“you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
No matter how far I think I’ve come, I know I still have a long way to go.
It must be the time of year that’s roused a need to reflect on just where I am on my spiritual journey and how I got here.
Christmas being a time of peace, love, joy and goodwill toward mankind and Hannukah – the Festival of Lights – commemorating the triumph of religious freedom have both molded my view of religion, belief and spirituality.
Even though neither were celebrations I grew up observing.
It’s been a long journey, with many twists and turns, yet I know that one should never be too confident in thinking that they have arrived. Is there even a point of arrival, a place where the search ends?
Christianity teaches that the end may be heaven for some people, and if you survive the “wrath” of God’s Armageddon – eternal life. While searching for truth, I found that as my journey progressed my desire for religion waned.
While I have always felt deeply connected to my Creator, I have never found any comfort in religion. I’ve always felt like an outsider looking in, rather than a welcomed participant. No matter how I much I longed for inclusion, and tried, it seemed like the impossible dream.
I’ve had many conversations with God about this. Even though I did all of the talking – I always felt He was listening. Forever believing in the words “do not judge, lest ye be judged”, all I seemed to find at churches and synagogues was judgment. Perhaps it was God who allowed me to see this contradiction as part of the truth that set me free.
Today, I see religion as simply a mechanism which teaches with “Cliff” notes in order to control the group. Instead of allowing the truth to be revealed in its own way to each individual, religions have their own interpretation of the way- the one and only way – God requires us to believe in Him. A one size fits all approach and if you don’t “fit” by ascribing to their philosophy and their rigors of observance, you are not one of the “chosen”.
In today’s modern society some religious groups have become more tolerant of other points of view. This seems to be a step in the right direction. Yet each one, when you get right down to the nitty gritty of their core belief, still hold themselves and their way of believing as the absolute and only way to salvation.
At this moment in my journey, I simply cannot – will not – see this as truth.
I believe that our Creator – the I Am That I Am – is the Infinite Source of all that is. I believe that this source has touched every thing and every one on the face of this earth and beyond. To believe that the source of all creation would select only one group to bestow salvation betrays everything I believe God to be: merciful, loving, compassionate, and forgiving – just to name a few. I believe that we – each and every one of us – as a vital part of His creation, are valued and loved. Whether we choose to believe it or not.
As a parent who loves her children unconditionally, I cannot see how – if we are God’s children, He could love all of mankind – His creation – any differently. My children complain, they don’t always do what I ask them, and sometimes do things that really make me mad. As they’ve gotten older, they don’t always agree with me. But I still love them. I don’t think there is anything they could do that could ever make me not love them or wish them harm. That is how I believe our Creator to be.
A long time ago, when explaining to my mother why I no longer believed in the religion of my youth, I quoted the bible as saying there is only one faith. This has long been held as the indefensible proof that there is only one true religion.
But faith has no religious boundaries.
The belief in One Creator of all-that-is permeates even those religions viewed as multi-theistic. I know people of many different religious philosophies who live their lives with faith in this belief. Good, honest, people who lives their life with a deeply founded faith in their belief that you’ll find is no different from one religion to the next.
I think the question of faith lies in what it is you have faith in. Is it a sincere faith in the goodness of God and how we have been instructed to treat others? There is a form of the “Golden Rule” in every religion. Or is it a faith based in the fear of the “wrath” of God? That is a troubling question, as many are led into and held captive to religion by fear.
One of the most fearful scriptures for me as a child was the warning to “beware of the wolf in sheep’s clothing”. I have come to believe that religion itself is this wolf we need to be wary of.
Over the years, I have sought to understand many different religious avenues. The words “seek and you will find” was a directive to explore in order to decide which way was the true way, I needed to understand them all – or at least expose myself to their concepts and pursue those which sounded true for me. By using the gift of freewill, I am always free to question and decide for myself. By examining these different paths, I can see where God has touched them all.
What I have also come to see is that religion really has little to do with spirituality although it is a term traditionally believed as belonging to it. Spirituality is a more deeply personal connection to God, that transcends any religious doctrine.
While I currently have no formal religious affiliation, my reflections on these issues have helped me clear my mind to see the important lessons of the Christmas and Hannuka season.
There is a warmth in the ideal of Christmas. Of giving, though it seems the receiving if far more important to a lot of people. Although it is a Christian adaptation of pagan celebrations to honer the birth of the Messiah, it does seem to encourage goodwill and joyousness in many of us. If nothing else, it causes me to stop and show my appreciation for the man known as Jesus, who walked his talk of the “golden rule” by example – even to those shunned by many in his day as unrighteous – with kindness, patience, tolerance, acceptance and love. May I celebrate this holiday doing my best to follow his lead.
Let me also appreciate that “pagan” – though thought of as evil – is nothing more than the rustic religious beliefs of anyone not Christian, Jewish or Muslim – from which many of their beliefs originated from.
Hannukah provides me with the opportunity to celebrate the justice in fighting for the right to believe and worship your own brand of religion. Just as the Maccabees triumphed over those who would prevent them from worshiping God the way that their faith guided them, so too shall I celebrate this triumph by honoring and respecting others who have beliefs different from my own. May I uphold and promote the rights which allow all people to worship and believe the way that is right for them. May I stand up and fight against those who would deny us this right, or seek to force their views onto those who differ.
Let me too, see those things – within all religious beliefs – which are good, and of “good report” as messages meant for all of us. Meant to bring us together rather than divide.
May this season be a joyful one for us all.