Religion Versus Human Values.
First, I want to ask you a question. Would it be better to be kind and practice general ethics and humanity or subscribe to a religion? I know most of you will answer; that is not a choice. You can be both. Then why is it that many religious folks practice ethics and humanity selectively and seldom. Many only have those traits toward another member of their religion, not toward everybody alike. I happen to think it is more important to think of my fellow human beings and treat them respectfully, try to be the best human I can, then to think selfishly and worry whether or not I'm getting into heaven. if I had to choose, I'd sacrifice for my fellow human beings.
A few times I've had conversations with religious folk and most wonder why I don't go to church and if I don't go to church then I must not believe in God? Or...What exactly is my religion? I believe in God, but I believe the foundation of my beliefs is built on basic human values. For all of you who want to know WWJD (what would Jesus do)? He would treat others with respect, regardless of their religion, social status, or any other classification- they are all human.
Jesus Christ walked and talked with all walks of life, various types of people. He treated life as a journey and even though he was not treated fairly, he kept his faith in humankind...us. Well, he died for all of us. He acted in kindness...just as a Buddhist would do or perhaps a Hindu. He did not try to cut someone off in traffic or flip them the bird just because they cut him off. Jesus believed in kindness and human values and spreading that through his acitons.
So what do I believe? As I've proclaimed many times, I have a rich spirituality and practice human vlaues. But I did not learn either at church. Some people think they have to take their kids to church to teach values. If they aren't seeing it in the home, you can take them to a church where Jesus himself has a speaking engagement, and they won't learn values. Your kids watch what you do everyday, not just on Sundays. In fact, I first learned about drugs and betrayal from church: The pastor's two kids were smoking dope outside the church every Sunday and when my mom got a divorce the church members turned their back on her.
I've always referred to Buddhist principles when I think about values. The Ten Commandments are almost impossible to adhere by..some are not even natural for human beings. There are ways and reasons around all of them. 'Thou shall not kill' (unless you are protecting yourself, etc.) 'Thou shall not steal' (unless you are trying to feed your hungry children, etc). I do not proclaim any one religion so this further complicates the minds of many.
Church versus human values
Church is a place and human values are a practice. Some people get the warm fuzzy feeling if they go to church and others feel better if they practice human values...yes, some do both and congratulations to them. My church is the world. My practice are the people (I admit I'm still practicing this one). I have never grown spiritually inside a church or within the confines of a certain religion. For many years I tried to make it work for me. To me, church is an organization. It basically organizes the way one believes and what information they receive depending on their particular faith.
You can go to 50 different Christian (for example) churches and all have their own belief system. Yes, based on the Bible, based on Christianity, but some churches concentrate on certain aspects more than others or have various interpretations, and a bit of group-think. Just like various companies, even within the same type of business, can have different company cultures.
Human values are human values- nothing more can be interpreted, added, or taken away- it is what it is. I've been to churches where the members will dispute various versus and their meanings, but who can argue human values? You can't argue the Ten Commandments.
Right or wrong?
Religion advertises a sense of community, but I think it separates us into 'this way is right' and 'this way is wrong'. As long as religions are different, somebody or something is right or wrong. This is counterproductive to having a core ethics system between all humans alike. A particular church may build a community within it's doors, but the rest of the world only suffers from this so-called unity- it excludes the "others" or one group is trying to get the other group to think and believe as they do..
My naive and young Christian mind (when i was kid) thought that Atheists were mean people, like serial killers. This isn't so. While I am not an Atheist, I believe anybody is capable and should desire practicing human values. Wouldn't it be beneficial to have a unity among religions, among non-religious, among everybody across cultures?
Religion and Coffee
There is a plan for this. Recently I picked up a book that explained what i've felt but didn't quite know how to express. The Dalai Lama, in his new book, "Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World" gives an analogy of religion versus human values (or ethics) and it goes like this...
The people of Tibet love their tea so he uses tea for his example, but imagine we are talking about your favorite beverage- if you live near Seattle, WA like I do. My version of this story would easily be translated into coffee, cappuccino, Americano, espresso, frappuccino, or the multitudes of names for coffee drinks we have here in the northwest. We don't need coffee, but we like it- OK some people would argue they need coffee, but go with me here. In reality. we do need water and however you make the coffee, and whatever cream, sugar, or flavor you add to it, the primary ingredient is water.
Religion is like the coffee (or tea). We don't need it, but what we do need is human values (the water), compassion, mutual respect, and the basics principles of ethics. Religion is made up of part human values, but there is more to it, and as I would say, more to it than what is really needed.
I can't quote anything to you from the Buddhist Principles that is going to damn you or send you to hell. Here is where i go astray from religious folks. People quote the Bible to me about how I am wrong, how they can prove me wrong, or how I am going to hell. They way I see it is the Bible is words and translations of God- those are His and not meant to demean or be used against others. I have several other religious hubs, and if I had a coffee drink for every time someone quoted from the Bible to make me look bad or prove me wrong, I'd be on a caffeine buzz that would propel me from here to Tibet.
Some values worth practicing
- Virtue, Morality
- Effort, diligence
- Loving-kindness, Compassion
How do we get to a better world?
- I believe these actions, values, and ethics are contagious. Start practicing them today.
- Acceptance that you don't need religion to lead a happy and ethical life.
- realization that ethics are more accessible than religions.
- We are born without religion, but not born without the need for compassion.
- prayer is beneficial but the results are not always tangible whereas the practice of compassion and ethics can be seen...and felt.
- move beyond a limited sense of closeness to this or that group or identity, and instead cultivate a sense of closeness to the entire human family.
All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness. The important thing is they should be part of our daily lives...Dalai Lama.
My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness...Dalai Lama
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