I found this post on another forum. I'd like to share it with you. I thought it was very interesting. The poster shares some thoughts that I agree with.
God's Dysfunctional Family - Is Religion to Die for?
You may not have noticed, but there is a subtle contempt for differing religious beliefs, which exists in our society and, for that matter, the world today. For the most part not physically acted upon, it exists because we believe that our particular way of worship is the true way and others, God help them, are wrong. We believe our way is right because we are told so by our religious (and sometimes governmental) leaders who hold up the dogma of our beliefs, the Holy Writ of God.
In conservative Christianity, followers believe the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant Word of God. But wait! Other religions also have sacred writings to which they adhere. In Catholicism, when the pope speaks Ã¢â‚¬Å“ex-cathedraÃ¢â‚¬Â he is speaking for Christ Himself. Charismatics speak in Spirit induced utterances; Evangelicals interpret prophecy.
Whenever we have documents that are ascribed to Divinity, there is no room for questioning The Word. The problem is twofold, also having religious leaders claim they have insight into Ã¢â‚¬Å“The WordÃ¢â‚¬Â and interpret what God says and what He really means! Preachers, priests, ministers and the like are Ã¢â‚¬Å“instant analysisÃ¢â‚¬Â professors and instructors who inform their flocks of what is right and wrong according to GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s written word, which appears to have differences, exclusions and additions, and interpretations, depending upon which religion we study.
Throughout history, religious beliefs have been the banner for war, torture, conquest, imprisonment, subjugation, enslavement, oppression, domination, control and personal gain. Zealots who believed they were doing His Will, while all others are deluded have done much evil in the Name of God, mislead, pagan, infidel, devil or Satan himself. After all, how can you have respect for anyone whom you believe is absolutely going to hell in a hand-basket for not believing as you do?
All of us who worship God do so in accordance to religious beliefs we were taught. In the 1950Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s, according to my religious upbringing, only Catholics went to heaven. And Protestants were just that, protest-ants, excommunicated heretics of the true faith, while at the same time, protestants believed Catholicism to be the apostate church!
Later, in order to survive in a modern world of political correctness, most religions made concessions to admit other faiths into their Valhalla (perhaps they would not get such a big mansion up there, but at least they were now allowed in). It happened around the same time that country clubs were forced to allow Jews and Blacks, and even women, into the formerly forbidden 18 hole course and clubhouse. Organized religion had opened the exclusive Gates and integrated Heaven.
In a moment of self-realization of my sinfulness, I became a born-again Christian. I joined the flock. I learned, and believed, that Jesus is the only Way. I am not saying this is wrong or right. I am saying it can be dangerous if one is convinced everyone else is wrong. Other religions with similar or different beliefs have the same degree of intensity about being right. Must they save my soul as I must save theirs from eternal damnation?
Most of the worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s history, to the present day, consists of a vast majority of downtrodden humanity: the poor, the destitute, the lonely, the oppressed, and all yearning for a better life, for release from their sorrows and misfortune. The promise of a better life...an afterlife, gives them all hope. No matter how terrible the life here on earth, accepting your fate and following the rites and precepts of an embraced religion, will guarantee your having it better the next time around. Not a bad deal considering a mansion in the sky or maybe a new life as a cow, are waiting for you after death. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s better than an atheist (who thinks it donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get any better than this) who will have no place to go.
If it is true that we all worship but one and the same God, as the major religions, in tolerance, now concur, there exists still confusion as to what He requires of those who believe in Him. First, He is called by many Names. We canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even get that straight! Second, are we certain there are different ways to reach Him? And third, there are many different perceptions of the afterlife. Just what is it we are in for when we die - different heavens for different beliefs?
Who is right? Is anyone right? Is God dead Ã¢â‚¬â€œ was He ever alive? Why is it so difficult for mankind to figure out which religion is the one sure way to Heaven? Does it matter? Who is God and what does He want and why is it not clear to us?
I once listened to a wonderful woman sincerely describe to me how Buddha answered her prayers. If we substituted Ã¢â‚¬Å“BuddhaÃ¢â‚¬Â with Ã¢â‚¬Å“Jesus,Ã¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“AllahÃ¢â‚¬Â or another name of God, the testimony would have been just as relevant and believable within any other religion.
Why is it when we sincerely search for the truth, we wind up in different places? We search for God and find Him, we believe, in a temple, church or synagogue; yet, we all claim we found the right place.
What makes it even more confusing is when we embrace a certain religion, it is divided into sects or groups such as orthodox, reformed, liberal, conservative, fundamental, and more. The various religions disagree within themselves as to the methods employed to worship and please God.
The catholic who kneels every morning reciting the rosary; the Muslim who several times a day stops everything to spend time in prayer; the Jew who ceases labor from sundown to sundown on Sabbath; the Buddhist seeking enlightenment, each having their particular rituals, all believe in what they are doing to serve their God (only One, right?) in the manner prescribed.
When a personÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s beliefs are so strong and secure that one is willing to die for those beliefs, claiming Divine revelation, then the dangerous side of religion becomes apparent. We hate each other in the Name of the same God we believe in. Something is wrong with this picture, unless our God of Peace is instead, a God of confusion and war.
God does not need religion, religion needs God. Perhaps we should look at this not as religions other than ours being false in their concept of God. If we truly seek God, then He should reveal Himself to us, and I believe that the essence of God is in sacred writings of different religions. Apparently He has done so in various ways to various peoples. Otherwise, we have to conclude that some religions are false, or there is more than one God.
Perhaps, in order to find God, we must momentarily step away from our religion.
The evidence of a creator is all around us. That is why early mankind worshiped the sun and moon and stars. Were they any less believing? Does the Almighty exist in all creation; in each of us? A finite mind cannot comprehend an infinite God. But is it so difficult to realize that maybe all we need is to have faith and believe God exists?
As for me, I will continue believing in Whom I have trusted and, most probably, so will you. But we cannot and must not force our personal beliefs on anyone else, nor hold anyone who does no believe as we do in contempt. I have reached the conclusion that religion has led us astray from God rather than drawn us closer to Him. Religion divides us further from each other by our beliefs. We begin to separate ourselves into camps. In order to survive, we tolerate others, but with varying degrees of disdain, and self-righteous indignation. I do not believe this is what God wants from us.
If our faith in God compels us to believe in and worship Him, then religion is the man-made expression used to verify our conviction and conduct our method of worship and, usually just following our parentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lead, we wind up believing more in the tenets of our religion than in the God we claim to worship. Do not confuse faith in God with institutionalized religion.
If you are seeking answers, and believe in God, then I suggest you take a little walk and just talk to Him: Ã¢â‚¬Å“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m confused. I believe in You but I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know what to believe about You. I shall walk, as much as possible, in peace with all those I meet, which isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t easy. If that ainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t enough, then I just donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know what YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re looking for. So lead me to the right placeÃ¢â‚¬Â
We can keep our Bible, Torah, Koran or whatever sacred writing we have to guide us and teach us in whichever religion we so choose. But I believe to first understand God, we must search our own heart and not a book. God is a Spirit, therefore He will speak to our spirit. Do not fear approaching God if you are truly seeking answers.
If we believe there is a God, we should acknowledge Him and let His Spirit guide us, and if we wind up in different places of worship, or even alone, well then, isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t that what God wanted?
Religion, like mankind, evolves, and there are true believers for whatever their religion deems to be an accurate history of its genesis (pardon the reference), from space invaders to cosmic creation. For the sake of this exposition I have defined the Creator, the Supreme Being, the Spiritual Entity who is known by many names in various religions generically as Ã¢â‚¬Å“God.Ã¢â‚¬Â
With the folklore, history and genealogy of religion, and our choice of believing it or not, comes also the hypocrisy. Although we believe in God and the message of love preached throughout the worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s religions, we seem to apply it only to those who fit our description of what kind of neighbor it is we are to love.
Growing up in the 1950Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s, I saw, firsthand, blatant racism, severe segregation and inequality that you only hear and read about. Although hidden nowadays by laws and affirmative action, inequality and racism are still around. Laws donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t stop hate, they only regulate it. Although things are better than before, we still have a long way to go in being one big happy family.
LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s face it. We hate. In this country, we hate because of skin color. And if we were all the same color, we would hate because of religion or politics. Factually, this occurs anyway. How many years in Ireland have Protestants and Catholics been killing each other? How many times have tribes in Africa been at it? What did Saddam Hussein and his followers do to their own people? We have seen the evil, the hate expressed all over the globe, and even in our churches.
We have listened to certain well-known speakers and heard the venom seething from their lips. You can sense the underlying hatred every now and then in various articles written in magazines, flyers, newspapers and on television. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s there. We just donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to call it hate; it is masked under such headings as self-determination, liberalism, conservatism and ethnic pride. Sometimes, a kinder word, distrust, is used when speaking of hate.
In times of war, we adapt to hating entire nations of people. There is a contemptuous anger, a loathing for someone different than us. We have seen it and heard it and experienced it from individuals within certain ethnic and religious groups. And if someone speaks out against it they are labeled troublemakers. LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just admit that we all are guilty in our hearts and start from there.
This is where religion comes in. It can only control hate or promote it. If you believe you are serving God through your religion and yet you have hate in your heart, you do not know the God whom you serve, and labor in vain.
The proof is in the fact that you are not at peace with yourself, your neighbor or God. We are anxious, fearful and uncertain - we have heard about campus suicides and random student murders occurring around the country. Why? Religion is not helping because we have left God out of it. Most of us have done so. One cannot love God and hate his creations.
Our religion is empty unless we know God. I have talked to people who wonder about the afterlife (we should be more concerned with the present one); wonder about GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s existence and have questioned various religious beliefs. I have heard people knock other religions, joke about Race and yet seek answers to the question as to what life is all about.
LifeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s about discovering the truth. And that will only happen when we release ourselves from the shackles that bind us to this world and seek the spiritual world, which is all around us. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s about knowing God, and it ainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t difficult because He is right there with you, although perhaps not in the context you may think.
God is not some benign cosmic benevolence floating on a cloud somewhere. God is a spirit, dynamic energy, a force, which can be felt in the spiritual, and sometimes manifest in the temporal, world. As His creation, we can tap into this power, yet we fail to do so.
If we seek enlightenment, peace of mind or a feeling of self-worth; if we want direction and assurance, then, if we believe in Deity, we must call on God to guide us. Whatever our religion, whatever our beliefs (it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t matter), if we do not stop hating each other we shall perish.
Only God can remove the hate from our heart and replace it with love. We only need to ask and, in believing, receive.