My Religious Awakening
This article is a response to a rather delightful discussion resulting from this article: https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Christians-Dont-Understand-Other-Religions-Exist
For complete understanding of this article, I highly recommend reading both the original post, and the comments afterward.
Oh Religion, the passions, the misunderstandings, the lies, the truths…
To “You”, may I just start by saying that I have a great deal of compassion for you. I have been where you are. I have been the one filled with so much faith that, in my love for all mankind, my desire to help them all to salvation in God’s presence was profound and joyous and full of love and peace and generosity to all. The more I loved a person, the more I wanted to see them saved. I wanted to see the world saved, of course, but my friends were special to me, and I wanted to see them through all eternity. The drive to share my faith and testimony was, at times, overwhelming. I saw good in everybody, and wanted to make friends with everyone who wanted to make friends with me, no matter what their religion. I am a very loving person. Very loving, very accepting, and very sincere. I always have been, and I am sure that genuine peace and love will always be at the core of who I am. So please understand that as much as one person can understand where another is coming from, I do understand where you are coming from.
That being said. Let me just say that I had an awakening. I learned the true meaning of God’s Love. I learned what true acceptance is. I learned, as well, how blind and judgmental I had been towards those who I considered my closest friends.
"They were not of my faith..."
They were not of my faith. I held them in great regard and respect, and yet I had always seen them as needing my help to reach salvation. When they were sad, I offered words of religious wisdom and comfort. When they were troubled, I did what I could to help them with their physical needs, but I also plied them with literature, scripture, and invitations to church so that they could have their spiritual needs met as well.
I was, in every way, a great example of what a “True Christian” is. I have no doubt of this, as I had a great many friends who told me that I was the friendliest Christian they had ever met. I was accepted and appreciated by people who had very little tolerance for most Christians, so I knew that I was treating others the way I believed Christ and God would want me to. I too, had a very personal definition of what a “True Christian” was, and most people failed to meet my standard.
"...I would quite literally lift them up..."
When I had my awakening, I had a new perspective on all of my memories with all of my friends going back years, and I felt shame. I realized that I had, in a way, looked at all of them as in need of my mercy, my understanding, my patience. I had thought of all of them as needing a friend who was a true example of what a truly good, moral, ethical person was, and that through my example I could help draw them to the light, and in time, save all of their poor lost souls. I had thought that, as a true believer, it was my duty, my responsibility, to be the best of people, so that I could save all within my reach.
I had not realized that within that belief was an inherent arrogance. It is impossible to not have superiority intrinsically woven in with the belief of a calling to lift others to a higher plane of spirituality. The very nature of such a belief requires the belief that, on a spiritual level, I was in a better place than my dear friends, and that by saving them, I would quite literally lift them up to a spiritual equality.
"I truly believed that I was not judging them."
Being a person who truly loved all of my friends, it was very painful to realize that I had been so unjust to them. I knew, I KNEW, from being a genuinely good Christian, that it was not my place to judge. (“Matt.7.  Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.  And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”) I knew it, and I truly believed that I was not judging them. I truly believed that I was accepting them for who they were without judgement. It was not until I had my awakening that I realized that if I had truly accepted them, I would have never seen any reason to try and change them.
It was arrogance, pure and simple, to think that I could possibly know what was best for somebody else. I did not know what their life looked like from their perspective. I did not have their life experiences. I did not have their parents, their friends, their opinions, their priorities, their cares, dislikes, woes, or personal joys. I was dreadfully underqualified to ever come close to knowing what was best for any of them.
"Religion is a very personal experience..."
It did not matter that I truly believed that I had the best religion of them all.
Religion is a very personal experience, how it is viewed, how it is understood. How it connects at the heart is very unique to each and every person. It was not my place to try and dictate to anybody else how to have that unique connection to spirit, or how to define it.
It was always my belief that all religions were actually the same. The same god, the same core truths and wisdoms. The differences being the way the different cultures named and interpreted those core truths. With that belief, it was hypocritical of me to also believe that their way of naming god, their mental image of god, their beliefs, were wrong. If they were all the same origin, the one true god, how could it be wrong that they had a different name for that god. They were from a different culture, right? Isn’t it only natural that they should have a name from that culture for the same god? Isn’t it true that god is known by many names? Why quibble about what name my friends used? Why was it necessary that they change the verbiage of their beliefs to match mine?
"The answer is simple."
The answer is simple. While my religious teachers shared the simple wisdom of “love all, as ye would love me” they also taught me that as a true believer in one true religion, one true god, one true faith, that god would only accept to the highest echelons of his kingdom the true believers, it was paramount to share the “truth” with all of gods children, so that “all might have the opportunity to be with him again.” Intrinsically indicating that any verbiage other then that of “the one true church” was to not be included in gods chosen. It was arrogance and superiority at its standard level of zealousness.
Looking back on it now, it was also prideful, shameful, and fundamentally judgmental. They are a part of the same coin. In fact, they are the same side of the same coin. While it is possible to have pride and judgement without religious zeal, it is not possible to have religious zeal without pride and judgement.
Let me be absolutely clear, religiosity, in any form, that has the effect of seeing people differently based on whether or not they meet the religious standard that one holds oneself to is by very nature zealous.
"God is LOVE..."
I mentioned that I learned what the true nature of god’s love was. Let me try to share a glimpse of that understanding now. (At the end are several bible verses that might help.) God is love, it is in the bible, as it is in many other religious works. The true nature or god is Love. Love is unassuming, fully accepting, fearless, pure positivity, harmonious, forgiving, benevolent, affectionate, kind, and all things good. To truly be a person of love, in the way that I had always understood God to be love, is to truly accept that all people are equal with me. They do not need me to lift them up to a higher spiritual awareness. They do not need me to save them. They do not need me to change anything about them. If they ask for advice, I can offer what nuggets of wisdom I may have that might help, but it is not my place to decide anything for them. It is not my place to pass judgment on their choices. It is not my place to preach, or attempt to influence them in any way. Because: God is LOVE, and LOVE has no requirement.
Definition: Compassion-sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others
Now, back to how I started this rant of mine.
I have a great deal of compassion for you. I know the truth of the religious zeal you feel, and I pity you for the blinders that you choose to wear. I pity you for the high-handed superiority that you do not realize you use with everyone around you. I pity you for the friends that could enrich your life that you don’t have because you don’t realize that you aren’t accepting them for who they are, in all their glory, without requirement. I pity you for believing in an invisible bearded man in the sky that doesn’t really exist. I pity you for the emotional self-flagellation that is encoded into the strictures of your beliefs. I pity you for the pain you cause yourself, and your determination to hold to it the way a child holds to a beloved treat, even after it has become gross with dirt and grime. I pity you for not realizing just how much you are hurting yourself.
"You are you."
Then again, since I truly do believe that all are equal with me, weaknesses, strengths, rights and wrongs, pains, joys, sufferings, and potential, and I truly have love and acceptance for everyone, regardless of what I think I would do differently if I were in their shoes, I guess I truly don’t have compassion for you. As I accept my friends and family for who they are, without requirement, and it is not my place to decide what is best for anyone else, I suppose that it is impossible for me to have compassion. I cannot pity you, for you are your own person, with your own beliefs, and your own life, from beginning to end. Your life, your choice. I can not pity that. You have a right to your choice. You have a right to be respected for making a great many choices all the time, and doing so to the best of your ability with the end goal of peace and happiness within yourself. That is worthy of admiration. There is no room for pity there. I am not you, so how I would make different choices than you is not in the slightest bit important. You are you. If you are doing the best you can with your life, and I truly believe you are, there is no room for pity, only joy, peace and love. There is no requirement for you to see, do, or be as I would be.
I know that I have much to learn
When I am my best self, I do not pity. Not even those that seem like they are in the depths of desperation. All situations are chances to learn, chances to become a better version of ourselves. It is through that learning that we develop inner strength and clarity, and become more capable of everything we need to be to face future hardships. They also give us more opportunities to understand others, and to have more love and acceptance for those around us.
I am not always my best self, which is why I was able to write anything at all that started with “I pity.”
I rarely offer compassion, and not when I am at my best. When I am at my best, I offer love and acceptance. I used to think they were the same thing, and didn’t understand why people would be upset when I used the word “compassion.” I have learned much, and know that I have much, much, MUCH, more to learn.
I hope that, as I close this soapbox of mine, you find something in my story that inspires a better understanding in yourself of your own truths. If not, that is okay, I had fun sharing my rant. Go with peace. Go with love and acceptance. Go, and be sure that you love and accept yourself, the good and the great and the not so good, or not so great, all. Please.
Bible Quotes Regarding Love
1 John 4:8 King James Version (KJV)
8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 New International Version (NIV) 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self- seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 John 4:18 ESV
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Mark 12:31 ESV
The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Colossians 3:14 ESV
And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
John 13:34 ESV
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.