The current understanding of the word religion has a profound impact on most people, one I have found can be polarising.
There are different versions, each with its own doctrine, understandings, often a place to congregate, a community, a leader. There is a set of ideals and beliefs within which there is a modicum of freedom, but sometimes those ideals and beliefs have strict borders. Examples might include:
- Attitudes to women
- Access to God
- Entrance to heaven or hell
- Attitudes towards same sex relationships
- Rules and regulations about who can marry and who cannot.
I started wondering what my relationship with religion is and realised it is not attached to any church, ideology or doctrine. In fact, I was unsettled by my lived experience of those forms of religion. Yet I still have a very deep and heart-felt relationship with God so was I religious and did I have a religion? To answer this question I had to break the word religion down further.
What were the elements of learnt religion I enjoyed?
- The community
- The service to humanity
- The getting together in celebration of a source of love that holds us, supports us and gives us a deeper purpose to life.
What were the elements of learnt religion I did not enjoy?
- The judgement
- The lack of consistency in the message and the hypocrisy I saw in the translation of that inconsistent message
- The prejudice towards other creeds, races, sexes
- The narrow access – there was someone with greater access to God, or God had a specific house where he resided more than others.
In fact I don’t so much ‘not enjoy’ those elements, the majority of them irritated and angered me to the point of having a polarising reaction away from any of the religions I had discovered or studied!
So how did I still feel a connection to God that I could not explain?
I took responsibility for what I was reacting to and decided from a very young age that I would learn to walk the talk when it came to what I felt God wanted from me. I chose not to keep my expression of love for any single day of the week, single venue or specific group of people, I worked hard at recognising where I held judgement, prejudice and a ‘say one thing and do another’ attitude. What I found was less than perfect on all counts, but I worked at it and stopped trying to achieve perfection.
I found God in nature, in animals, in children, in me. I found wisdom way beyond anything that had been taught in the current education system in all of these spaces. God’s love did not subscribe to a border or a set of rules or certificate of education. The rules I thought I had needed to be allowed access to heaven became obsolete once it was clear that if I stayed connected to myself there was no need for rules, instead I felt connected to a bigger picture and I worked for a connected community outcome. I worked to ensure I was responsible for my choices both physically, emotionally and energetically.
I know that the way the world is today, with human atrocities way beyond anything we thought possible, indulgence in food and comfort and such a focus on self that humanity desperately needs to believe in a higher power, a deeper meaning to give our lives purpose. I propose what we need is a re-boot on the meaning of love and responsibility so we ensure that what we once might have known to be true religion through relationships to all, does not get lost to an imposed picture. Do we wait for a crisis in our lives or do we proactively investigate how to bring those changes into our lives before the crisis?
I have realised that neither God nor Religion are going to save us. I have learnt that we have the power to save ourselves though, by taking responsibility for the way we are in our every moment and by being the change we want to see in the world. We need to speak honestly about what is not working, raise the bar on what we call love and make EVERYTHING about building love in our lives.
If we do that we will have connected communities, we will engage, take care of each other, take responsibility for our choices and call a stop to practices that foster the greed, separation and hate. We have allowed this in the name of far too many varied organised religions because we have looked the other way as the control crept in incrementally.
God is Love. Anything that chooses not to see us all as equal sons of God cannot be about love. Now we have to redress that balance and build a living religion that is lived in our every moment, not a word to be afraid of or avoid using but one that is alive and well as our living way.