Saturday, August 1, 2009

Focus on love

In my initial post I stated that I was anti-religion and I’d like to explain that a bit further. The basic positive teachings that most religions offer are great things for those on a Spiritual path. Love one another, be kind, don’t steal…all great advice and certainly first steps toward living a more peaceful existence. It’s the negative side of the teachings that give me cause to pause. Teaching people to judge themselves and others and using fear of a wrathful and vengeful God as a motivator are actions which divide us rather than unite us. Communion with the Divine is about union not separation.

Having grown up in the Baptist church I know that churches teach that the Bible is the work of God and so therefore what it says cannot be questioned. Like most people in any Bible based religion, I believed what I was being told and ran with it. At the time I never really did any research for myself into the history of the Bible (the internet didn’t exist then) and so I just accepted the interpretations I was being given and didn’t question them. Once I got myself distanced from those teaching a bit I began to learn more about the history of the Bible, I began to see it more as a historical document of Church philosophy written and revised by man than as a magical book written directly by God. That was a critical distinction that needed to be made for me.

The Bible has a dark history to it and one that isn’t really discussed within the Churches. I guess it’s not really good for business. Wars have been fought over it and countless people have been killed because they were unwilling to convert to Christianity and follow their teachings. The Bible has been translated into many languages from the original Aramaic that it was written in. In these translations mistakes were often made and thus the resulting translation takes on a life of its own. Church leaders were the ones who selected which writings of the time would be included in the Bible and which would be excluded. Many of the excluded books were discovered in recent times and are now collectively known as the “Dead Sea Scrolls” based upon where they were found. Throughout history Church leaders have revised much of the text to suit their needs in order retain control of the followers. Yet it is still promoted as “The Divinely inspired work of God” despite it being the work of man.

The truth is that the authors of the various books of the Bible were human beings just like any of us. They were inspired to create a story of their experiences, beliefs and teachings to pass on to others. As the Christian religion of the time grew, those in charge gathered the stories, modified them to be in alignment with the desired Church doctrine of the time and presented them as the Bible. Any organization that wants to be successful long-term needs to define and document their philosophy so that they can share it with their members. The important thing to remember about it though is that it is for those members of that organization to follow and not for the population at large. That’s where things get murky with the Bible. It’s not presented as a “member handbook” but rather it is being used as a rule book for all humans and those who don’t believe it become the enemy and must be destroyed. There is a well documented history of what happens to those considered to be the enemy of the Church. In much of recorded history, they were put to death.

It’s important to keep the history of the Bible and the Church in perspective from both sides, members and non-members. Followers of the Bible however don’t see that because of the power the Church puts behind the Bible and the teachings contained in its text. They lose the true history of the Bibles bloody past and get lost in the mysticism surrounding the book. Even questioning it is taboo. That is the motivating power of fear.

My problem with all this comes from the negativity that emerges from this belief system. Accepting the Bible as “the only truth” means that everyone else is wrong and therefore according to the Bible, evil. At the simplest level it would be like our President compiling a book of stories from our countries history, labeling it as “the gospel” and then declaring war on every other country because they weren’t in line with the book we just created. They are different and therefore must be brought into agreement or destroyed. At some level that is what is happening with our country and the planet at large. We are all divided by our differences rather than celebrated for our diversity.

It is important to see the Bible for what it is in the context in which it was written. The stories and their “rules” were meant for the people of that time. What was believed to be true almost 2000 years ago is very different than what is believed to be true now. It was a very different time and a very different world. It was simply the various authors’ way of trying to explain creation, life and the after-life. It was based upon the belief that the Earth was the center of all existence. We now know that we are in fact just one tiny dot in a Universe of unfathomable size.

Religion by its very nature is static based upon archaic belief systems. Spirituality is dynamic and personal and teaches each of us how to be a part of the whole. By choosing to look within and following the deepest directives of our hearts, we are choosing to align ourselves with love. When we align with love, we connect with others through that love and we celebrate our oneness therein. As long as we maintain a sense of separation brought on through judgment and fear we can never achieve true harmony with all that is.

All of the world’s religions are founded on the stories of those who had the experience of Oneness with the Divine, Life, Love, Spirit, God or whatever label you chose to give it. Those stories should be seen as inspiration and guidance for those seeking that experience and following that path. Just as each of us is unique, the path we find to the awareness of Oneness will be unique and our expression of that experience will mirror that uniqueness. Truth is One, paths are many.

This is not all to say that the Bible is bad and should therefore be destroyed but rather coming to understand how and why the Bible was written can help it come alive at a much deeper level. It is a powerful historical document full of many great teachings but one has to be able to separate the teachings from the stories. As an example, take a modern work of fiction such as “Lord of the Rings”. We know it is fiction because we know its history; however there are powerful teachings which underlie the story. There is the classic story of good versus evil but there is also the teaching that when we band together despite our differences we can accomplish things far beyond what any one of us could have achieved separately. The Bible needs to be viewed in the same way. We have to find the deeper teachings beneath the stories. It becomes a case of separating the message from the messenger.

For many Christians however this thought will be challenging. What I hope to do is to bring some context to the stories and show how it all fits into the larger picture. I’m not attempting to prove or discredit the Bible but rather show how softening the focus on it can actually help us to see its true power. As long as we live in fear of this document and judge the world according to it we can never become one with all of humanity. The simple act of judging keeps us locked into a sense of separation. Unconditional love is only possible through complete acceptance of the self and others. Unconditional love is the force which will carry us through the challenges that we are currently facing as a species and as part of a planetary body.

Are you motivated by fear or do you focus on Love?

1 comment:

  1. There is so much truth in what you say, Michael! My own paternal ancestors fled Italy for their lives during the Inquisition when they refused to convert from Judaism to Roman Catholicism. They found religious refuge in Switzerland. Oddly enough, once they emigrated to the United States, they became Protestant Christians! Like you, I was raised to believe the Bible was revealed truth. When I see all the hate and evil promulgated in the name of organized religion, I distance myself from it. I fully agree with you: unconditional love is only solution to this planet's ills and ails.