The original title of this post was “Christianity Is Making Progress Towards Enlightenment… But Needs to Do it Faster”. But after the final read-thru edit, that didn’t quite seem to sum up its core message. It’s important to note however that the reason for the original title is because despite the ideas expressed below, especially regarding the apparent backwards direction many christian churches around the world are moving in, along with seemingly every other major world religion, there are plenty of others, just not in the majority, that are making great strides toward becoming more progressively minded institutions that embody the highest ideals of enlightenment, or what we might call an enlightened humanism for the modern world we live in. Refuges for both the spiritually hungry and compassionate AND the liberally minded intellectual. It’s not all bad news out there. There just happens to be a lot less of them than there are the more rigidly close minded so called fundamentalist types.
If one is not specifically a Christian, or better put, an actively participating Christian, then it would be easy to not notice what has been happening in the various denominations of the larger world of Christendom over the last few years. That’s a given. And one would have a valid excuse for not being up to date on the latest and greatest hits of the Christian world. After all, a healthy majority of people – especially in the united states and in The West in general have moved to a more non-religious secularism in the modern world we live in, due in part to the fact that for thousands of years we as humans have witnessed religion in all its various shapes and forms do almost nothing but cause great pain in the world. So this mass shift towards what is known as secular humanism or the now popular “spiritual but not religious” makes sense.
But there are massive shifts that are taking place in the Christian world (and in the Muslim and Buddhist communities) presently that are important to take note of due to the transcendent nature of the very real threat they pose of infringing on the basic rights and freedoms of our fellow man. Regardless of whether one is religious or not. Some of these radical movements further right unfortunately align with similar shifts within other world religions and the more fervent nationalist fervor that is taking place politically around the world. Various Christian protestant denominations are beginning to swing further toward what they consider a more “conservative” fundamentalist or evangelical agenda. And these moves have the potential to have larger reverberations socially that extend beyond the confines of their local church community.
It shouldn’t matter where a person is being hurt or neglected; only that when it becomes known, that there are those who are willing to reach out and come to their aid.
Three states in the US have already made moves this year that come very close to banning abortion, Georgia, Alabama and then Missouri. Which would be shocking to learn, except for the fact that we are now being bombarded by such an onslaught of so much shocking news on a daily and even hourly basis that much of it seems to go over our heads.
Christians and the LGBTQ Community
In regards to the LGBTQ community, The United Methodist Church recently convened late last year to announce that they intend to make their “rules” stricter to allow less inclusion, fewer rights and permit less tolerance of people of this persuasion. You can read more about it here: United Methodist court upholds Traditional Plan’s ban on LGBTQ clergy, same sex marriage
Truth be told this was in fact shocking to many, at least those who have decided to throw in with this lot of otherwise do-gooders, because the Methodist denomination has normally been a more modern more open and more inclusive and less fundamentalist refuge for people who are intelligent and aware of the modern world we live in and still long to commune with God and be a part of a community that is committed to a life more spiritually based on unconditional love and service to others.
If you’re not part of this scene, I cannot express with words adequately enough to describe what a bombshell this was to many of us up in the more northern part of the country, who when it came down to a vote, voted unanimously for full inclusion of LGBTQ members on all fronts and were shocked to learn that the majority vote itself swung toward adopting this more “traditional plan”, i.e. to not regard gay and homosexual people the same rights allotted to everyone else. This would entail not being allowed to get married in the church by their chosen pastor, not allowing Methodist pastors to officiate at the weddings of same sex couples, and not allowing Methodist clergy themselves to be “self avowed homosexuals.” It was a real stick of dynamite that has blown up the otherwise calm and trouble-free community.
This isn’t the first glimpse of this kind of thinking the world has seen from within the United Methodist community. With this denomination being fairly large and continuously growing, especially in other areas of the world like Africa and South America, it’s been a few years now that we’ve started to hear rumblings of this kind from our Southern brothers and sisters. I first wrote about it here in the Diaries about five years ago. Read about it HERE: http://transcendencediaries.com/2013/05/14/gays-at-the-table/
But to be honest, I sincerely thought we’d work our way through all this nonsense and resolve any differences we had. After all, on the larger world stage, especially in The West, as human beings we are making great strides in regards to tolerance equal rights and inclusion for all people. It seems only a matter of time before we no longer have to worry about some group of close minded haters coming along using religion as a tool to manufacture judgment and exclusion towards another group. Or so I thought.
But now battle lines are being drawn and for the past few months it has appeared that there will be a major schism within the denomination itself, with half the church – those who believe that LGBTQ members deserve equal rights and equal treatment — splitting off to become a new church, no longer being allowed to call itself “Methodist”. It would in effect create a Divided Methodist Church, as opposed to the “United”… The irony. This would obviously weaken the denomination itself, in effect making it half as strong or prominent or influential in the world. Maybe this is a good thing. At the moment it doesn’t feel like a good thing…
The real question at the heart of the matter is this: is there a strong enough moral imperative in human consciousness to adequately guide our actions in a more loving compassionate ethical and humane way that no longer necessitates churches or religions? And deeper still, is that even the primary purpose of religious practice? Or are they more for the function of worshipping “gods” or the Divine regardless of how they might influence our day to day actions morally or otherwise? And what about the supportive spiritual communities they offer? Not to mention the myriad service and good works they provide around the world. These are all questions we must address and attempt to answer before we allow the entire system to crumble before our eyes.
If you’ve missed all this, you’re not alone. Most have. And to a certain degree one could be excused from even caring if one isn’t particularly religious, which it seems most aren’t in today’s world. Unless one is progressively minded and is committed toward our species continuing to make progress toward a more enlightened civilization. In that case, whether this is happening in a church or in a government house or your own backyard, it’s just bad news. We’re moving, so it seems, in the opposite direction of progress.
But mainstream media doesn’t cover matters of church and religion very often. One has to dig for it. And news — of arguably questionable quality and value — is being thrown at us constantly now — so much so that it is easy to miss items of true value, not to mention the majority of nonsense flying out of social media.
[When I predicted the coming of the Personal Expression Age, I identified 32 different Signatures that would mark its arrival. Not one of them foresaw the vast number of vapid, shallow time-wasting newsbytes that would fight for our attention and clutter our day to day lives with the most inane preoccupations. Sincerely I believed — and am still stupefied to this day by the fact that this hasn’t happened — that the Age of Personal Expression would herald in a new renaissance for humanity where true tolerance equality and liberty for all people would finally be realized. That’s a fact. What I did not see was how much wasted time space and attention would be created by EVERYONE having the ability to express themselves any time they wanted to. So we’ve been a little slow in the “freedom tolerance and equality” department. But I still believe that this new age will help us triumph in that. I truly do.]
As most readers already know, I practice above and beyond all else a spiritual Humanism as my personal religion… and nationality. But for the last fifteen years or so I have also been practicing Methodism (which believe me is more of a surprise to me than it could possibly be to anyone else..). More on that a little later. Simply put, before I am Christian, I am Human. Before I am American, I am Human. Before i am a friend or a family member, i am Human. If I have to make a choice, I am always going to be on the side of Humanity first before any allegiance to a country, a race, a tribe, a political party or a religion.
This can make for a very lonely world. Most people very quickly latch on to whatever tribe, nationality, political party and religion they were born into. That’s often called indoctrination. I grew up like everyone else. No different. Plenty of indoctrination. No need to go into it all here. But from a young age, as early as I can remember, I often questioned what I was being taught by my elders and family.
Politically, I quickly learned that I probably wasn’t a republican, even though I was being raised republican, because half the platform seemed daft to me. Soon after I realized that I certainly wasn’t a democrat either, because it too didn’t make much sense. Both organizations (let’s face it, there’s not much partying going on in politics…. If anything it’s a collection of the worst that humanity has to offer itself disguised as “government” that in reality does very little governing) seemed like two different sides of the same coin to my young mind. A corporate controlled duopoly whose sole purpose was to shackle and wield full control over the governments of the people. Not a cool or enlightened scene.
To me, both parties should be allowed to exist… we’re not fully communist yet…. but the rigid power structure that is in place in the United States now, controlled by these two parties alone sure seems a lot like communism, and in my humble opinion needs to be broken up and torn down from the top down, or we will stand no chance of ever crafting a government or a nation that is truly enlightened or “for and by the people”. I’ve already written about this subject plenty and cited that George Washington himself never liked the idea of political parties. He believed them to be dangerous to the republic. [Read more here if you’d like].
“His thought, in what became known as the Farewell Address in 1796, is clear: “the spirit of party” serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.” Throughout his political life, and until his death in 1799, George Washington was confident that the country could and should function without the existence of political parties.”
In terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, I was raised probably very similar to most Gen X’ers, i.e. men were smarter and more capable than women – though we were never told why, whites were “superior” to black brown or tan people for some reason — although it was never qualified specifically — they were just “better”…. and being heterosexual was “normal”, whereas being homosexual was deviant and abnormal. Christianity was the one true “real” religion and everyone else was “wrong”. Again, none of this was ever qualified specifically. They were just ideologies that were often spoken about, cited and frankly taken for granted. For context, I was also taught that Italians are the best, most brilliant and accomplished race of people that there’s ever been in human history (I am half Italian), and that the Greeks or the English come in a close second if there’s no Italian around. (I am half English. Go figure. This is pretty transparent stuff.)
Call it an aberration or divine grace, but I just never believed any of it. Now granted, I was not your typical American young person. Hell, let’s be honest, I was not your typical human young person. I pretty much typified rebellious youth and the term “question authority” in both the good and bad ways. I refused to “obey authority” just because I was “supposed to”. I thought that was a ridiculous notion logically. I refused to follow rules that I myself did not formerly analyze and discern to be fair rational or equitable myself, nor did I believe in fitting my day to day activities into schedules that did not align with what I wanted to do at that time. I much preferred to be on my own and set my own schedule based on whatever activities I wanted to be doing at any set time. And I made this known to everyone around me from the age I could coherently communicate with words. My parents grandparents and teachers were not pleased.
This made for a rough childhood. I was in trouble constantly. I’m still the only person I know who was expelled from the first grade. True story. And went on to probably break the record for “most schools expelled from”. That’s the bad part of questioning everything and everyone around you as a kid and refusing to accept the authority of anyone regardless of their age or position in life. You just don’t believe anyone or anything. You need to and want to learn everything for yourself. You need to decide for yourself what the truth is, what you believe.
The fact that I ended up majoring in Philosophy made sense. It fit and was no surprise. Later I would learn of the Greek Solipsism movement and for a while I felt much less alone in the world. Obviously they took it to a more extreme level. Got a bit silly with it. But they were relatively young – in consciousness historically speaking, and they had a bit too much time on their hands. But still, at least I wasn’t the only one. To my young mind, a lot of what I was being taught by people older than me didn’t make logical sense. It defied logic in fact, and it seemed to be based on nothing but presumption or assumption or hearsay or indoctrination. At best, much of it seemed like wishful thinking. So the Solipsistic method of believing that only the individual could discern what was real or true to them in the world made perfect sense to me.
So very early on in my youth I adopted a principle, a way of being and thinking, where unless I could verify something was absolutely true myself, I could not accept it as truth. I applied this viewpoint to everything. As you probably already know. Still to this day I have only managed to come up with two to three absolute “truths” that I could genuinely assert without feeling as thought I’d be perjuring myself, (and I’ve been around a while and occupied my life and time here studying and experiencing more than any other activities one could occupy their time with.)
But for absolute truths I feel comfortable asserting only 3 that I believe would be the following: 1. I exists. 2. I is/am here. (Though I do not know where “here” is.) 3. “Others” exist here as well. There are “yous”.
And that’s about it. Everything else can be debated. People always try to bring up Newton’s Laws or gravity in an attempt to convince me how limited my take is or help me see how many more absolute truths there are…. But they’re pikers. They haven’t devoted an entire life to research study and contemplation. Or maybe they have and at some point they started buying into their respective discipline.
Anthropologists are the worst in that department. (And when I say that, bear in mind that I mean that in the kindest way – I love anthropology… it’s a great discipline. They’re no worse than most of the others. They just stick out like a sore thumb in the sciences because we still know so little in that arena – 99% of what we say we “know” of our own anthropological history is just guesswork that’s liable to change in a year or two…So I’m just using them as an example. I’ve been studying Anthropology for 30 years, and every time I come back to it to see what’s new, for better or worse, they’ve managed to throw out half or more of what they used to believe was true and replace it with other data they readily admit might change any day…. At the very least we can say they’ve got an admirable commitment to getting at the truth. They’re fine people in that regard. Vitally important in our quest for knowledge. But hardly helpful when it comes to the world of getting to absolute truths.)
But the reality is that once you dive deep into philosophy, or better put philosophical thinking and logic, and then deeper further into physics, quantum mechanics and particle physics, and frankly all the sciences, you really begin to understand how truly limited our current understanding of the world around us is, and how transient our beliefs about it are. We can’t even decide if Pluto is a planet for God’s sake. And gravity…. We’re still grappling with that all the time…. And then there’s time, space, dark energy and matter, the edges of the universe — if there are any… It’s all still very much up in the air.
So it was easy to not buy into the whole “white anglo-saxon American heterosexual male-dominated republican or democratic Christians are the best” ideologies I was raised with. None of it seemed even remotely intelligent to me considering the bigger picture things we didn’t yet understand. I figure it like this: if you can’t readily explain to me what exists outside of the edges of the known universe we live in, i.e., the universe that we’ve tracked and believe we’ve measured using background radiation, then there’s no way in hell you truly know if there’s a superior race or sexual preference or gender or nationality or political party. You don’t even know where you LIVE! Or WHY! Or HOW! Think about it for a second.
So in that context, everything else is just tribal… guessing… or projecting. It’s survival instincts kicking in. Emotion disguising itself as reasoned thought. But in the end just a basic instinctual fear-based greed and selfishness.
Breaking Free From Indoctrination
In college I began to truly break out of my indoctrinated shell and experiment with just about everything that existed in the world in order to explore life as human and everything that it had to offer. I left no stone unturned. I dated a large variety of girls, white, black, brown, tan, and everything in between, and came to realize that they and their friends and families were no different than I was. I pretty much did that with every race that would have me. More than anything I was just curious. And open minded to it. So racism never stuck with me. (I’m not a race denier. I don’t pretend to not see racial differences. I find it odd when people do. I mean, it’s right in front of our face. It’s pretty fucking hard to deny. I just can’t buy into the whole “one race is more superior than another” idea.)
I also experimented with dating other guys because I had been so androgynous my whole life that I thought that perhaps I might be gay. That part didn’t really pan out. Androgyny it turns out is not even remotely related to being gay. I discovered that the hard way. No amount of drugs or drink enabled me to actually enjoy being with other dudes. So, as much as i might like to be sometimes, I’m not gay. I liked girls. Sincerely genuinely joyously and passionately loved girls. But that was something I came to decide based on experimentation and study. It was something that I could decide was true because I had put in the effort to explore and research it. So called rules of morality or propriety be damned.
I also during this time spent a number of years experimenting with hallucinogens in order to 1, explore consciousness and the universe, and 2, to attempt to explore and/or communicate with any kind of divinity that might exist out there. I spent a good three years on all kinds of hallucinogens almost daily in order to fully expand my consciousness and to better understand the world around us. It helps. It may be politically incorrect to say that now, but I cannot in good conscience pretend that it doesn’t help if you’re on a mission to expand consciousness and seek enlightenment. I consider it a vital part of the process. The key is that once you’ve reached that point where you’ve learned everything there is for you to learn, you stop. It happens. You’ll know. You don’t do it because it’s fun. Although it is a ton of fun. You don’t do it to “party”. Amateurs and short-hairs do drugs to party. But if you’re a seeker you do it in order to learn more, to go deeper. And then when those potentialities reach their limits, you stop. It isn’t hard. You’ll know when you’ve reached the limits of what you’re able to learn from hallucinogens. Then you move on.
(And no you don’t have to be afraid you’re going to go crazy and turn into Brian Wilson and start living in a sandbox in your living room. I dropped just as much acid as Brian Wilson and I never ended up in a sandbox. Just be smart about it.)
So after all this experimentation, from a fairly young age, I decided that the only allegiance to be had by any of us would be to humanity itself. Period. (no, not even to earth…. more on that in another post….) Later on I would expand that to Consciousness in general. Which transcends Humanity. This is still where I sit today on the subject. An allegiance to Consciousness, as opposed to Humanity, allows us to acknowledge that in the vast universe that we live that there are probably a lot more other forms of Consciousness that exist besides just human beings and that if we are going to stay true to the noble goal of creating an enlightened world among all Consciousness we should probably get used to including them in that equation, even before we meet them or even discover they exist.
But in earthly terms, being a Humanist above all else suffices. If you’re going to limit your work in consciousness to primarily human consciousness, this works. It’s our best chance to true peace and enlightenment on earth amongst us all.
Which leads us to Chapter Two so to speak.
Hang on for this one. Because in a way it flies in the face of everything I’ve just said. And yet maybe it doesn’t. Though I’m going to fly through it, because honestly I’ve written about this several times already in the Diaries.
Regarding religion or spirituality, I had always tread two very broadly defined and different paths in my own consciousness throughout my life. On the one hand I logically could not justify or qualify nor make any rational sense of any of humanity’s ideas regarding Gods or Goddesses or afterlives. It all seemed like manmade poppycock to me. Myth. Legend. Stories. Wishful thinking. Indoctrination. I was an agnostic, but never an atheist — which I consider to be just another religion, by the time I was 16 years of age. Heck, probably way before that honestly.
At the same time, I felt an uncontrollable longing inside for what we would call “the divine”. A truly unquenchable thirst. I read and studied everything humankind ever wrote about God or the Goddess, religion, theology…. From all four corners of the world and from all known and unknown times in human history. I gathered a little bit from all the different sources that seemed helpful or interesting or valuable. But still felt the need to search for God or the Divine.
At varying times in my life I was in the truest sense of the words a very active and practicing Catholic, atheist (for a brief spell in college as many of us tend to be), agnostic, Rosicrucian, Secular Humanist, Jew, Witch, Magician, Krishna, Hindu, Taoist and Buddhist. They’re all beautiful traditions. I never really fully became Muslim. This is true. So I won’t attest to it. Though I studied it enough to make the decision consciously. I just never found an aspect of “God” there that I could full-heartedly relate to. But I’m aware that plenty of others have and I respect that.
And that’s perhaps something important to note here: It’s not that there aren’t any truths out there. And I’m certainly not the one to say anyway, except for myself. In true Solipsistic form, I would assert that the only person who can decide what’s true to them is that person themselves. So if a person studies Islam or even better has a supernatural experience with Allah and decides to become Muslim, then that IS “true” for them. And who are we to argue with them about that?
For me though, through the years I’ve DECIDED to believe many things are “true” because over time I have determined that for all intents and purposes they are, at least right now, here. They work well enough to be “true”. But the key word here is “decide”. It’s not that one goes around their whole life not believing anything is true just because it hasn’t been proved beyond a reasonable doubt or because it may change eventually. It’s more like you just wait until you’ve gathered enough evidence to satisfy your own verifiable truth meter so to speak. You decide. Based on your own epistemological study and research. Rather than taking it as fact based on what others tell you or what they wrote down in some books centuries ago.
So with that said, yes, in each of the different religious traditions that I practiced through the years, I found God there. In some more than others. We have to remember that if there is a God, It exists outside of our ability to fully know it (at least “now”…. This may change in any moment…. Consciousness is constantly expanding….) But just by the very fact that it’s “Divine” and not simply “human”, OR some other form of sentient consciousness implies that we as humans may not be fully capable of connecting with it or knowing it as well as we connect with or know each other.
(With that last clause I am deliberately alluding to and excluding “ancient alien” ideologies as being the strictly only answer for who or what “God” is….. Non-earthly beings may very well have come to earth and created humans through some type of genetic tinkering at some distant point in our past, as some evidence indicates. And yes, we surely would be justified in considering and calling them “Gods”. I get it. I’m with you. There’s a lot of data there. And it’s very intriguing. But that does not make THEM “God” or Divine. It just makes them the creators of who we are now in our current form. Lower-case gods to us sure, because they had a hand in creating the “new us” as we exist here now in our current form. But it still doesn’t address us as who we were before they got here in Consciousness. Nor does it make them “God” of the whole universe. Nor even Divine. We can discuss this in future posts. But suffice it to say that BOTH theories might very well be true: Aliens may have had a hand in creating the current form that modern humans are in now, AND God or Divinity might also exist. One doesn’t cancel the other out.)
The Problem with Holy Books and Sacred Texts
So in terms of God or the Divine…. We can “know” him/her/it…. Connect with It…. Communicate with it and I’d say even be communicated with by it…. But that doesn’t mean we KNOW It. Not enough to be describing it in any rational sense to others, as we do in sacred texts or holy books. And herein lies the real root of our problem with God and religion as it’s currently practiced on earth now by humans. Since we can remember – let’s say we go back 12,000 years, to 10,000 BCE, to the last Ice Age…. any human history before that is guesswork at best – we have been telling ourselves stories about Gods and Goddesses and who they are and what they’re like, and many of us have been believing these stories. So our books and our libraries and our consciousness is filled with these stories and the respective beliefs that go along with them.
But one could safely say that almost NONE of it is truth. One could perhaps venture to claim that .1% or less of what we’ve ever said or heard about God or the Divine is true…. Meaning 99.9% of everything that’s ever been said about God is just made up. It’s Fantasy fiction.
I know that if one is religious that can sound offensive or downright heretical or sacrilegious…. And listen, I found God as a Krishna devotee. I FELT God. It was an incredible feeling. So I’m not knocking spiritual practices to become closer to God. And I found and felt the more feminine aspect of God as the Goddess as an initiated witch. Again, it was an incredible feeling. Magical. (Which is why we probably call it “magic” when we become witches and practice witchcraft.) And truth be told I also found God through Christianity. For those who aren’t caught up on the story, here’s a post from years back that discusses the supernatural experiences that I had that compelled me to start actively being “religious” specifically in the Christian tradition after years of being a diehard anti-religionist. Honestly it still blows my mind typing the words. http://transcendencediaries.com/2005/06/08/article-2019-04-29-124625_16-html/
Truth be told, I didn’t want to be “Christian”. I was raised Christian, via Catholicism, and still to this day I consider the catholic church and the Vatican and the Pope to be nothing but a thinly veiled religious disguise for the still very much in existence Roman or Byzantine Empire. I consider them to be a multi-national, global corporate economic and political super power, a very dangerous one at that, and NOT a religion. And anyone who took a year or two to study this power structure would too. It’s all right there, out in the open. So with that in mind, no, Christianity was not my first choice in terms of finding God. I would have preferred something much cooler and with a less evil history and reputation.
But “God” had something else in mind. Because after years of prayer and fasting and meditation and exploring in an insanely disciplined search for more closeness with a God, THE God, I ended up finding It on the corner of 60th street and Park Avenue in New York City. And yeah sure that’s a crazy thing to hear. I get it. But where there’s a seeker, there is God. Now does that mean that I don’t see God in all the other religions and faith traditions of the world? No. Honestly I just think that’s where “God” wanted ME. And that’s it. I don’t believe that it has anything to do with what’s “true” or the true nature of God for all of humanity. I can’t even say that I believe that the Christian ideal of God is the true idea of God. I just don’t think it’s for me to say. I don’t think it’s for any of us to say frankly. But for me it worked. I can honestly say that I “found God”, or that “God heard and saw me seeking and found me”. And that it’s felt good. It feels good still. It feels like unconditional love. An unconditional love that is so clean pure and powerful that I could literally not deny it, nor label it anything but “supernatural”.
But alas many of the other so called Christians who are also members of this very large body of humans have incredibly complex and illogical and often times irrational beliefs about God and who and what It is. If you read the link I posted above for example you will see me struggling quite a bit with someone that I love dearly in a Chat who sincerely believes that being a Christian means doing it by “faith alone” and that it has to be “bible based”. And I LOVE this person very much. But I just don’t agree with her at all. Truth be told I know a lot of people who fit into this category of Christian. My own father is one of them. He doesn’t even think that I am a Christian, because of the church that I attend. Which I think is hilarious. Because how the hell does anyone know what the “best or right church” is? I mean, it’s laughable. It’s not even worth debating or fighting over.
Except when it is. And this is one of those times. In fact it’s the real heart of the matter: In the last few years, the United Methodist Church globally, of which there are quite a large number of members worldwide, has decided to become more and more intolerant, non-inclusive and anti-LGBTQ. They claim the pendulum has swung “too far to the left” so to speak and they want to reclaim a more “bible based” form of practice of Christianity, i.e. not endowing gay or same sex-people with equal rights under the banner of the church or its doctrine. Again, you can read more about it here in a post I wrote a few years ago when this horribleness first started.
Now if you’re one of the many secular liberals who don’t believe in God or religion that seem to dominate our modern culture in the West, you may not be surprised by this, and it may even reaffirm why you consider yourself an agnostic or atheist or just a non-religionist, and even why you might be proud of being so inclined. Hey I get it. I’m with you in more ways than you probably realize and certainly in more ways than fellow Christians would approve of. But that’s just me.
For me personally, I don’t subscribe to “bible based” exclusionism, of any kind. Truth is, I don’t subscribe to bible based anything. And this is where I probably differ from most other people who call themselves Christians.
The Problem with Faith
Before we tackle the whole bible based issue, let me address something even more fundamental to the equation for context: faith. As mentioned above, most Christians, and non-religionists alike, will tell you that faith is what makes up the whole foundation of religion. That in fact without it, we can’t have religion or be religious. Religious people will tell you to “just have faith” when things are down or when you’re experiencing a “crisis of faith”; fundamentalists of all religions will tell you that “it’s faith and not works that keep you close to God and get you to heaven” – quoting Ephesians 2:8-9 from the bible. (Now for those of us who don’t’ readily subscribe to the bible as anything but a collection of stories by other human beings who came before us a long long time ago, quoting the bible to us creates a problem, I get that. But here’s the infamous quote they love to cite:
“8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.”
That quote may let a lot of people off the hook who don’t want to work hard at being a good person or helping others, or it might even let more people off the hook who simply don’t know for sure if there’s a God but they really want there to be…. But for me, it’s just that, an easy way out. If you aren’t sure there’s a God, if you’ve never had a supernatural experience with God or the Divine, but you really hope one exists and you really hope there’s a heaven or at least some kind of afterlife, “have faith”. Even if you don’t believe, you can semi-believe by creating in your consciousness a little something we call “faith”. I.e. I’m not 100% percent certain of it, but I “have faith” there’s something else out there.
And of course, this is the problem that non-religious people have with most religious people. They hang their entire lives and behavior on something that they aren’t even sure of, things they only have “faith” in…. Secularists will tell you that’s the whole problem with being religious: that one has to suspend disbelief in something that they aren’t even sure exists in order to believe it’s true or pretend to believe is true, as opposed to knowing it for sure. And for a lot of agnostics or atheists that’s a real problem. And I get it. It’s crazy town.
And it is for me too. I’ve never been one for faith, as I explore in detail above. Faith is a pretend game. You either know something or you don’t. I either experience something and decide that it’s true because it’s been proven to me, or I just can’t hang my hat on it. I didn’t decide to start practicing Christianity – especially Methodism – because I was raised that way or because I had faith in God or religion. In fact, I was vehemently opposed to religion of all kinds. Anyone who knows me or who has read the Diaries knows that. I just was not, and still am not that big of a fan of humankind’s religions. I see them as being much more destructive than helpful throughout our history. And that’s not really something that can be factually denied. Whether it be misogyny, racism, sexism, slavery, barbarism, empire building, thievery or downright murder, it’s always been religion that’s justified it or brought it about in our short history here on earth.
So no, not a big fan of religion. Especially not a faith-based type. If you ask me, that’s a recipe for disaster for humanity.
But I am a big fan of communing with the Divine. Call it The Great Spirit or Source or The Force or Krishna or God or Allah or Elohim…. I don’t care, and I really don’t think it matters that much. God is God. I tend to call it God or the Divine personally. Because that’s what works for me. And like many before me, think Siddhartha in ancient times or Kierkegaard in times long past or George Harrison in more modern times, there’s nothing I enjoy more than the purity of heart and transcendent nature of communing with the Divine Force that exists throughout this universe.
(Yes I consider God to be both an energetic and material force, like gravity, that exists throughout the entire universe that we can both feel and connect with, albeit one we just haven’t discovered the true nature of yet. A transcendent form or aspect of a mass consciousness that is in a constant state of creating and recreating, breathing in and out, both the creator and sustainer of all matter and energy in existence, not just organic life (which would be too limiting a definition for such a force)).
But my own personal beliefs in God didn’t come from having faith. Nor did they come from the bible or any other sacred texts or holy books. For me, this relationship with God came from experience…. More aptly as a multitude of supernatural and divine experiences I had over years that eventually led me to have no choice but to acknowledge the reality that there was a Divine force that we could (if we wanted to) call God…. And furthermore commune with.
No different than how I decided that I was heterosexual and not gay. I tried both girls and boys. It was easy (for me at least) to discern that I preferred girls more than boys. Truth revealed through experience. Experience had through research, exploration and experimentation. Experimentation arrived at from conscious thought, choice, desire and commitment.
So yes, my belief in God, my knowing of the Divine, came through practice, through prayer, meditation, chanting, good works, fasting, clean living, commitment and an almost constant beseechment on my part to (my own projection of) the Divine to communicate with me and show Itself to me. I was adamant that if there is any kind of God out there in mass consciousness that it communicate with me. And I never stopped this constant barrage of prayer, communication and beseeching… The worst thing that could happen would be that “nothing” would happen. Which would at the very least confirm that there was indeed no God or no Divine; at least not one that cared to or had the ability to communicate with me. And in that I would have an answer.
But that’s not what happened. I actually did receive answers and communications…. No faith required…
When I was in my hallucinogenic phase, this was late teens/early 20s, I spent hours upon hours, days at a time really, doing nothing but looking for God, attempting to know God, attempting to learn if there even was a God…..Or was human consciousness, or perhaps a shared mass consciousness shared with other beings in other dimensions or in other galaxies all there was… Exploring all the different aspects of my own consciousness and mass consciousness searching for any sign of Divinity….. Maybe this is a normal endeavor to engage in (think Heinlein, Huxley, Leary, Ram Dass, McKenna et al….) I know that amongst my friends I wasn’t the only one… We were all doing it in one way or another in our own ways. It was the ultimate prize, the most noblest of goals.
And over time I became more and more adept at being able to feel and hear this (what I perceived to be) distinctly Divine vibration and voice, and being able to talk back to it, and even to occasionally hear responses to my queries. Not necessarily voices in the head type stuff. But more like an advanced ability to stay in the Intuitive Mode of Consciousness where Divinity or the Transcendent seemed to exist, to stay more attuned to a higher form of Intuition for longer periods.
[Perhaps this Intuitive Mode exists on a different plane of consciousness; or perhaps in a different dimension or perhaps just in different regions of our brain that are only able to be accessed through certain psychotropic drugs or longer periods of meditative practices… Explore later.] Experience revealed truth. It wasn’t faith. It was perseverance. And practice.
So no, faith did not play a role in the way I personally practice religion or spirituality; not then and not now. But I have to say that I totally respect those who come to their religious or spiritual practice from faith at any time in their lives. For some, that may be the thing that gets them there, that keeps them there. And that’s a groovy thing. Unless of course it isn’t. Like when it’s infringing on the rights of others. Which is exactly what’s happening in the Methodist Church today. And in many other denominations of Christianity. First it was people of color and women, now it’s homosexual people. And it’s largely based on what they call bible based or scripture based religionism.
People take a few lines out of what they call a holy book or a sacred text and they apply magical qualities to it. They label it “divine”, or “of God”, or even “from God” or “written by God”, even though we are all very aware that all of these books were penned by human beings, fallible, fragile, feeble human beings who are far from perfect or all knowing. And let’s get even more real for a moment. Half or more of the so called holy books written throughout the short history of humankind had ulterior political or tribal motives for their being written in the first place.
Most of the Torah is more of a wishlist for a shared and understood history of a specific tribal people who began to want to separate themselves from other tribal peoples — along with a way perhaps to justify their killing, thievery and landgrabs (this was nothing new…. See the Phoenicians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Akkadians, Persians, Babylonians and Sumerians before them); along with an equally powerful motivation to feel strong and protected by a magical force that could help them defeat their perceived enemies. They held a longing for victory rather than defeat through the creation of a magical God force that could help them wipe out their enemies. And why not? They’d already witnessed hundreds of thousands of other peoples do the exact same thing for thousands of years. Creating Gods in order to gain more power on earth and frighten their enemies. It made sense. It was the logical next step in their collective evolution. But that didn’t make their god “God”, nor did it make it “Divine”.
One could easily say the same about the earlier religious texts that the Torah comes from, the Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Zoroastrian, Persian and Egyptian so called sacred texts that helped shape the Judaic holy books and Gods and legends all stemmed from the same primary desires: a better understanding or explanation of the mysterious world around them, a more legitimate explanation of a shared history AND a more legitimate method to gain more power. The primary reason humankind creates “gods”.
One could also easily assert the same thing about the creation of both the Christian ideal of the Judaic Messianic Sun/Son God – which in reality had been around for thousands of years already just under different names…. and the later to come Holy Quran of the Islamic faith tradition. If a Mohammad ever existed, (as with Jesus of Nazareth this is still a debatable historical question), the creation of a special holy book written specifically for the nomadic Arabic peoples unified them economically socially politically and militarily in a way that was never able to be accomplished before, which in turn gave them an incredible newfound power and confidence, one that motivated them to create not just a vast new empire that stretched as far as southern Europe and northern Africa, but also to start a new Islamic Golden Age just as the sacking of Rome created a thousand years of the Dark Ages in the West. This book was a powerful political and militaristic motivator, regardless of religion.
So whether the Bagadvagita or the Upanishads or the Torah or the New Testament or the Quran were holy or sacred or not, they held much more important historical and unifying and political power for the specific people they were written for, at the time they were written in, than they did any spiritual or divine purpose.
(Perhaps to some THAT IS divinity…. There are times when I contemplate this issue…. Perhaps to some people, think the Jewish religion and their sacred texts or the Islamic people and theirs, Divinity itself is more an ideology that at its heart is more a specific form of tribal protectionism and self-preservation than it is about the nature of God or the Divine or any moral imperatives that span consciousness as universal absolutes…. Think mythic legends of heroic warriors that promise a people a victorious future if they just follow in that hero’s footsteps and swear allegiance to the same mythic God; or political treatises that promise victory to a people if they all swear allegiance to the same God. In some ways, certain ways, many religions seem to be more similar to nationalism or tribalism than they do to spirituality…. It’s an anomaly in a way. Unless it’s not and it has always been this way. Perhaps Christianity with its “turn the other cheek” and “masters shall be servants” ideology is the aberration. It’s something to contemplate and explore further….)
Eliminating Scripture, Sacred Texts and Holy Books from Religious Practice for the purpose of Enlightenment
But I digress. Plenty of fodder for the more philosophically inclined. Regardless, the fact remains that any religion that strictly follows a holy book of old for how it practices its religion in the present day is doomed to either be filled with contradiction and accusations of being wishy washy, OR being obligated to infringe upon and deny the rights of many of their fellow human beings. There’s just no getting around it. One cannot promote “a scripture based Christianity” and at the same time assert that it is open hearted and inclusive of gay and same sex people. Because this form of religious practice is anathema to the scriptures in the so called holy books themselves. The two forms of practice are diametrically opposed.
Just consider the first Chapter of the so-called book of Romans in the New Testament: it is flat out anti-homosexual. I’m not even going to quote it here. But it’s entirely impossible to ignore, UNLESS we just acknowledge that it was written by a thoroughly young unaware and relatively innocent (historically speaking) judgmental close-minded and still quite ignorant human being, who was very far from anything remotely resembling God or Divinity. That explanation for the general inconsistencies and contradictions in the New Testament books. makes sense. And it could easily justify our dismissing or removing some or all of them entirely from the collection. (Unless we keep it in and annotate it specifically “for historical research purposes only”…. No different than how we study slavery, misogyny, torture, imperialism, the Spanish Inquisition or the Crusades today… We don’t wipe them from the Church’s history. We just view them differently, within a broader more aware context.) I suggest we begin to do the same with many sections of almost all of humankind’s so-called holy books now in this modern time.
The idea being that we begin to either disregard the lines or verses that we no longer agree with – this is a practice we’ve been doing for hundreds of years now and it’s worked fine…. OR we begin the arduous task of modifying these so called scriptures and taking out the parts we no longer agree with or believe are true. We’ve done this too – consider the so called Apocryphal texts.
But when asked and pressed on the matter, honestly I just propose we go one step further and get rid of the so called holy books entirely. At least as formal religious doctrine. Keep them as history. Ditch them as doctrine.
Any of the above options would do. But it would mean, implicitly, that we are acknowledging that these holy books, take the Bible just as an example, were not written by a “God” but rather were written by fallible human beings, from ancient times a long long time ago and we simply don’t believe they had the historical context or foresight to write rules codes laws or ethics that would or could apply to people 2000 years into the future. Hell, could we? Here now? Write a book of rules or laws or moral codes — or especially descriptions or definitions of “God” — that could apply even remotely to people who are going to be alive in the year 4020 AD? Probably not. Definitely not.
So why should we expect ancient peoples to be able to? And furthermore why should we even be reading or referring to these so called holy books or sacred texts anymore in any of our religions except perhaps as interesting contextual historical reference material? That’s the real question.
And again, I’m not saying that we as a people or species should ban our fellow man from doing so. If people want to keep practicing various world religions based on ancient holy books, let them. But with two caveats:
1, only if they don’t harm other people around them in any way by doing so. (Remember, the number one and only rule of witchcraft or paganism (often called “the old religion”) is “Do what thou wilt, but harm none”. Probably the forerunner to what we now commonly call “the Golden Rule”, and good idea to follow.)
And 2, those of us who want to practice a more enlightened form of Christianity, or any other religion for that matter, are going to need to begin (or continue to further the practice of) disregarding or excluding certain verses and passages entirely from our formal doctrine and practice and we need to be permitted to do that without fear of recourse or recrimination by others who profess to share the same religious tradition that we do. This may present a slight challenge at first. But I do believe it is possible.
But this can no longer be a debatable issue. At least not for those of us who have woken up. Using a religion to deny equal rights to others or exclude them from basic freedoms and liberties is no longer a viable option. It’s not moral, no matter what a particular holy book might say. It’s not ethical. It’s not right. And one cannot profess to being a “good person” by doing so and claiming it’s because a so called sacred text or scripture encourages them to do so. That line of thinking just simply doesn’t hold up anymore.
We can all see behind the curtain now. And if there is a great wizard of Oz, he’s certainly not condoning exclusion judgment and condemnation of our fellow man.
(Interestingly that is NOT an aspect of what we know as Divinity in consciousness now anyway, though it very well might be an aspect of the kind of “more like man-type-Gods” that most humans still believe in. I’ll grant you that. Human beings are infamous for creating gods in their own image that suit their own purpose and then announcing that that same man-made god created THEM in HIS own image. It’s a fallacious circular reasoning that is at best unfortunate and ill-advised and more often than not dangerous and deadly to everyone else around them).
What Would Religion Without a Holy Book Look Like?
So the above is not the kind of God we are speaking of here… Not the kind of Divinity or Divine force…. When people ask me now what kind of religion do I propose we practice if it’s not faith based nor scripture based, I tell them that we don’t need a holy book or scriptures to know God or commune with God. That we can easily practice a new religious tradition that is based on the principles of seeking and loving God with all our hearts and with every fiber of our being, loving our neighbors as ourselves, having unconditional love for all, never deliberately harming another human being, and serving our fellow man and our communities as often and as passionately as we are able to…. This is all possible, and easily achievable without faith and without a holy book or scripture. And should the tradition not yet exist, perhaps it is time we created it.
True enlightenment is not possible in an environment that is doctrinally borne of intolerance or non-inclusiveness of all peoples. And if the practice of communing with the Divine is not inherently about enlightenment and unconditional love, then it is not a practice of communing with the Divine at all. Call it something else. Call it a tribal code of ethics and practices that suits a particular people at a specific moment in time and space. But don’t call it religion or spirituality.
A final note on the transition
In terms of how we might eventually get to this new point in our shared experience, it is clear that we need to establish some basic guidelines and parameters to work around in order to guarantee that none of us infringe on the rights of others in our quest to create a more tolerant and loving brand of our unique form of the Christian religion. And this is why, much to the dismay of many of my fellow liberal Christians and even non-Christian religionists, I believe that it is imperative that we, who demand to be allowed to start adopting more open hearted all-inclusive principles in the way we practice Christianity, do NOT attempt to mandate that other churches in our denomination nor the communities of other denominations be forced to do the same, not through law nor legislation nor through coercion nor peer pressure nor media-biasing, nor through any other means that may be available to us.
It is just as much as their right to form the foundation for their doctrinal beliefs as it is for us. If members of the LGBTQ community who happen to live in the more Southern or rural areas of the United states, or even in other countries that are more prone to so called conservative or fundamentalist values, are not happy with the ideals of their local or regional churches, they need to make that known within their communities and attempt to change those structures from within just as we did, or simply move to areas of their country or the world where people think more like them and accept them for who they are.
But it is not up to us to try to force our more liberal views upon the day to day lives of others who don’t even live in the same state or country that we do. Doing so would make us immediately guilty of what we are accusing them of doing and in my humble opinion would be hypocritical. No one comes to God or becomes enlightened through force or against their will. It’s just not how it works.
The ideal here is an all-inclusive, tolerant community of like-minded people who share a common belief in a Divine force and a desire to do good in the world as a means to serve that Divine force and become closer to it through both being and doing good. Mandating the actions of others to be more like us is not tolerant nor all-inclusive. We can easily serve as examples that shine a light in the world that will surely burn brighter than those who are more judgmental or exclusionary in their beliefs and practices. It is only a matter of time and patience.