One of the main things we need to do as a society is let go of paradigms of thought that are false and are no longer serving us. There is nothing more toxic to the soul or dangerous to your development as a person to believe in something that is wrong, misguided, and outdated.
What I am talking about here specifically is religion. Now let me be clear. I’m not talking about religious texts necessarily, or God, or Christ, or Buddha, or any of the wisdom contained within various religions. I am talking about religious fundamentalism as it currently exists.
There is a difference between having a personal relationship with God and being buried head-deep in religious dogma and spiritual ignorance. There is a difference between reading the Bible and other ancient texts as sources of spiritual wisdom and accepting everything in them as being literally true at face value. Most importantly, there is a different between being religious and being spiritual.
1) Religion is man-made
When people think of religion, one of the first things that pops into their minds is Catholicism. Mary is worshiped and prayed to, sins are confessed to priests, incense is burned, and the “Vatican” is this economic powerhouse adorned with gold and jewels. None of these things are even mentioned as necessary in the Bible or by Jesus, and seeing as they are totally man-made, they cannot be seen as necessary.
Like really. Who is the pope, why is he on a thrown, why does he wear jewels, and why does he have so much money? How is this Biblical or even fair?
There is nothing wrong with sourcing wisdom from ancient books, but keep in mind that they are JUST ancient books. If you grew up somewhere in nature and were completely unexposed to culture, you could very well develop a relationship with God through his revelation in nature and in your conscience. But you would never leave that forest as a Muslim, a Mormon, or a Hindu. There is nothing about meditating in a forest for 40 years in search of a relationship with the Creator that will teach you the propositions “God hates f*gs” or “Allah wants the world to become Muslim”.
You aren’t born as a religious fundamentalist, and there is no natural experience that would cause you to become a religious fundamentalist. You are born as a soul in a body capable of connection with God. If religion acted as a catalyst for you, that’s great. If it works for you and adds value to your life (as it even has to mine to a degree), the that is also great. But it’s learned, man-made, and not necessary. In fact, most people it actually acts as a hindrance and a virus, as we will explore in the next point.
2) Religion prevents spiritual growth, critical thought, and honest reflection
Religion puts your consciousness into a box and keeps it there. Anything new you learn of experience MUST be understood in terms of your religious framework. For example, let’s say you have a crazy experience while you are sleeping and have an extremely vivid dream of a dark shadow who won’t stop looking at you through the mirror. A religious person may say “That was a demon”, and then close the book on the case.
A more spiritual person may say, was that a shadow aspect of me? Was that a reflection of my subconscious mind? Was it an alien, an astral entity, or some other form of spirit trying to show something to me symbolically by appearing to me as my reflection? Spirituality encourages you to look, reflect, and analyze from a non-biased place in order to discover the answers for yourself. Religion spoon-feeds you the supposed answers and then discourages further introspection (unless that introspection fits within the framework of that religion).
It also discourages search for meaning and mystery in life because it already assumes it has the answers. People read the texts literally and then stop searching. What happens when we die? “Well you either go to heaven or lake of fire depending on whether or not you are saved”, and that is the end of the discussion. We don’t even know what gravity is, what 90% of the matter in the universe is, how consciousness works, or how life started on this planet, but we know for certain cut and dry what happens to the human soul when it leaves the body because there are a handful of verses about it in some religious texts?
The creation of the universe is mysterious and awe-inspiring. How space and time came into being, the insane amount of energy that would have had to be present at the first moment in time, the speed of the expansion of the universe, the presence of finely tuned initial conditions and universal constants that were plugged in at the moment of creation to allow for things like matter to even exist, the development of elements, stars, planets, galaxies, and life. Religious people will think to themselves “God did it” and then hang-up any further intellectual pursuits because they have a nice tidy mental picture of how everything happened.
And if someone wants to deviate outside of fundamentalism and try to combine the worlds of spirituality and science, they get called “lost” because they believe there is more to the creation process than the 6 day Adam and Eve story.
It can sometimes prevent honest philosophical, scientific, and spiritual inquiry into the raw nature of reality. If you are having a hard time believing that there is other life in the universe, that the universe is as old as modern science tells us, or that evolution is impossible because or what was/wasn’t written down on animal skins 3000 years ago, I think it’s time to step outside of your fundamentalism a little bit.
3) Religion creates separation
If all religions preach peace, why aren’t all religions peaceful? If the core of most religions is love, community, and God, why is there so much hatred, war, and violence? Here is why. When you learn something unnatural to your natural state of being and use it to define yourself, you begin to identify your sense of self with your belief system. “I am a Jehovah Witness”, really means that my sense of individuality is now consumed by what it means to be “Jehovah Witness”.
When “I am” identifies with an ideology, it sees other people through the veil of that ideology. “I am a Jehovah Witness and that person is a Christian. They are lost and in need of direction because they believe false things”. Instead of feeling the aliveness of another person and connecting with them at a heart-to-heart level, you begin to judge them based on what man-made ideology they identify with which results in competition and resentment. “That’s my neighbour John, yeah he’s secular and needs to be saved. Allah does not love non-believers so I don’t know if I should either.” And then we carry on interacting with them with a background sense of pity or non-acceptance.
There is a hesitation within religious people to fully accept and embrace ‘sinners’ and non-believers in their faith. “Oh wow, he was a really nice guy” becomes replaced with “Oh wow, he was really nice for an atheist”, or “I didn’t know Hindus were so open-minded”. Instead of seeing and experiencing your sense of unity with other people, it becomes a game of “this persons belongs to that religion, and they believe some weird sh*t that’s different from what I believe.”
We need to focus on having religious experiences, not religious beliefs
Religion without spirituality is the real issue here. I’m not saying you can’t be both spiritual and religious, but being religious is not sufficient if you want to live a spiritually fulfilling life and connect with God. Everyone is entitled to believe what they want to believe, but there comes a point at which we need to compromise our beliefs is the contradict our experience of reality.
I feel that any people who are religious who may be offended of this article would be totally liberated if they did a thought experiment where they allowed themselves to become silent and detach from their belief systems. What if you allowed yourself for just a few minutes to experience a state of consciousness that isn’t premised on religious beliefs?
What if in that silence, you found a bigger and better version of God that you didn’t know existed? What if you stopped trying to “learn” and started trying to experience? What if we stopped living as humans who believe in God and started living as humans connected to God in a real untainted way? What if your rigid belief systems are preventing you from stepping into the fullness of an experience of God because you are convinced of a view of God that is too narrow?
We shouldn’t believing in something because it makes us feel comfortable. We should believe it if it is true and stands its ground against evidence and logical defeaters. We need to get rid of religious fundamentalism and move into a personal experience of our true nature which is already connected to God.