You hear many speak of envisioning a new world. They believe by us concentrating on the world we would like to see, we can bring it about. This is all well and good, but I think we have to move beyond just thinking about the world as we wish to see it, and start to take actions to make it so. Unfortunately, in order to do this, we have to work on changing the mindset of the people. In my last blog, I spoke about our current economic status and how we have to change the way corporate America sees its people. In the next couple of blogs I hope to look at ways that maybe we can start changing our mindset with regard to religion, countries, races, and gender/sexual orientation/sex.
In this first segment on religion, I would like to explore ways that we can get beyond the dogmatic beliefs of religion that work against the people coming together. I often quote an old Hindu teaching:
“There are hundreds of paths up the mountain,
all leading in the same direction,
so it doesn’t matter which path you take.
The only one wasting time is the one
who runs around and around the mountain,
telling everyone else that their path is wrong.”
I find this to be good wisdom in that it basically says that we should honor each others paths. There are those who believe that we are not humans having spiritual journey, but rather spirits on a human journey. If that is the case, then couldn’t it be possible that we each may have our own spiritual direction. Yet, we always seem to follow the path and beliefs of our fathers and mothers. Though in truth, this may not be our own calling. Belief.net has a questionnaire that one can take to see how your own beliefs, your own feelings align with various belief systems.
It would be interesting to note just how closely our results from this test are aligned with the religions that we have been following. I was raised Catholic, but never really believed in it. I had a tough time reciting the Nicene Creed. I just couldn’t buy that the Catholic Church was the one and only. I was more at home in the wood. I found peace in sitting in a small glade with the sun filtering through the trees, the squirrels, rabbits, and birds around. Listening to the babble of the brook as it ran over the rocks. This was my church. This was where my spirit was alive. Yet, I followed the belief of my parents even to the point of going to the Chancellery to see about becoming a priest. You see, I have always been seen as a spiritual person and given that I was Catholic, many believed I should be a priest. For the longest time, I endured being called Father Ed. Yet, I never really believed in the church. I think I would like to be a spiritual leader, but I don’t know as I could be a part of an organized religion.
It seems like the major religions are more about control and domination. The Catholic church has a real dark side in this concern. There is still in effect a Papal Bull regarding the taking of lands from non-believers. This was put in place before Columbus and was one of the reasons Columbus had the “authority” to do what he did to the people he encountered. The Grandmother’s Council recently went to the Vatican in hopes of meeting with the Pope and having this rescinded. The Pope decided to get out of town and went on vacation. The Grandmothers Council is a group of indigenous Grandmother, elders, who have come together from many traditions in order to bring about change. http://www.grandmotherscouncil.com/ Of course, it isn’t just the Catholics, look at the Muslims, and their Jihads. Mind you, it isn’t the religion itself per se, but the leaders who seek to dominate and control. If one were to follow the true teachings of Jesus or Mohamed, we would have a lot more tolerance in the world. Some theologians believe that Jesus had traveled with John of Arimethea to learn of other beliefs. It is said that in the Gospel of Thomas, once thought of as heretical by the Catholic church, not sure if it still is, that Hindu and Buddhist influences can be read in the quotes. In short, I believe that if any religion tells you they are the only one, they are the true religion, unless you follow them, you will not be saved, RUN! Oh, and if they talk about having a Kool-aid party, um, pass.
I have always thought that if religions were not so afraid of losing power they would consider allowing the teaching of a diverse set of beliefs so that people can find their own paths. Even if the young people, in the end, stay with their parent’s religion and beliefs, they at least would have been exposed to these other beliefs, removing the ignorance that prevents us from honoring and respecting other paths.
When you find yourself saying negative things about other religions, ask yourself, “What do I really know about this religion? Am I just following the ignorance and hatred of others? How can I learn about other religions and beliefs so that I can remove my own ignorance and learn to accept their path?” Mind you, I know these days with all the hype about how all Muslims are terrorists, which is a total fabrication in order to to control through fear and hatred, it is hard to see other religions in a good light. I ask that you not buy into the negative images and take time to learn for yourself. Go to Amazon or your favorite book store, and on their search put in, “idiots guide to buddhism” or hinduism, or islam. Another resource for books on religions is Oxford University Press. http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/?view=usa
The thing is to get beyond ignorance and not be drawn in by others ignorance but take the time to learn for ourselves and share what we learn with others. In this way, we remove ignorance. Of course, you will have some, like that priest that I wrote about back around Father’s Day, who will tell you not to listen to these others. It is out of fear that these words are spoken.
Oh, and how did I make out on the quiz from Belief.net?
1. Neo-Pagan (100%)
2. New Age (89%)
3. Mahayana Buddhism (87%)
4. Unitarian Universalism (85%)
5. Liberal Quakers (81%)
6. Jainism (70%)
7. Theravada Buddhism (70%)
8. Sikhism (69%)
9. Hinduism (69%)
10. Scientology (68%)
11. New Thought (66%)
12. Reform Judaism (65%)
13. Taoism (62%)
14. Baha’i Faith (61%)
15. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (59%)
16. Secular Humanism (55%)
17. Orthodox Quaker (53%)
18. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (48%)
19. Orthodox Judaism (48%)
20. Islam (43%)
21. Nontheist (30%)
22. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (29%)
23. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (25%)
24. Seventh Day Adventist (25%)
25. Eastern Orthodox (24%)
26. Roman Catholic (24%)
27. Jehovah’s Witness (18%)
With Roman Catholic coming in at number 26, is it any wonder I had trouble becoming a priest? I had thought about joining the local UU church, but then we were considering moving so I figured I would wait. I know what I believe, I just need a community that shares my beliefs. In the meantime, I will continue to learn so as to remove ignorance from my own mind. I pray that others will follow this path also.
I believe that many religions can learn from this quote:
Leaders don’t force people to follow – they invite them on a journey. – Charles S. Lauer
I will leave you with one more quote from the Buddha.
Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.