The Quest for Spiritual Identification-Part Two We talked in the first article in this series about all

the reasons we stay with whatever religion we were raised with or that we find ourselves involved with now. In this article, the reasons to shift away from any dogmatic religious beliefs will be explored. Why would we not look within the self to discover spiritual beliefs rather than simply stick with status quo, the surely easier road at almost any time? Communally, we have never learned to trust ourselves. And that has been the agenda of most religion. The purpose of any truly worthwhile religion would be to unite and empower its followers. Nearly all of the world’s religions today do the polar opposite with their teachings and example: they sap the spiritual strength of their membership and separate us from each other. Some would point to Buddhism as an exception. It is not a religion in the common sense of the word as it has no dogma, no belief in a fiery eternal fate for non-believers, no Big and Wrathful Being hanging out in the clouds to judge us. Our planet’s people are now in the process of letting go of most of what we call religion. Bravo for us! Religion as we know it has been sapping the spiritual life out of its members for centuries. It keeps its followers stupid, shamed and fearful that they could become skewered on the fire of God’s eternal barbeque. We might re-think the validity of any given religion if there were the slightest reliable evidence to support it. There is none. We have writings by those who lived way before our time that believers ascribe to being the word of a supreme being. Why would we put our faith in such writings? Even within the Biblical and Islamic texts, the various books within them are loaded with contradictions. Religious scholars can find all kinds of “answers” for these contradictions, but there are so many of them that they simply cannot be explained away. If you take even a brief look at how the Catholics have gutted the Bible of spiritually powerful content over the years, you cannot fail to come to the conclusion that their editing was much more about controlling its followers than about nurturing them. Many Muslims will tell you that they are a peaceful people. Is it surprising, then, that their “holy” book prescribes violence and death on those who are not Muslim? The major Christian religions suggest that they, too, have a loving and tolerant way despite provable history: the Crusades, the Inquisition, the church’s silence while Hitler slaughtered Jews, their silence and hiding as their priests abuse children.

Today, we see the Jewish nation of Israel treating Palestinians like vermin, much like the Christian invaders of the Americas did to the Native American population. One would think that after so long a time of feeling persecuted, the Jewish people would have learned some compassion. It does not appear that they have done so. We disrespect others based on the color of their skin, or whether they can speak our language or believe in the same god we do. This is counter to anything that could be called religious. Do we think that the Catholic Church’s problems with sexual behavior on the part of their clergy is a relatively recent thing? The first pope, Peter, was married and most Catholic clergy were allowed to marry long after the time of Christ. “Nothing is so powerful in drawing the spirit of a man downwards as the caresses of a woman”, wrote St. Augustine. And this became part of Catholic ways. At depth, we know that there are few things as spiritually empowering to a man than the loving caress of a partner. While churches pretend to empower, they suck the energy out of their followers by fomenting guilt, shame and fear of eternal torture. The psychological truism that the Church leaders have never figured out is this: That which you suppress will express itself in spades. It does not take a Freud to figure out why priests abuse others, particularly defenseless children, sexually. They have been required to suppress natural sexual instinct. If one is not allowed to express sex in an acceptable way, it will often find a way to express itself perversely. They fought over the issue of clergy marriage for centuries. Some popes fathered children while others engaged the services of prostitutes, even during times priests were not allowed to marry. Eleventh Century Pope Urban II, decreed that the wives of Catholic clergy be sold into slavery and that their children be abandoned to the streets. How Christian! A ninth century Catholic council openly admitted that abortions and killing of infants were being practiced in convents and monasteries to hide the promiscuous activities of the frocked. We make excuses for the church, despite the mounting number of proven cases. We witness evidence that the church leaders prioritized the reputation of the church over that of the protection of the sexual purity of children in suppressing information about abuses. And they did this while transferring around the predators geographically so they could abuse more children. What more evidence is needed to see the church for what it is? Such corruption is not limited to the Catholic Church. They are evidenced in virtually all the major religions. What might this truth be teaching us? Maybe what is to be learned is that we are better served to trust our own definitions and

practices of spirituality and morality rather than allow it to be thrust upon us by those who have proven that they are anything but trustworthy. Religions largely boast that they have secret knowledge about the will of God, an inside track to Salvation. In reality, their prime intent is rather to have control of the social and religious behavior of people via the propagation of fear and division. Most religion tells us to not trust ourselves: “You’re too stupid to have your own beliefs about God. Here: believe in this book that is riddled with contradictions. “God is Love, it says, yet it shows you His willingness to throw you into eternal fires if you mess up. This book says love one another, but know that those who practice other religions are inferior and must be overcome by any means. God wants you to smite these folks! In Catholic grade school, I sat through six boring Mass ceremonies per week, much of which was in Latin at the time, so we had no idea what we were saying. Some of the heaviest dogma was kept in English so we could brainwash ourselves with something we understood. One that lingers in memory that was repeated in every service: “Lord, I am not worthy”. What a numbingly stupid “prayer” that was! Schizophrenia propagation is what it was: “You’re a child of God. You are beautiful and wonderful, but unworthy. You need our church to make you worthy, but be fearful of messing up, vigilant always for the devil to be tempting you into something that could damn you forever.” Though you may realize the truth in what you have read here, I ask you to refrain from condemning anyone or institution. Please consider forgiving. And please consider walking away from any institution that sucks your energy, feeds you lies and suggests that you are either inferior or superior to anyone. We are all equals. Extremists have taught us that crusades and suicide bombers do not solve anything. They simply feed the fires of fear or arrogance. As Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” We are now faced with a time when we are being challenged to communally trust ourselves to make our own spiritual choices, and to live consistently with them. We are being challenged to see that we are worthy of lives of loving happiness and contentment. It is time for us to see that no outside authority is required to grant us permission, forgiveness or the keys to some pearly gate. We forgive and allow ourselves. The time has come to think for ourselves, but in a new way that can take some getting used to: we are being asked to think with heart.

Thinking with our egoic heads has gotten us to where we are now, when religious differences and the importance we have placed upon them have us fighting on fronts all over the planet. It is ignorant! Thinking with the heart is what we are faced with doing---leaving the head out of the matter! How does one think with the heart? There are abundant techniques and tools, yet simply being aware of your heart when responding to any life experiences is a great start. Ask yourself, “What is the loving way to respond to what I am experiencing?” Maybe most importantly in the intent to live from the heart is this: Remember that anything that is called “power” is not really power at all unless it is based in love. Today, the terms “power” and “love”, as Dr. Martin Luther King observed, have been seen as polar opposites. As we move more and more quickly towards an era of harmony, and as old institutions like religion are fast fading away, one of the best reminders about where we are going comes from Jimi Hendrix, the guitar legend of the 1960s: “When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.” Peace is at hand. All we are challenged to do is to trust it, believe it. You and I and all of Us are worthy of it.

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