Thoughts on a Cloudy Day – Religion Part Deux

In part one of my ramblings on religion, I talked about my journey and how I came to be. In this one, I would like to expand on some of my feelings on religion.
For me, the difference between religion and spiritual paths is dogma. While many people will classify Buddhism as a religion, I prefer to think of it as a spiritual path or philosophy. Why is that? Well, to quote Buddha Gitama Siddhartha, “Do not believe what you hear or read. Do not believe what your teachers tell you, not even if it comes from me. But know what is true in your own heart.” For me that sums it all up. You are not being told what to believe or how, but are rather offered a path which you may choose to walk or not. To me that is the essence of a spiritual path.
Religion on the other hand, is tied down with dogma. My upbringing was Catholic so I will focus a bit there, but I will touch on what I know of a few of the others.
The Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church was basically founded when Constantine convened a council in Nicaea in 325 AD. I will use the more standard Anno Domini rather than the newer CE, Christian Era. Emperor Constantine had won the battle of Milivian Bridge believing that he had won the grace of Jesus when, as the legend goes, he baptized his troops in allegiance to Jesus after a bishop suggested it was the way to win the war. He did, and thus he then decided to create the church with the motto of One God, One Church, One Empire, One Emperor. Two factions within the church were competing and finally another council was called in Constantinople in 381 AD to revise and expand the creed to its present form. This is what we know as the Nicene Creed, “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty….”. In reciting this creed, you were basically giving your allegiance to God, Jesus, and the Roman Empire, henceforth known as the Holy Roman Empire.
So while many proclaim that Peter built the church, in reality it was Emperor Constantine under the guidance and council of bishops. In any event, the Nicene Creed then became the basic dogma of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
Now, to take a step back, prior to Constantine’s conversion, Christians were persecuted in Rome. Add to that, there were many Christian sects. After Constantine’s conversion, the new Catholic Church turned on the other sects. Either you joined with them or were killed or driven out of town. One has to wonder what Jesus would have thought about that. So in order to get everyone aligned under one Christian umbrella, a basic set of beliefs was created and everyone was expected to follow or, well, they were killed.
Not a very auspicious beginning to a religion, but it held and grew. Fast forward to the Middle Ages and the south of France. Another Christian sect was taking hold. The Catholic Church was losing parishioners and in some cases priests to the new Christian sect in the Lanquedoc region called the Cathars. Whether spawned by the corruption in the church or just seeking a new way, many more started to switch to the Cathars new religion. The church did not like this competing religion taking away from their stronghold in France, so they conspired with the King of France to have the Albigensian Crusade. In essence, like the Crusades against the Muslims, it was meant to wipe out the Cathars. There is one legend that tells how the soldiers came to a village and ordered them to turn over the Cathars. The villagers were sympathetic to the Cathars, and refused to do so. A lieutenant asked his superior what they were to do. It is said that he replied, “Kill them all, God knows which are his”. The Cathars last hold out was at Montsegur in the Lanquedoc region. It is said that they managed to hold off the advancing soldiers long enough for some of the men to sneak their treasures, one rumor has that one such treasure was the holy grail. To his credit, Pope John Paul II apologized for this travesty before he passed.
At this point, you may ask if I am bashing the Catholic Church. While it may appear so, I am merely showing the dark side of the church, in order to emphasize a point I will make further in. But allow me to continue, if I may.
Now one would hope the atrocities sanctioned by the church stopped there, but given the Papal Bull issued prior to Columbus leaving in search of the new world, it was only the beginning. Basically, the papal bull stated that if indigenous peoples would not convert to Christianity, explorers were free to do with them as they please and take their lands. I might add, this Papal Bull is still in affect today and all efforts to have it rescinded have been rebuffed. The Council of Grandmothers, a group of indigenous elder women from around the world had gone to Rome to meet with the Pope. At first, he had planned to meet with them, but when found out what their intention was, he was called away on business. Needless to say the indigenous people didn’t convert and Columbus and his men did some horrendous things. If people knew the truth they wouldn’t be so adamant in honoring such a cruel man. You can read some of it yourself in the book, Lies My Teacher Told Me.
Of course, the atrocities did not stop with Columbus as more explorers followed in his footsteps and into Central America and South America, wiping out the Mayans and Aztecs, and other indigenous peoples. If I remember correctly, it was Cortez who came into the valley in New Mexico and saw the Acoma Pueblo high atop a mesa. It’s mica windows beaming in the sun glowed and made Cortez think he found the city of gold. He laid siege, but being as there was only slim paths up the side of the mesa, he was quickly repelled. He returned a second time and finally overtook the mesa. Soon the friars arrived to Christianize the Acoma people.
Fast forward a few more years to the USA and the push westward. Native Americans were thought to be heathen savages and the churches moved in to Christianize them. Soon, Indian Boarding Schools were set up and children were ripped from their parents and forced to go to the schools where they were beaten for speaking their language or performing their ceremonies and prayers. They were treated horrendously, but the motto was, “Kill the Indian, but spare the man”. Some of the horrors we hear of the modern church were mild compared to what went on in these schools. In some cases, years afterwards, mass graves were found at the schools.
And of course, that takes us to modern times and the pedophilia that was going on in the church. Often times it was out right ignored, other times priests were just shifted. Even today, you can go to church and hear how the church is under siege and how people must support the Pope as he is under attack. Not one word for the victims of these savages. Yes, I called them savages, and one has to wonder back with the Indian schools and Cortez and Columbus, who were the real savages?
So why did I bring up this dark history of the Catholic Church? Well because these days we are hearing just how awful the Muslims are. We are told they are a religion of hate. We are told that they want to kill everyone who isn’t like them. We are told we must wipe them out before they get us. Yet, if anyone bothered to learn about Islam, they would find that it is also supposed to be a religion of peace just like Christianity. As a matter of fact, Muslims believe that Jesus was a prophet. Yeppers, the Christian Jesus was seen as a prophet, maybe not necessarily the Son of God, but a prophet. The thing that really tears me up is that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are related! I guess it is just like the competing Christian religions where they just have to wipe each other out until there is only one. After all, there can only be one true religion. At least that is what the priest said when I took my kids to church on Easter. Last Father’s Day I had to write about the priest at another church who was telling everyone in the church to not listen to any New Age person. He said, they believe that God is out there, when we have been teaching you that God is within you. Whhhhhhaaaattt!! Rewind! I grew up being taught by the Catholic Church that God was out there and he was pissed at me. If I didn’t go to a priest and confess my sins and beg forgiveness and say fourteen Our Fathers, sixteen Hail Mary’s and do four hundred rosaries, I was going to burn in Hell! Yet, most New Age people tell me that we are a part of God and we all hold a spark of God within us. In some instances, they say we are God. So methinks, someone was drinking a bit of the Christian Brothers before his sermon.
Now of course, there are quite a few more than just the three main religions. There are many variations of Christianity from the Methodists and Baptists, to the Church of the Nazarene and others. There are also different factions of Jews, two that I know are Hassidic and Orthodox. Given the fighting in Iraq, we became aware of some of the many factions of Islam.
You can see how your beliefs stack up against the various religions by going to the site, and taking the quiz. You might be surprised. Who knows, maybe you should be Bahai’ or Pagan, Quaker, or Druid.
I just want to bring one more thing up. You would think that different factions would be somewhat similar. Take the Methodist, I believe there are two distinct groups and neither recognize the other. As a matter of fact, one pastor was so moved by 9/11, that he decided to take part in the ecumenical service. Mind you, this was to help bring healing to all those people. Yet, the church turned on him and a call came up for his excommunication. Why? Because in taking part in the ceremony, he was giving tacit recognition of these other religions. Is this what Jesus intended?
Now, Praveen will have to forgive me, but I haven’t gotten to read the copy of the Bagavid Gita that he gifted me. I do thank him, and it is in the pile of books I still have to ply through. The Bagavid Gita is the Hindu holy book. Now I don’t know much about Hinduism. I know it is one of the oldest religions in the world. However, my issue with that religion is the caste system. I’m sorry, to me all men and women, are created equal. There is no one stands above me, nor below me. I know there is great wisdom in the religion, I just have a tough time with the caste system. One of my favorite teachings from Hinduism is, “There are many paths up the mountain. The only one not getting to the top is the one running around and around telling everyone else they are on the wrong path.”.
That pretty much sums up my beliefs. It is also why I try to learn about these other religions. Oh, I could take the easy route and listen to the media or the chain emails, and just hate Muslims because someone else said I should. I would much rather take the time to remove my own ignorance and share what I learn with others to help remove theirs. Only when we do so, can we finally learn to respect each others path.
There is no such thing as the one true religion. The only true religion, is the one that resides in each of our hearts. As someone once told me, if a religion has to tell you that they are the only true religion, if it requires that you pledge allegiance to their creed, run!
As for myself, I prefer to walk a spiritual path that is unbridled by dogma and myopic beliefs. I prefer to do as the Buddha suggested and believe what in my own heart is true.
As my Hindu friends say, Namaste!
My heart to your heart, one heart, one spirit.

About Emma Morgaine Croft

I have been called many things on my journey, Professor, White Wolf, Rainbow Warrior and Spirit Walker. I had a blog on for a number of years. I think the last post was when Papa passed back in 2012. I had also written for World Wide Hippies online mag for a year or so and even won a Golden Note for online writing. I got burned out writing and decided to stop for a bit. The only writing I did was comments on things I shared on Facebook. Unfortunately, that often got into a lot of angry and ugly talk. I try to maintain my cool, but there are just some unreasonable people out there. I found it emotionally and spiritually draining. I saw my niece's blog on here and thought that maybe it was time to resurrect Thoughts On A Cloudy Day. These are my thoughts and meanderings. You can accept them or walk away. I hope that in some way, these thoughts can spark other thoughts and sharing by people around the world. My dream is to make the world a better place for all people. My heart to your heart, one hear, one spirit.
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