That Which Is Divine

I lost my interest in religion at an early age. I was the child in Sunday school who asked the questions that caused the teachers to roll their eyes and ignore me – a good way to invalidate your opinions in my eyes. I was the young adult in youth fellowship and retreats who had already read the Bible from cover to cover once and asked questions that caused the religious leaders to panic ever so slightly and ignore me – more invalidation.

As a long-time reader, one of the first concepts I learned was context. You cannot take bits and pieces of a whole thing and expect it to make as much sense as that thing in its entirety. But from time immemorial, humans have taken religion and its texts and broken them down to suit the purpose of individuals and collectives. Because of this the Bible – and in fact all religious writings – have become so misinterpreted, mistranslated and misunderstood that they have lost their intended value both in and out of context.

I advocate strongly for spirituality because we are all given the capacity for understanding and discernment. We don’t all nurture and/or use the capacity, but it’s there. I try to encourage persons as much as possible to not get caught up in the collective hype of religion. Read the texts for yourself. Take notes. Ask questions, not just from other humans; commune with the divine – wait for the answers. I studied religious education all the way up to Advanced Level. I’ve read the Bible cover to cover twice; I’ll probably read it again. I’ve read concise versions of the texts of Judaism and Islam. I’ll probably read them again. There is a wealth of information to be found in those pages. With all these readings, the one thing that still remains outside of my comprehension is how people can be so fanatic about any religion. Fanatic enough to hate, to destroy, to kill. Please don’t deny it. Track the two youngest religions, Christianity and Islam, and look at the trail of destruction and mayhem that has followed in the wake of their trajectory to current prominence. Look at the oldest religion, Hinduism, and the misogyny and chauvinism that it has etched into the culture of India. I find sadly, that the persons who are most vocal and fervent are the ones who know the least. The fanatics and many of the charlatans can usually only quote the parts of the texts that further their agenda. Once you hit them with a contextual question or argument their usual response is to deny or divert.

And so, I have grave concern for young and new believers in any religion who are more susceptible to the teachings of the biased. Especially those who are using their foray into religion to pay penance for the ‘sins’ they had previously committed. These persons are at the edge of a cliff and are depending on religion and their religious leader to rescue them. This level of desperation makes them vulnerable to misinterpretation and misunderstanding. They latch on to half truths and never fully come into the spiritual awareness that is necessary for a healthy relationship with the divine. A lot of persons hear me speak and see my posts and read my blog and assume that I am an atheist. That’s far from the case. The challenge they face is that they are still caught up in the collective nature of religion and so cannot fully understand the individual nature of spirituality. I felt this concern last night when I received a message from someone (the persons role in my life has not yet been fully formed or realized) who is coming to religion seemingly from a place of desperate penance. One day, I hope he, and others like him realize some very important things.

Spirituality is intrinsic – religion is not. We’re all born with the capacity to connect with that which exists outside of ourselves. We form relationships with family, we make friends, we interact with the world at large in one way or the other. But we are somehow convinced that we need a third party to help us to connect with the divine. So, we seek the counsel of others instead of directly seeking that which is already in us. I knew nothing of divinity until I asked it to reveal itself to me. My understanding to that point was built on someone else’s interpretation and presentation. A person whose reality, capacity and experiences were different from mine was telling me what I should believe and understand. A person whose needs, expectations and limitations were different from mine was telling me how to connect with and comprehend what was essential. That didn’t make sense to me. It may very well work for some persons (though I really hope not), but in order for me to come into the fullness of my self, I had to understand for my self. From that understanding, I was able to seek and form a relationship that made me a better person. It made a huge difference.

Spirituality is individual – religion is not. You are you. I am me. There are 7 plus billion people in the world. No two of us is the same. Not siblings, not even twins. From birth, our environments differed, our exposure differed, our socialization differed. We develop our personality based on what is seen, heard, felt, understood by us as individuals. We are, every last one of us, unique. How therefore can we experience the divine in the same way? How then can my relationship with what is, mirror someone else’s? Spend enough time in church though and you will be told, what you should do, think, feel, eat, wear, yadda yadda yadda ad nauseum. Everyone is expected to think the same way, act the same way, live the same way. But if you step outside the box though it expands. My connection with the universe is necessary for the reconcilement and absolution of what I have experienced and done. So, I approach it differently, I need different things from others. As I became more self-aware I realized more clearly what I needed from my connection to the divine and I sought only that. That is what was necessary to stabilize me, increase my capacity to love and enrich my life.

Spirituality is infinite – religion is not. There are five main religions. In order of age they are Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Christianity is neither the first nor the last. But it is certainly the loudest. Through the ages, there have been a number of other offshoots of these main religions along with various sects and cults. All of them hold to a specific set of beliefs communicated by specific teachings by specifically labelled religious leaders. I have found that in spirituality, everything and everyone is a teacher. I learn lessons from every interaction and experience and I evolve and grow from them all. There’s no end game here. I’m not waiting for a specific instance (Armageddon, the rapture, whatever). I’m here until I’m not; everyday is different and every day I strive to become a better version of myself.

Spirituality is responsible – religion is not. Most religions purport that everything that happens is the will of God (or their respective deity) – good, bad and indifferent. I beg to differ. That assumption gets shot down in the first book of the Bible for me. If the argument holds, then God intended for Adam and Eve to commit original sin, get thrown out of Eden and for all of us to live and die in this endless cycle of sin heading for ultimate destruction. If that makes sense to you I beg you to mount your argument with supporting proof and texts in the comments. What I however, observed was creation with the intent that it remain paradise and utopian. Just as with original sin, destruction, the end of the world, that final outcome is not inevitable. It is a consequence of our actions. We can exist harmoniously and in perpetuity if we do what is right and good. Free will was awarded and expectations were set. Instructions were given. A choice was made. An action was executed. Consequences were meted out. That’s the cycle. And at the core of it is choice. Our actions have consequences. Some of them are immediate. Some of them take time, maybe even generations to manifest. What happens to me throughout the course of my life is based on my choices and the choices of those with whom I share this plane of existence. Until we acknowledge this, we will keep perpetuating a cycle that causes the destruction of a place that was meant to be paradise. Until we start doing what is good and right we will keep reaping negative consequences. Storms are normal. Super storms are caused by pollution and its effects on the environment. Sickness is normal. Super germs are caused by irresponsible people who do not practice healthy hygiene and lifestyles and by lack of access faced by too many people around the world. Death is normal. But people murder, don’t take care of their health, get killed by others who make choices that result in their demise. For me, spirituality has built my self-awareness and with that has come an elevated sense of other awareness. I am conscious of the consequences of my actions for myself and for others. I am conscious of the impression I leave in the wake of my interactions. I am conscious of what I am capable of and what I need to do in order to be good and make this world a better place. I try, I really do, to tread gently and lovingly through this life. My actions can cause trauma and stress or they can support and uplift and improve. I choose the latter.

I’ve heard every single Bible story interpreted and taught from the perspective of more than a half dozen religious leaders. I’ve heard the same story told twice with different interpretations, different lessons. Some of them contradict each other. I observe the different religions and denominations each insisting that theirs is the true path to salvation. Each with a different interpretation of their text. Each with a different description of the divine. Each insisting that it is right and the other is wrong. Each condemning the other to death and hell. Each making allowances and adjustments in some regards while doubling down and refusing to budge in others. Each using and misusing their respective texts by adding and removing bits and pieces that serve their own beliefs and agenda.

I grew tired of it. Too much confusion. Too much clamour. Too much disagreement and division where there should be unity. And so I stopped. I stepped back. And I sought the divine on my own. I asked that its intent and expectation be revealed to me. I asked for wisdom, knowledge and understanding. And I found spirituality. I found an individual relationship that removes judgement, discrimination and divisiveness from my life. I learned to live and let live. To do my best to walk the path that is set for me and to walk it gently and with respect and love for my fellow travellers. I learned the importance of speaking with love, even in anger. I learned that not one of us possesses the ability to comprehend fully the scope and magnitude of what created us. There is so much going on in the world, in the universe. More than we can even begin to understand. There is more knowledge and information than our brains can process and store. None of us will ever know everything. What we can know however, is our self. Seek that which is within us, know it, love it, honour it. And in doing so attain at least a deeper understanding and respect for others – all others.


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