posted on Apr, 18 2006 @ 11:53 AM
This is a very interesting thread.
Doctrinaire, ours-is-the-only-way religions, in my opinion, do people a great disservice not only in the obvious ways, but also in subtle ones. I
note several posts above in which people found that their faith did not hold the answers they needed, or demanded things they could not accept, and so
they found themseves turning "away from religion" or away from spirituality. This is a consequence of ours-is-the-only-way: when "our way" is
questioned, that becomes tantamount to questioning the very idea of a way.
And in fact, the idea of a human-crafted religion holding all the answers in a form that anybody can understand is also poisonous, not only to those
who accept it, but also to those who, thinking in terms of it, reject it. Because there can be no such religion, and if that is what one expects a
religion to be, one will end up turning away from the entire spiritual side of human experience in disappointment.
I have had two pieces of good fortune in escaping from that fate. First, I was brought up in an agnostic houshold. My upbringing was in
freethinking, reason, and science. That is the approach that, by nature and inclination, I take to everything -- including religion.
Second, upon entering spiritual awareness at the age of 12, I found myself in the grip of spiritual experiences so compelling that they could not be
denied or doubted. These experiences, and others that have followed, have been part of the raw data with which my freethinking approach had to deal
ever since. So that, no matter what else I find myself doubting, I cannot doubt the reality of the spiritual dimension of life. I can doubt
the existence of the God of any particular theology and usually do, but I can never doubt the existence of the Reality for which that God is a
At age 12, I became a born-again Christian because that was the only framework I had for what I was going through. But I always had problems with
some of the teachings. A God who would sentence the majority of humanity to eternal torture? For that matter, a God who would sentence ANYONE to
eternal torture? And what's with these sexual mores the Christians insist upon? Sex is sinful unless you've got a piece of paper from the state
saying you're married? Sexual desires are themselves wicked? And then when you get down to some of the claims in the Bible where they touch
upon science . . . well, maybe that should be symbolically interpreted, I thought . . . but found myself stretching the interpretation further and
further to try to find something there in which I could believe.
Eventually, it became too much, and I said, "No, this is something I cannot accept." But because my spiritual experiences had been so real and so
compelling, I did not, as some posters here apparently did, toss the baby with the bathwater. The experience of the Holy, the fire in the soul, that
came from God (or from the Reality underlying the God metaphor); the errors I was having problems with, those came from the dim perceptions, sloppy
thinking, or power-lust of men. The two can be separated, and should be.
I found myself over the years since exploring other paths, other religions, learning what I could from each one. And what I have found is this: all
religions expand outward from the Truth in a maze of expressions that, at best, point the way toward the Truth and at worst disguise it. But in none
of those expressions can the Truth actually be told. Because the Truth is something that cannot be told. No human language has a word for it,
because words can only state what everyone experiences.
I can say, for example, "my coffee cup is glazed white ceramic with a green stripe around the bottom about 1/2 inch wide," and everyone will have a
more-or-less accurate picture from that description of what my coffee cup looks like. But that is only because everyone has experienced the pieces of
that picture: we all know what a coffee cup is, what ceramic is, how it is glazed, what color green and white are, and how wide a half inch is. That
is what language is good for.
But when it comes to God (or the reality of which God is a metaphor), words cease to have that kind of straightforward utility. This is a reality not
everyone shares, and even when it is experienced and known, the compelling experiences of everyday life draw us to forget it. Someone standing in the
blaze of that fire may express it in words that seem true, but when they reach the ears of others, the truth that inspired them will not be conveyed,
because the hearers will have no, or at best only a dim, referent to what the speaker is talking about. It will be, as the saying goes, like
describing color to a blind man. Such sayings are inevitably -- always -- misinterpreted.
I know what Jesus was talking about in some of his parables, and it is NOT what many Christians think he was!
The other problem is the universal power/submission dynamic among human beings. Religion is a powerful tool of control. So it has been used since
the dawn of civlization. The experience of the Holy, however, works against control, and sets a person free. Spirituality and organized religion are
often at cross-purposes precisely for that reason. We all have that desire to unite with the Source of our being, to become one with the Whole of
which we are a part. It sleeps soundly in many people, but it is always there. Yet it is easily misled, because so seldom do we have an
understanding of what it is we seek. And organized religion has always made use both of that longing and of that confusion, to say, "In these words,
in these practices, in this Church or Temple or whatever, is the Holy." Idols are not always shaped from wood and stone. More often, they are
shaped from words and ideas.
In short, some of the confusion is inadvertent and inevitable. But some of it is deliberate.