Sunday, 30 October 2011

A World without Religion

The pages of history are filled with violence orchestrated by various religious groups seeking to impose their beliefs on others. Violence remains with us today on a world wide scale as religious organizers continue to make claims that their religion represents the absolute truth over all others. The recent gathering in Assisi hosted by Pope Benedict XVI   included some 300 representatives of world religions as well as a small group of agnostics gives rise to the hope that maybe someday we will find common ground albeit probably without the support of organized religions.

The idea that such meetings could prove to be cathartic was vividly illustrated when Benedict used this occasion to finally apologize for events such as the Crusades or the use of force to spread the faith in the New World. Pope John Paul apologized in 2000 for Christianity’s historical failures. In recent years an increasing number of awakened and informed people have rightfully become suspicious and alarmed about the real aims of some institutional religions. 

While in Assisi   Benedict suggested that these suspicions may have caused people to doubt in God’s existence.  But this argument, if it was intended to support the institutional hierarchy,   may be rather ill founded. It is far more likely that more people today believe in a loving God but do not see the need for a heavily politicised and dogmatic religion that does not serve their particular needs or sympathies. This rejection or disappointment is clearly reflected in the number of Catholics who have left their beloved church in droves in the last two decades.  Sadly the Church hierarchy continues to  avoid meaningful dialogue with the people they serve.      

Competing religions are still found to be among the chief causes for  much pain and suffering in this world. Surely God never intended that we should be separate from and hate one another?  Surely not one religion can   claim that they have exhausted all that there is to know about God.  The greatest heresy that can be committed by anyone one or any group is to lay claim that their religion alone possess the ultimate truth.  Is not the ultimate truth about our common Creator far beyond all human knowledge and understanding? And, just what makes us think that the Creator’s work is completed or finished? Faith exists in the unknowing, in our questions, in our trust of something beyond our reach, and most certainly in something other than readymade answers.

Acts of violence in all its forms carried out in the name of God can never be justified.  God does not make demands, punish, or reward or ask us to act as his soldiers or martyrs.  Our common deity does not need our help to accomplish his work.  We merely need to treat each other as we would like to be treated ourselves. God simply loves us unconditionally regardless of our beliefs. We need to embrace a new way of understanding one another.  We must free ourselves from rigid beliefs and rid ourselves from some of the trappings which institutional religion has brought us.

We now share the planet with more than 7 billion inhabitants all with unique and separate qualities or abilities.  More significantly our technological advances continue to bring us closer and closer together resulting in the inevitable clash of differing cultures. While we may celebrate our individual cultural differences they must never be used as means of establishing a cult of superiority.  Such displays and attitudes will only hasten conflict and hatred. Exterior religious signs and symbols cannot  serve as a substitute for the much more needed interior expression of the heart.                 

 In the meantime world peace will remain elusive perhaps until the divisions and separation between the world’s religions are finally resolved. In God’s realm there are no institutional religions, or separate levels of equality. Man or woman, In the eyes of God we are all equal and holy creations. This Creator desires to save all, not some, not just Catholics, but all!
If the world's religions cannot bring us the peace we all deserve and desire we may have to look for it in our hearts instead and live in a world without religion.

Readers are invited to view a similar theme in my blog posted on Dec. 12/09 which may be found here


This brief essay was never intended to suggest that we should abandon organized religion.  Nor is it a call to close the doors of all the world's religious institutions.

What I am suggesting is that all competing religious groups finally recognize that God resides in every human being in a diverse and unique way - far beyond our understanding at this time!

 The challenge for religious institutions is to help human beings awaken to the holy and precious creations who we are.  This will no doubt require a very large dose of God's gift of humility.      A humility that acknowledges that we don't have all the answers.  A humility that thrives on not knowing! A humility that accepts and encourages diversity.  A humility that does not insist on making  artificial demands or impose certain pre-conditions. A humility that replaces dogma and doctrine with mystery!


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