To admit to being religious today, is tantamount to admitting you’re insane, a bit crazy or a fool, especially if you are a scientist who is considered to have some degree of intelligence and discernment. The underlying assumption is that no serious scientist, no truly intelligent human being, no rational, clear thinking person could be ‘religious.’ The word itself has become so tainted, so dirty, so blood stained that people run in the opposite direction and boldly declare, “I’m spiritual but not religious,” if they have some sense of something more, or if not, then there is the atheist who thinks God is just a figment of people’s imaginations, a made-up crutch to help them through life. I know both well, for I have at different times been both an atheist and a merchant of ‘I’m spiritual but not religious’.
I saw religion as nothing more than a separative force that maintained the ‘them and us’ arguments, that split the one humanity into separate factions, each impassioned with their beliefs that their way is the only way, that their God is the only God, and everyone else can literally and metaphorically go to hell. The wars and battles, the fights, death and destruction that have been committed as a result of religious differences fuel the belief that religion, whilst claiming to be for the good of man, has actually been responsible for some of his worst crimes. And none of the main religions are free from the curse of war – each has had their turn and many more than once – be it Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism or Hinduism.
Literally millions and millions of human beings down through the ages have suffered, been tortured, abused, threatened or murdered, all as a result of religious differences. We have allowed mere differences in belief to be a reason or an excuse to kill, maim or judge one another. How intelligent is that?! Of course other factors can be involved, but there is no doubt that religion is and has been a key factor in man’s inhumanity to man for aeons. It perhaps seems strange then that many people would persist with religious beliefs and a religious way of life, given its extensive trail of destruction and death. Are we just blind and ignorant, dumb and stupid, unable to think for ourselves that we persist in some form or another with a pursuit of the religious?
Is there perhaps something more to religion than what we see on the surface, is there a deeper truth to what religion is and is not?
What if it’s not truly religion that is at fault, but man’s interpretation of religion that has gone awry?
At first glance there seems little doubt that religion as it currently stands in the world today is a separative force that has for centuries and lifetimes failed to unify human beings to a common purpose for the greater good of all.
Yet is this not what religion is really about? Underneath the dogma, the doctrine, the rules and the beliefs – if we dig deep and get to the heart of religion, is it not about helping us to love our fellow man, to deal with all the ills that get in the way of that, so that we can all work together for the greater good of the whole rather than our own individualised agendas?
By committing to overcome and deal with those barriers to love we find within ourselves, in the process we achieve a greater level of self-acceptance, contentment, joy and freedom in life, where we do not get so affected by the day-to-day stresses and strains of life. If this was the case, and it is, would religion not then be seen and known to be a truly healing power – one that enabled us to overcome all manner of ills within ourselves, to understand ourselves afresh, anew, to see ourselves as who we truly are, perhaps for the first time, rather than all the misbeliefs and misperceptions we carry about ourselves? Beliefs that we are not good enough, that we are sinners, that we are not worthy, not loveable and so on, all of which stultify our growth and retard our evolution.
So what has gone wrong? Why is a truly healing form of religion not our experience of it? Why do we associate religion more with separation, wars, arguments, fights, battles, right and wrongs?
What has happened that we have lost touch with a religion that leads to the evolution of mankind, to be more loving, more caring, more considerate, more creative, more courageous, more honest, more responsible, more empowered and so the list goes on…where joy and harmony are daily experiences, not annual events?
We can study religion with our heads or minds; we can read it, think about it, analyse it, discuss it, write about it, talk about it, preach it and listen to it…but none of that will give us the experience of what it is to be religious. It will give us the knowledge, so we can sound intelligent, argue the points, the beliefs, the dogma and doctrine and so forth, but none of that will give us the feeling, the felt or lived experience of what it is to be religious. Without this felt or lived experience, all of the former can and does lead us to arguments, feuds, wars and battles and people can with their minds justify the killing of another human being or multiple human beings – just because they think or believe something different. Surely that is crazy?
But the healing power of religion has nothing to do with any of that head stuff – it would be safe to say that all of that comes not from religion, but from what religion is not. The latter, what religion is not, has a lot to answer for; the killings, the wars, the death and destruction – but we cannot in fact blame what religion actually is for any of that. All of the education and knowledge acquisition can have us articulate much about God, so we can debate, discuss, pontificate, even preach on the subject, but it will never actually lead us to know God for ourselves – a knowing that is actually innate within us all. This innate knowing or connection is what makes the difference between religion that is a separative force and religion that is a healing power.
For religion and being religious is about love first and foremost as well as middle and last. It begins with breathing our own breath of love for ourselves – a way of reconnecting back to our hearts, to the source of love that lives within us all.
Only through our hearts can we know what it truly is to be religious – our heads or thinking mind will never ever provide that experience, even if we think it will!
In this place, deep within our hearts we know without a shred of doubt that everyone is already love, that we are all intimately connected throughout the universe and that how we treat others impacts ourselves and vice versa. Here, everyone is known to be equal, no one higher and no one lower, and all judgments are known to be false and futile. To be religious in this way means to live in a way whereby this connection to the love within ourselves infuses and perfuses our every way, our movements, our words, our thoughts and our deeds. It has a particular quality that can be felt and known – there is no need to impress, convince, convert or persuade.
It is to look into someone’s eyes and know who they are, even if they do not know themselves and no matter what behaviour they present to you, it is to hold them as more than that. It is to take a walk in nature and feel the deep interconnectivity of life and the harmony of nature, to see the particles of life dancing in an infinite order whilst appearing to be disordered. It is relinquishing and surrendering control of the Universe, whilst being all that we are in every moment. It is to know that despite the separative force of what religion is not, there is a truth and a true healing power in what religion is – a power that naturally unifies, that brings mankind together to work for the greater good of the whole, and where the self is known to be both nothing and everything at the same time. In this way, life becomes an ever unfolding and enriching process as we evolve ever more deeply to return to who we truly are.
So the difference between the separative force and the true healing power of religion, comes back to us and to what degree we are living in harmony or discord with ourselves, whether we are driven by our heads and our beliefs, or living from and have surrendered to the love that is ever-present in our hearts. This reconnection with the love within our own hearts is true religion, the relationship with ourselves and God, a relationship that then feeds all other relationships – whether that be with people, food, work, exercise or entertainment – there is nothing that cannot be touched and transformed by the living way of love, by the true healing power of religion.