pity for us, even expressing to us that our poor soul is damned, “You’re not going to get to Heaven that way.”  This sort of egocentric behavior is in my opinion an ultimate example not of God’s will, but of an individual’s self-will.  I have avoided a response even though I intended all along to write about this because I understand the nature of the invitation.  It’s not innocent curiosity.   Also it’s a rhetorical argument, proof of which is subjective and in reality just one’s opinion, much like my own here.  I have no interest in organized religion beyond studying it.  It has falls short of what I need spiritually here and now.        
I’ve always had a sense of and believed that there is a Higher Power in the universe, and that I was a part of it, connected to it, that this is the meaning of, “We are all One.”  I feel that it’s narcissism to believe we are all not a part of God, it’s egotistical to think that we could somehow be a separate entity, apart from God.  The only place we can exist apart from God is in our minds, where we can choose to believe what we will.  It’s my belief that organized religion created this division purposefully so it could build its self into a powerful entity serving to fill the void it created and thereby gain power.  Perhaps there really are people who feel the awe of a powerful presence while standing before a thorn crowned, bloodied crucifix statue inside of a building.   I have always been more likely to feel the magnificence of a Higher Power while outdoors, standing in front of or at the precipice of something beautiful and spectacular, like Yosemite Valley, or The Grand Canyon.   The first time my babies looked into my eyes and steadied their gaze, I felt more connected to God than at any time seeking this connection inside of a church.  I feel this kind of experience is not just my nature, but it is human nature.  It is our nature, the product of “universal law,” which is higher than man’s law.  For me, finding God in a building on a Sunday would have been a learned disadvantage.  I first would have had to forget the innate sense of connection to the Spirit I came into this world with –though could not express before I’d mastered language- and then replace that connection with a man-made-go-between, an interloper.  I believe that I was born of this awareness I refer to, having on my birthday just come directly from the Source, and so were you.   This sense of God I am innately aware of is entirely independent of any exposure to religious dogma, and the fevered preaching of men claiming I was born into sin, warning me of their culled tale of eternal damnation, and salvation.     
I acknowledge that I have not had very much exposure to organized religion during my life time.  I was not raised in the Church, and my involvement with any church has been limited to brief periods out of curiosity with various denominations here and there, over the course of my life.  I would describe myself as not being significantly scarred by organized religion; therefore not suffering from the seeds of fear, self-loathing and guilt organized religion means to propagate to assist in perpetuating its self.  I neither begrudge anyone else their own choice of who or how to worship, nor do I have any desire to change a single mind that is not my own.  I reject for myself Man’s limited religion in favor of God’s unlimited spirituality.  I need look no further than to the teachings of Jesus Christ himself for substantiation of what I speak.  Jesus taught no doctrine or theology what so ever, only mindful principles for living.  He taught that all illness, both physical and mental were the result of our thoughts.  His were teachings on how to live happy, healthy and free today in this life.  Men took Jesus’s teachings, along with various biblical passages and inferred meaning where they though meaning needed to be to suit themselves and their ambitions.  I feel that when Men first formed their doctrines and theologies for their fellow Man to conform to is when organized religion first set about down the wrong road.  My experience with religion has been that it teaches us that God is apart from us, “out there,” as opposed to God’s true nature which is that God is a part of us.  That which we seek is inside of us, not “out there,” and apart from us.  The men who invented fiction from The Truth culled out of various scripture the rules and conformations that didn’t exist in scripture but they felt needed to exist.  They invented doctrine and theology from an uncomplicated set of essential life principles that were already complete just as they were.  Emmet Fox explains this far better than I ever could in his short book, “The Sermon on The Mount.”       
I would define organized religion as worshiping by the guidance and instruction of good intentioned men who honestly believe that they are doing God’s work, but are in fact not necessary for me to have a relationship with God.  These same men would of course protest an alternate definition for their purpose.  They function as an intermediary go-between where none is necessary.  Why would I drink from a pipe when I can quench my thirst directly from the source?  The experiences and exposure to organized religion I’ve had has always served best to repel me away instead of to attract me towards any denomination or particular church group.  It’s been said that there is no religion large enough to hold every theology, doctrine and belief; however spirituality can hold all of it in its open hands.  Where spirituality is open and inclusive, organized religion is often closed minded and exclusive in nature.  There are many ways to the top of the mountain and my belief is that anybody who claims that their particular religion teaches The Way, has literally been sold something that I have never desired to buy into.  It’s just not necessary.  In more recent years, I’ve found that organized religion has been lacking because I needed help with living my life right here and right now, not in the future, not in some “after life.”  I have struggles in my life today, my relationship with God has made all the difference right here right now.  Eternity is going to have to wait.