After the last installment, my friend responded,
The way you speak about religion/spirituality often seems to boil down to those last four words: "always meet your needs." This is the part that I can't quite get past. My whole faith revolves around God, not around me (or at least this is what I strive for). Of course I believe that God loves me more than any human ever could, and that God wants absolutely the best for me, and that God will take care of me and my needs. So my needs do end up being met by my religion/spirituality. But that's just not my starting point, nor is it my bottom line, nor is it the centre of what I believe. My faith is a response to something outside of myself, and to me it seems sad and small to imagine a spirituality that revolves around an individual human.
To the extent that I agree with your "if your religion" posts, it is always because I agree that what you're saying is also what God wants for us. I do disagree with the starting point/bottom line/core belief I am perceiving in your posts that a person's religion must serve their needs. I am theocentric in my beliefs, not anthropocentric. Our ends are often the same, but our means seem to be different, and I believe that the means do matter.
I can absolutely see the issue with the way I've been explaining things. She a good, kind, generous person, who I am lucky to count as a friend, and as such, is actually about the last person I would be talking to in these matters. She absolutely exemplify what I'm talking about when I say that a person's belief system should help them to be "happy and good". If we had about a billion more like her, the world would instantly and irrevocably be a better place.
Everything works out great if one believes that God's plan for them holds nothing more than kindness, generosity, love and joy. But what about those people who believe that God's plan for them is blowing up a train full of people? Or that they are compelled to stick their infant son full of needles? Or to shun someone because of the color of their skin, or because of who they love? What about the plans of a god who is jealous, vengeful, hateful, murderous and cruel?
When one lets an outside force tell them how to behave or think or live, they are at the mercy of that outside force. They could get lucky and have a completely benevolent model, or not. If instead we were to insist on being conscious of our behavior, active instead of passive. Insist on behavior that does the least harm possible and then model our spirituality to alleviate our fears and sorrows from there, the responsibility would then be in our hands and not at the whim of something/one else.
The concept of truth comes up a lot when talking about religion. Seems that one cannot talk about belief in a religion without linking it back to the truth. But if everyone's got it, how can we ever be certain who has the really real truth?
Set aside the desire for the truth for a moment, and consider the possibility of religion for spirit's sake, for wisdom's sake. Let them worship cross-eyed frogs (thanks Mima), and believe in the endless lily pad for an afterlife. Consider religion for no other purpose than to help someone live as good and happy a life as they can be. Understand that generosity, ethical behavior, participation, consideration, and awareness among other virtues, are all absolutely essential. Now, why does it matter that they don't believe the same as someone else, and are unconcerned with the truth?
When a system is set up to include concepts like true/false and right/wrong conflict is automatically included when dealing with those outside of the system. This to me is a fundamental flaw within most religions, and further proof that religion is politics and not spirituality. The means have become more important than the end, and very often the end that was supposed to be there just vanishes altogether.
With the equation, "Mine is right, yours is wrong," aggression is very often the response, because of the fear of being revealed a fraud or a fool. Any sort of resolution ends with someone losing and someone winning. This is counter productive. If instead it was, "Mine is mine, yours is yours," where's the aggression? There's no fear, but instead a connection to the end, rather than the means.
I hope this clarifies things. :)
Till next time, be well,