Most religious people believe that our moral goodness, our kind deeds, come from Christianity. At this I completely disagree. That’s like saying if you live in Wisconsin, you’re a Green Bay Packer fan. There are many cheese head fans that don’t live in Wisconsin and there are many Wisconsin citizens that are not football fans.
Morality is the main reason most religious advocates say we need the church. This is by formal religions such as Catholics and Jews, as well as fundamentalists. One debate I watched was a female minister who stated that without the religious community, our society wouldn’t have anyone to turn to in times of crisis. She disregarded much of the teachings in the Bible as literal fact, but still held to the concept of formal religion. She stated that it was the church, temple, mosque or chapel community that provided support after a death or during stressful times.
Is Christianity true to its heritage? Why say you’re a Christian? Most say it to mean that they are loving, kindhearted, and generous. They want to portray themselves as loyal to their country and family orientated. We have a picture in our head of the Christian as being the person who comes during a tragedy with the food supplies and blankets. If there’s a fire, the Christian is the kind person providing you with shelter. Why do we have to link Christianity with kindness? Can a person be kind and not Christian? On the other hand, can a Christian not be kind?
Friends are enemies sometimes,
and enemies friends. -Rumi
I want us to unlink these assumptions. The next time you do a kindness, think about it. Are you doing it in the name of your god or are you handing a child a glass of water because he’s thirsty and you are a loving person? Is that hard to imagine?
The Christianity of my youth was a bubble of protection for me. I didn’t realize how effective the sheltering was until recently. When faced with the opposing belief system, I find myself feeling exposed. Atheism doesn’t believe in God, but it also doesn’t believe in life after death. This is it. No floating towards the light. No reunion with loved ones. None of the comfort of mom’s Thanksgiving dressing and pumpkin pie.
Why don’t I go back home? Back to Christianity or even a milder form of religion? I’ve asked myself the same thought. My goal was to have a view of Christianity from the outside. I wanted to see without the bias of being raised in the buckle of the Bible belt. I practically cut my teeth on a church hymnal. All of my memorization and early explorations were from the Petri dish of religion. I crawled out of this swamp on purpose. I wanted a different view. I wanted to see the world without the limitations of religious doctrine.
Now I realize that I was sheltered. As much as growing up in a large family is different to growing up an orphan. Well, here I am. A lot of limitations are in other’s beliefs also. Why does everyone have to lock down their beliefs? I hate closed doors and locked boxes. Why do we have to believe in anything in particular? What if I went the entirety of my life and never believed any belief. Does that make me a Buddhist? It might take me on the path of Buddha now that I think of it. Humorous how our lives are. We aren’t comfortable with people who don’t decide. The first thing we want to know of someone is their work. What do you do? Then marital status. Married? Children? Then we migrate to political and religious notions. Define yourself, we say.
As I ponder life after death or even just this life, I realize it truly doesn’t matter what I believe. Life is, now. If there is a reincarnation then I’m coming back to fix bad karma and enjoy the good that I have created. If this is all there is, I won’t realize it since I will be gone. As it was before I was born. It will be no matter what I believe. I can’t swallow a pill or chant 1000 times to force a belief. Once exposed, a lie is no longer deceiving. You see it for the illusion it once was, much like the saying, What’s been seen cannot be unseen. I stand in the valley of the shadow of death, but I fear no evil.
I have another thing to say regarding what motivates us instead of money. There’s a book that I read this week that mentions that very topic. Drive-The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Sometimes it’s not the paycheck. What leads us to spend hours playing video games? For blogging and designing websites that are only for sharing with friends and family? Why do we put bumper stickers on our cars that say “My child is an honor student at…?” Does it gain us extra money? Did we earn it ourselves? Does it make us better people? See Counting Coup for more about money.
There really is another side to humanity that is almost anti-money. The antithesis of being rewarded in any external way. If we were paid to do some of things that we do, they would no longer be rewarding to us. It’s a strange thing. One piece of advice I read recently suggested to not find work doing what you enjoy. Keep your pleasure hobby as that, pleasure, or you will no longer have it as fun.
Is this what Jesus meant when he said you will lose your reward in heaven, heaven being the spirit nonphysical side of life? If you do something for the accolades, then it does lose some of the internal pleasure. Matthew 6:1
Here are some thoughts and examples I have:
Is our society turning to intrinsic rewards (fun, pleasure, internal pride, emotions) instead of external rewards (money, status, certificates, diplomas)?
This is mentioned in the book, Drive. The state of Vermont created a new type of corporation. It’s the L3C Low Profit Limited Liability Corporation and is meant to benefit community and still be considered a business. It’s a new way of looking at making money.
Fourth Sector-For Benefit companies are companies that believe in benefiting the whole community, not just the board of directors. “The boundaries between the public, private, and social sectors are blurring. A Fourth Sector is emerging.”
Open source software has been around for a few years. And because of the internet, people everywhere are giving time and energy to create software, games, communities, and galleries. Wikipedia is the easiest example. Anyone can contribute or edit it’s information. The information you give can be added to or corrected also. It’s a group effort.
The most amazing example I think of right now is the Arab uprising of 2011. The volume of communication through Twitter and Facebook was amazing. Speaking of the uprisings, Sage Journal says, Indeed some have been so bold as to label them as the ‘Twitter Revolutions’ or ‘Facebook Revolutions.’
“Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it.” ~Buddha
Just for kicks and giggles I’m going to bring up a subject that is often argued. In one corner stand the believers of the divine power. The religious and spiritual alike believe in the power of prayer, the real act. The words, the beads, the statues, the candles, the water and oil. In the other corner are the skeptics. Those that believe in medicine, in science, in studies and practice. They will tell you there is no god to answer that prayer and any help that is given, is given by people or the ill persons own psyche.
In reality these two sides merge and flow together each sharing their strengths. If only we knew the truth. Studies are done but still each side sees what they believed in originally. If it’s not god, then who? Or what? I think it all comes together if you’re standing in the right place.
The fruit of the spirit is …
Most Christians can quote this one. But what if it’s not talking about THE Spirit. What if this verse were referring to spirit in general, as opposed to flesh.
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
We talk about our lizard brain as the control center for our baser self. We eat, we drink, we sleep, we fulfill all of our lusts. But humanity has other parts also. A portion of our brain encourages us to communicate, to interact, to be generous. These qualities or attitudes are present when people receive prayer or loved ones are near. There is acceptance. There is love. There is this overwhelming feeling of not being alone and isolated. With acceptance comes healing.
There was a study done many years ago about newborns. Those that received touch as well as the needed nourishment, thrived. Grew stronger and healthier. Those that received their food and received only the bare minimum of touch, became weaker. as if they weren’t even fed at all. What can cause such a thing? Was it really the touching alone? The Experience of Touch
So if we want to encourage healing in those around us what do we need to do? Touching? Or praying? It is very possible that we as humans can’t separate our emotions from out actions. If you know you can’t be with someone or show them affection, you tend to avoid them completely. Sometimes we avoid thinking of them.
Another topic I want to explore in the future is WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO THRIVE? How do we thrive?
What the world needs now is less religion and more hugging. At least it needs less rigid religion, amid which religion becomes ideology; and it needs more compassionate hugging of the kind that nurses give patients in hospitals.
The religion I know today looks nothing like the religion I knew in my youth, not even close to that religion’s infancy. Here lies the problem and main argument between Atheists, Agnostics and the religious. The skeptics are looking at the religion out of the Bible and asking why would you serve a god who condones genocide? Or butchering of your people? Judges 19:25
The Christian of today is looking at the companionship of who they view as God today and the fellowship of their church or temple members. They see love.
So what does Christianity really mean? Most will quote God is Love. Beloved, let us love one another. John 16:7,8. But that’s a knee jerk reaction. Or maybe it’s like the person you know really well. Or the guy who delivers your pizza. Who is Joe? Well he’s the pizza guy. What if you saw him in a suit and tie coming out of the bank with his briefcase? Would you recognize your pizza guy? Is it not possible that our religion has changed over the years? well you know it has.
A little bit of history:
The Christianity we know today is mostly because of the reformation of the 1500’s. The world before Martin Luther (not Martin Luther King, Junior) looked very different. In the 1400’s the Bible was in Latin. No one but the elite and scholarly knew Latin. You wouldn’t be able to quote any scripture. Our knowledge would be based on hearsay. We wouldn’t recognize our own Christianity, because the people then believed a strange mixture of superstition and religion. It would be difficult for us to live that life. It’s likely we would want to stand on the rooftops and try to teach them the truth. And I say the TRUTH lightly, because no one really has the truth, truly.
The time from Jesus until Martin Luther’s reformation, the belief system changed and morphed and contorted into an extremely arrogant dogma. To the point that Martin Luther practically did an imitation of Jesus and the money changers in the temple. He declared salvation could not be purchased and forgiveness of sins wasn’t for sale. The Christianity I knew growing up was of the Martin Luther variety.
Does our knowledge, our beliefs today come from hearsay or from our own reading? When you look at an actor, and compare him or her to the roles they play in movies, the real actor, if you met them on the street may be similar, but would I even like Jared Leto or Ian Somerhalder if I met them in real life? I don’t know. I have a mental place marker in my head that I attribute to them. When someone mentions their name or the role they play on TV, my mind sorts through the various data collected, cha-ching…there he is. Picture queued, yes I know who Ian Somerhalder is.
It’s much different if you meet them in person. Think of Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise. They play parts in movies. A very wide variety of personalities for sure, but that’s not who they are. Thanks to exposes and internet access, you’ve seen more than you probably want to of the real persons. The illusion was much more glamorous.
Is Christianity that way? Maybe it’s like my hair color. Get closer to the roots and you just might see the truth. Of course that’s the problem. I don’t know if we can ever truly know the roots of Christianity. I know, I hear the arguments, Jesus is Christianity. But can we totally know who someone is by just reading in a book about them? And how right is that book if it was written 50 to 100 years after his death?
If the argument only lies in that bit, I could probably drop it.
I think the God in our history is schizophrenic. Read Judges 19: 25 again. Does that mesh with the God of love? Is this the same god that Paul talked of? I’m not saying that any of it is true or false. My real point or question is about what I have called Christianity. Is the religion I knew in my youth, the one I called Christianity, the one that is written in the Bible? If I include all the scriptures from the old testament and the new testament and read them without the rose-colored glasses of my upbringing, I think not. Which has left me with a conundrum. Was I not a true Christian as in 33 AD follower of Jesus? Or did Christianity morph even though it is not allowed to do so?
My take on Religion, God, and Spirituality has changed over the years. Although I grew up Christian like many others in my part of the world, yet, I can no longer claim it as my faith.
When I was a kid, if I wanted something from on a top shelf I had to ask someone to get it or scoot a chair to reach it. Our cereal was on top of the refrigerator. Guess what I wanted. I was so excited when I finally could reach the top of the refrigerator without using a step-stool or asking for help. It was a milestone for me. This is how I see religion. Not that we can physically touch any god on our own, but that we can approach the spirit without tradition or allegories.
Face to face. In our infancy and childhood we learn stories to help us understand. The birds and the bees teach us about reproduction. Apples and oranges teach us math. Religion teaches us about God. Whether God is worshiped, feared, deified or loved, we learned from the teachings of our religion. Growing up in a very closed-minded religion taught me that my thoughts were not to be trusted. That whatever I thought was true probably wasn’t. Maybe not everyone’s religion does that, but for me that was what happened.
Religion was the highest power. The highest authority. Even more so than personal experience. It doesn’t matter if God or an angel came down to talk to you, it was not trusted above the unchanging dogma of our religion. Even if you found it in the Bible, underlined it in red, circled it, highlighted with glowing color, if it didn’t match what you were taught as truth, it was a trick of the enemy. Don’t let anyone fool you. I grew up in this stuff and I’ve argued it and studied it. If it wasn’t taught in the dogma, it is a lie.
When religion tells me to ignore those things I see around me such as science discoveries, cultural issues, or astronomy, it is basically telling me to ignore factual evidence. Ignore the truth and just believe. To the point that those people with the greatest faith ignored the most obvious laws such as gravity or chemistry. Yes I do know there are things I don’t understand. And I will admit there are times when someone seemingly did amazing metaphysical, supernatural things. Water turned to wine. Water turned to gasoline.
It is amazing to me that when we look at other cultures and religions that we can see through the veil. It is also amazing that whichever religion you deem as true, is probably the religion you were born and raised in. It was passed from your parents and their parents. Tell me truly, do you believe that your grandparents way of living was the only way? Was Grandma’s superstitious beliefs how you want to live your life? Is it spilled salt over your left shoulder or your right? There are some strange superstitions around the world. The conviction of belief does not make them true. It just makes them believed.
In Russia, its considered bad luck when a cat, especially a black one, crosses in front of you when you’re walking. Some people will avoid them by chasing out or outrun the cat. If the cat already crosses you, then you have to break the spell by spitting three times over your left shoulder to avoid the bad luck.
In England, it is believed that meeting a spotted or black and white dog on the way to a business appointment is a lucky sign.
In Sweden, it is considered bad luck to place your keys on the table. In the old days, it it believed that prostitutes will often signal their availability by leaving their room keys on the bar.
I am a seeker. A learner. A teacher and a follower. Although I’m only proficient in a few, I have attempted to become familiar with many paths. There’s the path of the Buddha. The path of Kabbalah. The Way, Jesuit, Gnostic, the Serpent’s path, Tao, Zoroastrian and the list goes on. There are enough paths that a person could get really lost. So far I haven’t, well at least I don’t think so. Some would say that I am. I wish I could say if I am lost then the world is my home. I’m not quite that far yet. Probably never will be. The truth is that some of these paths or religions are so similar that an outsider couldn’t tell them apart. But I guess that’s the normal thing isn’t it? Until you get to know a group it’s difficult to see the distinctions.
What strikes me at this moment is the distraction that these paths and their own nuances offer. They keep us busy. It’s similar to the beads on the rosary which a Catholic will use as a prayer connection. It serves its purpose to keep your mind on your prayer. It reminds you that you are not merely a man or a woman standing alone, but you have access to a higher power. And that’s where these things should stop.
A woman looks in her closet for clothing to wear. She decides what to wear based on what type of day she will have. If there is a lot of walking, she will wear comfortable shoes. If she is appearing before important people, she may want to dress more dazzling. At one time, we did not choose our path, it was chosen for us like our clothing was and even our spouses. This is the time of choice. Independence. Freethinking. We can choose our path as well as our clothing. We are not limited to corsets and parasols. No more breaking and binding of our feet to make us appealing. The proper husband or wife is not picked out at birth for us.
It’s also a time of uncertainty as well as opportunity. Those two go hand in hand. The same with the fear of the unknown and it’s counterpart, paralysis.
When I look at some of these paths, I can feel the devotion. It’s like running my hands over a soft cashmere shawl. Or the feel of a silk scarf around my neck. The scent of a rose petal. The kiss of a child. The love of the pursuer and the hug of a friend. Comfort. Home. We belong and find rest.
Along with this new frontier we are all on, is the desert or wilderness in front of us. The unknown. The “not home” or otherness of it can make us wish to hide. But we left it for a reason. Do you remember? Stifled? Mine didn’t fit anymore. Do I still believe? Yes and no. Part of my beliefs I am even more adamant about, but others are added in at the last minute and cluttered up the purity.
If you want a path to follow, there are many out there. If you want a life to live, you have one. No one needs to give you a map for it. Walk. You don’t need to know where to go. Walk. Each step you take is your path. Your path is enough. So you left your home, keep going until you want to stop. Have you read the story of Siddhartha? Siddhartha_(novel) It’s a story told of original Buddha. He left his home and his family and his friends. He didn’t know where he was going, but he had the need to go.
Whatever your conception is of the Buddha, it’s WRONG! Now kill that image and keep practicing. This all has to do with the idea that reality is an impermanent illusion. If you believe that you have a correct image of what it means to be Enlightened, then you need to throw out (kill) that image and keep meditating.
Most people have heard the first chapter of the Tao, “The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao.” (So if you think you see the real Tao, kill it and move on).
Since we are away from our home, let’s not start a religion of Not Being Religious. We are free of prescribed paths. And since we are free, we need to stay free. I hope that I never trash another’s rosary beads. http://bible.cc/1_corinthians/8-9.htm
But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble.There could easily be a day that I will need them.
Do you remember the old televisions from the 1970’s with the picture tube inside? It was before digital, so I’m telling my age. When I was young, we had this television that the picture would start rolling up like the credits on a movie. You’d bang it really hard with your hand on the side to get it to stop. Smack it. Our TV was dented on the side.
A very caveman way of handling a piece of equipment.
Today that wouldn’t work. Our televisions are now electronics, with circuit boards. Hit it like that and you’ll hurt your hand on the hard plastic and knock loose a circuit. Won’t fix anything. You have to know your equipment.
We also had an old Chevy truck. It had a choke that you opened. Just a knob that you pulled out on the dashboard. You pumped the gas pedal to let a bit of fuel into the engine. Then you could start the truck. Oh the joys of vehicles before fuel injection. If you knew your truck, you knew from experience how many times to pump the pedal. If you did too many, you’d flood the engine and have to wait 10 or so minutes for the fuel to trickle out. Too few and the truck wouldn’t start. In these beautiful days of fuel injection there is no worry of this. No chokes to pull. No cranks to turn. Please don’t pump the pedal. Just start your car.
We have to know our equipment.
Whether it’s a car or a television. Know what you’re dealing with. If you have a classic vehicle it will handle differently than a newer sports car or even a normal sedan. You might not break the thing but you won’t be driving it at it’s best. You probably won’t appreciate it for its own beauty.
I would hope you wouldn’t treat a newborn baby like a mostly grown teenage boy. Once when I was teaching 1 to 2-year-old class in a church setting, one of the children came in very distraught. With a red face and tears all pouring out her eyes, she was clinging to her mom. For this little girl it was unusual. Some kids go through this normally but not her. Mom was becoming hysterical herself. She said she didn’t know what to do. That her daughter had started being “rebellious” soon after mom had went back to work. My first thought was Rebellious? The whole thing was so obvious. The girl wanted her mom. Her schedule changed. During the week, she’d been forced (from a child’s perspective) to stay with people she didn’t know and now Mommy was leaving her again. She only wanted the comfortable spot on her mom’s lap. Rebellion requires a much more developed mind than a 2-year-old has. Even the so-called terrible twos are not really rebellion, just checking out where the boundaries are.
If you know what’s normal, it’s easier to know when things are not right. If you know what’s normal for your personality it’s so much easier to help yourself in a difficult time. I was once concerned with being too cocky, too proud. I had it repeated in my formative years that God hates a proud heart. Pride goes before a fall. Me, being the compliant child that I was, tried diligently to not be proud. For a compliant child that meant never bragging or talking about achievements. And loads of guilt for thinking anything positive about myself.
Who of us hasn’t been there? We have to understand who we are. I’m speaking only from my perspective at this time since it’s currently the only one I really know. I realize your perspective is different and I don’t mean at all to leave you out of the conversation. I would like to hear your experience also.
I was sitting on the floor with my favorite yoga lady one day. We were talking about food and books we enjoyed. She remarked that I seemed very Vata-Vata. Basically if you don’t know of the Indian Doshas, Vata is the air-like, ether-like personality. All dreamland and spirituality. My Vata-ness was showing I guess.
I had tried recently and in the past many times to eat lighter. More fruits and raw vegetables. This goes along with the advice of all the super knowledgeable people out there. The diet leaves me cold, physically and mentally. I realize to these experts, lightening up seems right. For me I crave potatoes and cooked carrots. Warm oatmeal with toast and jam. Warm tea. I seldom crave a pop. Occasionally yes it hits the spot but not everyday. Too much activity and caffeine makes my head spin. Energy drinks give me a headache. So when people recommend these things I just nod at them and realize I probably need to do the opposite.
All up in the air.
I often listen to the wrong advice it seems. They recommend that we as people need more spirit. More meditation. So I try. They say we need to visualize. Okay, no problem. Then my head hurts. Suddenly, I understood what my yoga teacher had tried to tell me and what others have said, that I’m wired backward. I need more physical not spiritual training. I’m at home in the temple praying. But take me to the swimming pool or the ski slopes and I’ll run away scared. She said I was all up in here (as she waved her hands in the air). I needed to learn to come back into my body. To live in my body and stay at home there.
So when they say I need to control my anger, I have to pause. Back up and reverse. Me, I tend to hold my tongue too long. I think about everything I say. I think twice or three times about all my silly emails and Facebook posts. Things like holding my tongue? Seriously I really need to speak up more, not less.
So now when you get advice, take it into consideration, but also know your own nature. Is it just adding a gag along with the muzzle? Duct taping over the superglue? Redundant redundancy? Or is it helpful?
I am bigger than religion. No creed or code can bind me. I am more than opinions or thoughts of others. I become. I change. I grow. I breathe. I live. You may say I’m a liar. I say look closer. You may say I am honest. Look again. For every nuance that you think you see, there is a counter facet. I am intelligent. I am foolish. I am kind. I am cruel. I am all things, but none at all. I live in a limited world but my soul knows none. It is boundless because I am.
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