There Goes Religion Getting in the Way of Life Again (Conclusion)

1150194_799022490111558_2065598992_nMy grandfather used to say that the road to Hell was paved with good intentions. I have no doubt that is an apt description of  the foundation of most churches and religions. They all began with good intentions.

e708cb5d7b09a9d7b137bff2c42f0560The God that I now believe in…for yes, I do believe in God….is not the God of my childhood. He does not frighten me, for He is not a vengeful, vindictive God that demands constant praise and adoration.

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The God that I believe in  is all things…God is of me, in me, God is my thoughts, my sight, my smell, my touch and my heart.

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My God is the sun, the moon, the air and the oceans. He is  the mountains, the desert and the forest. He is the touch of my husband’s hand on my face, the wisp of hair on my daughter’s neck, the lilt of laughter spilling across the lips of my grandchildren. My God is the homeless man helping  the elderly woman cross the street. He is the twinkle in my son’s eyes and the splash of the raindrops as they hit my window.

God is the essence of life. I refer to God in these writings as He, because it it easier to explain, and a more acceptable term…but the God of my faith has no gender, no colour, no race. My God may be your Allah, your Jehovah, your Muhammed. You may call Him the Great Creator or the Universal Force.

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My God is all encompassing and is what I need God to be at any given moment.

I do not believe that you must be baptized to know eternal life and enter the kingdom of God…or Heaven. If that were the case, what of the fate of all those before Christ? Those in the Old Testament? What of those that have never been taught Christianity?  What of Jesus’ own people, the Jews, who look at Jesus as a false prophet? What of children that have died too young to understand or know Christ? For me, the daily moments of my life, how I represent myself, how I treat others…and myself… holds more meaning that any symbol or ritual.  For me, it is those things that will gain God’s favour.

I don’t believe we should  fear death because I don’t believe that life or love ends…energy doesn’t stop. We don’t have souls, we are souls. “All of nature is a resurrection” says Dr Brian Weiss. I agree with him.

It seems more than coincidence that so many of the things that drew me to various belief systems over the years, became, for me, a confluence of non linear consciousness. The messages and the teachers are all remarkably similar in morality, tone, kindness and love.

cc97591cf9b60e7793d4edbe83534124I believe in the power of prayer and the power of stillness.

There is a book, a work of fiction, that was released a few years ago that set many churches on their collective self righteous, judgemental bottoms. It is called “The Shack” by Wm Paul Young.  I really enjoyed the book, but I remembered it was a novel….make believe. Some religious leaders missed that memo just as they miss everything in life that doesn’t jive with their own  view of things. I discussed the religious aversion to the book with a few people who were strongly opposed to it, something I still don’t understand, particularly from those that never read the book. At least I have read the bible…twice…no easy feat in some of the older translations let me tell you! I have many favourite verses, passages, and stories. Some have helped me in some dark and difficult times, but that doesn’t mean that I believe every thing the Bible says, I do not.  Thank goodness those same critics never saw the notes I left for my teens on their bedroom doors: “Clean this bedroom. TODAY. God.”  “Is that report done yet? Just asking. God.” I never really thought I was God…it was make believe.

“The Shack” was never written to replace the Bible. It is not the stuff of great…or even good literature. What it is, is a book about grief, forgiveness, love and understanding. How can that be wrong? It’s not going to be taught anytime soon as part of a theology course, so what is really behind the animosity? Religious paranoia is my guess.

The two biggest draw backs to religion…from my vantage point,  are these: Excessive seriousness and lack of respect for the beliefs of others.

I don’t go to church any more.  My God isn’t there…I don’t feel Him within those walls, I can’t feel Him in my heart when I am within the confirms of those buildings…there is a void … oddly enough, church is the one place where, to be honest, I have seldom felt God’s presence.

So yes, I believe in God. It was a search I never thought would take me over four decades, but I am happy, joyful and at peace in my faith…and the best part? I won’t try and convince you it’s the only way, mostly because it’s the only way for me. Blessings.

There Goes Religion Getting in the Way of Life Again (Part 2)

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

In my quest to reach conclusions, I was all over the map….emotionally and spiritually.

1151050_381353911993661_1319763794_nI was, at times,  what could best be described as agnostic….I wasn’t convinced that there was a God….but I couldn’t convince myself that there wasn’t either. I volleyed back and forth. I was never an Atheist, for to me, an Atheist is one who has been in faith, and through seeking, has come to the conclusion there is no God…or any other deities.

429177_10151382395735257_469898136_n I was doubtful about the “Word”…the Bible. Written centuries ago, and translated countless number of times, there has to be inaccuracies and errors. Just comparing the Catholic and Protestant New Testament show differences. There are over 300,000….yes, THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND…. variations of the New Testament. Scholars will tell you that to question the authenticity of the New Testament on textual grounds is to question all ancient documents. Perhaps so.

There were periods of great anger…why, why, would so called ‘good people’, these Christians, put the fear of God…literally and figuratively …into small children? If you want to keep  people oppressed and encourage unquestioning support, keep them in a fearful state. Was this a product of a God of love? Was this how the God of my childhood gathered the faithful, by keeping them subservient and terrified of eternal damnation? 

Then there were the pictures…the images of God and Christ…both white…both men…one old and frightening; the other young and handsome…calm looking.

When I was ten years old, a movie called “Lawrence of Arabia” was made and starred an Egyptian actor named Omar Sharif. When I saw that movie, and given my limited knowledge of world geography, I remember, even then, thinking….well he’s from the same part of the world that Jesus is supposed to come from and he doesn’t look white. He didn’t look black, but he sure didn’t look white….and for years I always thought that if Jesus existed, He  likely resembled Omar Sharif more than the pictures I’d seen in Sunday School and story books.

Now, if pressed, I’d be more apt to think He may have looked like one of my former business partners who lives just outside of Tel Aviv.

Omar Sharif Lawrence of Arabia

The biggest challenge for me came when I tried to reconcile what I was taught, or learned, about church doctrine…any church doctrine….and the hypocrisy I saw in the churches that I attended.

To be fair, in my fear, anger and doubt, I placed my own discriminatory values and judgements on the ‘pillars’ of the church. The choir members, the pastors, the priests, the deacons, the elders, the Swami’s, the Rabbi’s. I held them all in distain and to higher standards than humanly possible. They had all let me down; disappointed me; lied to me; made me feel unworthy of God’s love…no matter what I called Him.

I watched as my elderly widowed relatives…all female…tried to secure their place at the Throne  by subsisting on toast and tea so that they could tithe to the church and send more of their meagre incomes to the con artists of the 1970s and 1980s, called televangelists.

I saw friends  stay in physically and emotionally abusive marriages because the ‘church’ had told them that to divorce went against God’s holy ordinance….and the teachings of the church….not to mention that “…Til death do us part” bit.

gossip2Attending church service and then gossiping about everyone in attendance is not my idea of being a ‘good person’.  But over and over I have witnessed this and I find it extremely offensive. When I have challenged people about it, I usually get the “God will forgive me” line. I’m thinking He might the first time, but over and over again? …hmmmm, not so sure. That’s not to say I haven’t gossiped, but I try really hard not to. It is one of my least favourite things to engage in….it always leaves a sour taste….and regretfulness.

These things are all part of the human condition, but as I said, it is the churches’ doctrines that I  have had the most difficulty with and have, over the course of my life, found the most challenging part of all religions.

The condescension of women by many main stream religions has emboldened my feminist self over the years. How do we know that God is not female? Because an ancient group of aged men said God was Male? Did God reveal himself to them as a man?

I do not subscribe to the systematic theology, or dogma, of the religions I have explored and studied. I can’t. It goes against the very core of who I am and what I have come to believe. It is man’s …in the literal and figurative sense of the word…interpretation of what some believe is the Word of God. But which interpretation is the correct one? There are varying beliefs held even within the Christian Denominations. What makes one correct and the others wrong?

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The abuses that I have read of, heard of and been told about at the hands of ‘men of God’ makes me quake with rage. The very churches that denounce homosexuality as a sin… have harboured…and protected… child sexual predators.

The act of going to church no more makes you a Christian than does playing the radio make you a musician.

Religion has been used since time immemorial to justify atrocities against non believers of one faith or another. “In the name of God” has probably been one of the most incongruously used expressions in history. Surely man was behind those actions, not God!

Religion, by it’s very definition,  is set up to create differences; to distinguish separation…… and it would seem to me that is the basis of so much turmoil, violence and hatred in our world. The very things that I think God opposes often have His name attached.

Can we reconcile the Omnipresent without the Bible, without the symbolisms and trappings of the various religions that have been built on the existence of God? Must we go forward in our quest for truth with an all or nothing acceptance or denial? Why does the growth of spirituality seem to frighten organized religion so much? Can you be a spiritual being, a child of God without religion?

These were the questions I struggled with, prayed about, meditated on, and debated. I would discover, that for me, there were no easy answers.