This week has been full of ups and downs. The height of exhilaration and joy as well as the depths of sorrow and disgust has visited with me. The nature of life's pendulum seems to take you from one to the other fairly quickly if you're not enlightened. I am not enlightened, not even close. The way I see it there is plenty of time in the universe for me to take that road. This life I'm taking the long way round.
Many of you have been following along with the news out of California this week. I've seen quite hateful posts back and forth on the topics of gun control and religious extremism. So I'm going to talk about religion. It is one of the oldest technologies we possess. There is no way of knowing exactly how old it is, but it is probably at least as old as our use of fire.
Now some of you out there would argue that religion is not a technology it is one of the humanities. I beg to differ. Technology is our use of knowledge to create change in our world. I would say religion fits into that category quite well. It shapes our societies, it underpins many of our older legal traditions, and it organizes our relationships. Religion is at its heart a story, or an explanation of the way the world works. It usually seeks to explain the hidden causes behind the events of life. In some best case scenarios it tries to make the world into a kinder gentler place to be. In its worst case scenarios it seeks to exterminate all life that is not under the control of its dogma.
Right now religion is taking a bad rap, and quite deservedly so. It was originally a servant of man, a tool of understanding. It has in the past helped to create hospitals, cared for the poor and abandoned, and even inspired people to persevere under the most profound challenges to rise again. It can help comfort the grieving and uplift those that have fallen into despair. These days it is often used to push a political or commercial agenda. I'm not singling out one religion either. Although we hear much about Islamic terrorists, there are certainly Christian terrorists too. There are even Buddhist terrorists in Myanmar. This is what happens when we let ego entangle its limitedness into the fabric of faith in an infinite Authority.
So what do we do? I would say untether the spiritual practices from figures of authority whether they be human or in spirit. Throw out that which does not serve the individual and the community equally. Religion is made up of compelling stories. Perhaps it is time we look at those stories in a more critical light. I don't mean we should be examining them for literal truths. I believe that way is its own madness. We should be looking at the metaphorical truths. What does this story tell us about ourselves? Is it useful? Does it create more good in the world without adding to the tragedies of life? What do our spiritual texts imply about how we treat each other and our world?
This is a radical act. This will make you a pariah in traditional belief zones. Now I don't mean for you to go out there and ridicule the traditions either. They serve a purpose or they wouldn't have lasted. What we need is more understanding, not of the should and the should nots, but the why we should or shouldn't. People forget that societies and conditions change. Words on a page do not. The world is change and yet we continue to try and fit God into an unchanging box bound in leather with gold leafed pages. If you value your holy book more than people odds are you are using your religion for your own ends and not the ends of your professed deity of choice.
So where on the spectrum are you? What do you value: actions, words, faith, or people? Think long and hard about what you really think is important. Try to see the people and why they do what they do and why they believe. This is important. It is easy to see the other in people it is much harder for us to see ourselves. The tragedy of life is that the darkness calls to us all. The beauty of life is that so does the light.
Peace and Blessings,