Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Bad Religion

"A Celtic Knot"
-in my meditation garden-

Yesterday, two back-to-back news reports left me both angry and stunned. Both reports featured "religion" as a backdrop. 

It appears as if the Sultan of Brunei is about to establish "Sharia" law in his mostly Muslim country. From now on if you are caught stealing, your hands may be cut off and you can be "stoned to death"  for committing adultery or engaging in "gay" sex. 

This story was followed by a report on the heinous kidnapping of almost 300 teenage school girls in Nigeria who were abducted by Islamic extremists. The leader of the group is threatening to sell the girls into slavery because they were receiving a "Western-style" education, teaching them to focus their lives on the "State" on not solely on God.  

Cutting off hands, stoning people to death, selling kidnapped girls into slavery - all in the name of Allah who, in Islam, is called "The Compassionate One."  It's no wonder that "religion" has such a bad reputation nowadays.

Many people today go "ballistic" when they even hear the word "religion" mentioned. In fact, whenever I post any of my daily blog entries online I am very careful when I refer to anything as being "religious." I can really understand and even appreciate this anti-religious sentiment so prevalent today.

Obviously it's not only Islamic extremists that have given religion a bad name. Historically, the Christian church has been notorious for its use of violence and domination - crusades and inquisitions, heretics burned at the stake or mercilessly tortured in prisons until they repented of their sin. To this very day, some churches are literally "centers for hate speech" - sinners condemned from pulpits and rule-breakers vilified and judged.   

At times, religion has also been a vehicle for suppressing an authentic spiritual life. I know plenty  of "religious" people who are far more concerned with vestments, rituals and rules than with focusing on a spiritual path and leading a life of compassion. Over the years I've talked to numerous people who have told me that they had to abandon their religion  (or would never think of affiliating with a religion) because "religion" gets in the way of "spirituality."  

So I truly do understand why so many people think that all religion is bad religion. But I also believe that there is another side to the coin. I also think there is such a thing as "good religion."

The root meaning of the word "religion" is "to "bind together." I think that the hallmark of good religion (true religion) is "binding people together." To varying degrees, I have been a religious person  all my life, and I remain religious primarily because of my "relationships" with the others who walk along with me along the "truth-seeking" path.  

In my later years I have little or no concern for doctrine or dogma. I don't wear vestments any more, religious rituals are incidental and I don't even think about church rules any longer. However, I stay religious and I identify myself as being "religious" because of my relationships with other religious people and with other fellow "seekers after the truth," who I sometimes see in a church, or more often talk to online, or with whom I'll have a cup of coffee at the local Starbucks.

As I sit in my meditation garden this morning I gaze upon a little "celtic knot" set on a stake next  to a Buddha statue. The knot displays many threads all "bound together" - woven into one.  In that knot I see one of the threads to be Christianity,  another thread is Islam, another Judaism. Buddhists are in the knot and so are Hindus,  and also any spiritual seekers who are not religious. Even atheists and agnostics who seek transcendence in their lives are threads in the knot.

All of  us "bound together" on a path seeking the truth, 

 I display that knot in the garden to remind me what "religion" is really all about. 

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