Thursday, 22 October 2009

On Fundamentalism

"We must move from a belief-based religion to a practice-based religion, or little will change. We will merely continue to argue about what we are supposed to believe and who the unbelievers are." - Richar Rohr, The Naked Now
The words ‘religious fundamentalist’ bring to my mind such people as zealots, fanatics, cultists, militant believers,Traditionalists, Jesus freaks, TV evangelists, Bible thumpers, Holy Rollers and more recently apologists. All of these groups seem bent on protecting the purity of their particular faith or belief system – in extreme!. By clinging tenaciously to their religion, avoiding moderation and change, they want to introduce us to their limited religious views. In their world there is no room for middle ground, ecumenism and even in some instances, ‘compassion’. Their faith is understood through sharply defined doctrines and literal interpretations of Holy Scripture. Any deviations from the scripted word immediately becomes ‘suspect’ and may cause questioners to be branded as heretics or infidels. For these fundamentalist groups the religious world can only exist within narrow and confined boundaries. Practise of this immature religion usually consists of a ridged adherence to ritual and other public expressions of their faith. 'Group think' and religious membership is made the prerequisite, and uniformity at the expense of diversity is accepted as the norm. This will only produce a world where religious differences are finally resolved through much conflict, pain and suffering! Coupled with indifference, does this attitude not cause some people to reject religion altogether and (re)turn to the worship of many false gods or atheism?

But does this insanity not shout ‘stop’? Is it not time to admit that not one of us, Rabbi, Pope, or Mullah included, truly possesses a complete understanding of whom our unfathomable and unknowable God is? Noted theologian, author and Catholic priest, Hans Kung, has stated “there cannot be peace in the world until there is peace among the world’s religions”. "Have we yet to understand what it means to become as ONE, as it was/is accepted in the ancient mystical tradition of the world’s three major religions? Why do we think that our religion should be the only one? How did we become so ridged? Why are we so reluctant to move beyond our established faith tradition? Why are we so afraid of change? Who, and what are we not trusting in?

Can we perhaps begin by accepting that Holy Scripture at one time existed only as oral tradition? Stories that were shared around a fire, intended to highlight the origins of life the cosmos and our role in it. Just because they were oral does not mean that they were not inspired or conveyed a sacred message. It seems however that the Bible as a written word, in the hands of some fundamentalist, has largely become a legal document. A document to be used to spread condemnation instead of inspiration. The ancient Jewish leaders, while contemplating the conversion of oral tradition to writing, warned precisely against this. At the same time the accumulation of various commentaries on scripture has more often than not, lead to even greater divisions among the world’s religions. The world’s major religions all agree that there can only be one God but then why are there are so many different understandings of whom he/she/it is for all of us? And why are we so reluctant to share that same Deity? Has religion become too institutional? Why are most religions insistent on a common creed or belief system?

It is only through experience and constant awareness that we begin to understand and love – not through a belief system. It is only through experience and awareness that we begin to recognize the God that rests quietly within our hearts- not a belief system. It is only through life’s experiences and awareness that we begin to trust in the God that protects and comforts us – not a belief system. It is only through experience and awareness that we gain insight into our true purpose – not a belief system. It is only through experience and awareness of God that we can love him, our neighbour and ourselves. It is only through our unique experiences and awareness that we can begin to realize that we are not separate from one another or from God but that we are truly all ONE! I think it would be far more usefull, when speaking of God, that we begin our statement with "my experience of God is . . . ." rather than " I believe that . . "

We are unique individuals with unique experiences all seeking a common goal – to love and be loved unconditionally.

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