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How We Use Beliefs To Hide The Truth
Fear Is The Absence Of Love
The world we live in is filled with illusion. We fear people who are different than us. We are uncomfortable with customs unlike our own. We abhor what we do not understand and assume that diversity in others is threatening. This is evident everywhere in racial intolerance, gender intolerance, religious intolerance, political intolerance, etc..
When people are raised to think they are right about their beliefs it fosters a separation between themselves and others who are dissimilar, because if someone is right then someone must be wrong. This gap between them becomes the place where the fires of hatred are fueled and where murder can be justified. Individually, most of the people I know would never consider killing another human being, but when it comes to war they do not hesitate to promote the annihilation of whole nations of people. The strategy of, "Kill them before they can harm us", becomes the call to action. When confronted on the issue of killing as an abomination against God, they will point to the other party, the enemy, and tell you, "They started it." But, we all know that we become what we think about and bringing more violence to any situation only causes it to escalate, the end result being less tolerance and more fear and hate.
I know and am acquainted with many people who call themselves Christians. Several of them are very self-righteous and exclusionary about their traditional Christian beliefs. When the conversation moves to other races, nations or religions their prejudice rears its ugly head before you can even take a breath. However, anyone who is familiar with the teachings of Jesus knows that his whole message was one of peace, love and acceptance. He continually said that we are all one with God. He failed to ever say that God loved one above another. It is not just the Christians that this is true of either. Muslims are taught tolerance and compassion, also, as noted from the quotes and information below, but just as Christians can justify killing because of their fear, anyone else can, too.
On the site About.com - Jihad is spoken of from this verse in the Qur'an--
"The Qur'an says: "And did not Allah check one set of people by means of another,
the earth would indeed be full of mischief; but Allah is full of Bounty to all the worlds"
"Islam never tolerates unprovoked aggression from its own side; Muslims are commanded in the Qur'an not to begin hostilities, embark on any act of aggression, violate the rights of others, or harm the innocent. Even hurting or destroying animals or trees is forbidden. War is waged only to defend the religious community against oppression and persecution, because the Qur'an says that "persecution is worse than slaughter" and "let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression" (Qur'an 2:190-193). Therefore, if non-Muslims are peaceful or indifferent to Islam, there is no justified reason to declare war on them."
I was raised in the Southern Baptist Church and it took me a long time to get past the concern I had that God was angry with me and would surely punish me for, if nothing else, being human. I could never rectify God's omnipotence with his animosity towards me. From the earliest times I felt a sense of despair about this relationship and did all that I could to be a good Christian. I was taught that suffering was the way to show God that we were really making the effort to be acceptable in God's sight. Living in the south eastern U.S. as I did, I saw much suffering and angst among God's people. It occurred to me many, many times that if God wanted us to worship in a certain fashion why give us free will? It always seemed like entrapment to me. I was never going to pass God's tests because I was only human, with desires and temptations at every turn. I occasionally attended Catholic services with friends when I was younger and it always felt artificial and arbitrary to me that a person would have to go through an intermediary to talk with God and obtain God's forgiveness.
By the time I was 22, my anguish around the subject of God was overwhelming to me. I began reading everything I could find on the subjects of religion, spirituality and philosophy and continued to do this passionately for two years. At the end of this period the conclusion I was left with was that God was not at fault in my misperceptions, humans were. The most troubling factor in all of these studies was how quickly and easily people excused the principles of their dogma even in the most minor of daily occurrences. Religions that advocated love, acceptance and kindness as ways to know God, promoted war, selfishness and fear. Most of the people I saw involved in these religious endeavors would not even let someone merge in traffic ahead of them.
Many of the world's nations and religions have individuals set far above the crowd. Kings, Queens, Dictators, Cardinals, Popes, Ayatollahs, Mullahs, etc., are all considered superior to the average man. But, if God made us and everything in this universe then no one is higher than anyone else and no one has more right to God's benevolence or attention than any other. The idea that someone would place themselves above others is a very alien idea to me. If anyone is allowed to lead us, it should be someone we believe will serve at the highest level, and only after we have mandated their leadership.
Most of the world's conflicts have been born from those who placed their own importance above the rest. Millions of people have died in the greedy conquests of the self-appointed. Many live in dire poverty so that these elite can amass fortunes too large to ever be meaningfully used. If there is one thing that continually weighs on my mind, it's the fact that we do not realize we are all in this together. None of us can leave this planet for long, while we live. But everything we do here affects everyone of us. What would be the purpose of having more than you could ever use, if not to help others? We all know money cannot buy happiness, but it can buy groceries, clothing and housing for those in need.
Is it that those in such high priviledge cannot feel the pain? I am unable to imagine what a person of wealth thinks about their life each day, when there are obviously homeless and desperate citizens lining their streets. I cannot imagine looking at another person at all without compassion. Through my long spiritual studies the most useful thing I came away with was that God created us in the image of God. I know that this does not mean that we look like God. We have tried to make God in our own image, but that is our ego and not our divine selves speaking to us. What this has come to mean, for me, is that God made us Creators. This honor carries with it much responsibility. Until now most of us have been unconscious creators. I think, now, we must learn to be conscious in our partnership with God.