Look up religion in any reference book and you are likely to find most definitions begin with words similar to "a system of thought, feeling and action shared by a group who also share a common object of devotion". Generally, members worship a higher being they consider the one true God, or at least the most awesome and powerful of the Gods if there are more than one.
Many, perhaps most, people belong to such a group. As for me, well I grew up in a family that included various Christian sects, both Protestant and Roman Catholic. I was baptized into the Catholic faith at the age of seven years. While no longer affiliated with that church I look back on the experience fondly. At least for the most part.
These days I guess I'm an agnostic. And I find being so quite comfortable. Unlike religions, there is really only two basic kinds of agnostics. There are those who think it's impossible to know whether or not God exists. And then there are others who dismiss the idea of God as a single person or entity, preferring instead the notion of a creative force that is the source of all existence.
I am the latter kind of agnostic. The kind who doubts that a particular question has a single correct answer or that a complete or total understanding of anything can be attained by us so long as we base our understanding on pure reason.
If you ever want to have a bewildering experience, undertake a serious study of the history of religion. It's been with us in one form or another pretty much as long as there has been an "us". In fact, some modern religions believe they go back to the time when their particular God created the universe and us along with it.
I have always felt that if we could just discover the language God spoke before we were created, we could then determine which religion really has existed since the beginning. Look at it this way. God created the first person and then spoke to him or her. So the very first prayers and church services would have also been in that same language too, right? Maybe the search for the one true religion founded by the one true God and creator of the universe ought to start with a study of language?
Am I serious? Of course not. After all, by definition, religions are something we humans created. So there can't be any one true religion. In which case all of them are equally good or bad, depending on your point of view.
A study of the origins of the various religions is a very entertaining experience. But it should only be undertaken by a seriously interested person. It is a daunting study indeed. My purpose at the moment is not to delve into religion's past, nor the so-called credentials of the so-called great religions of today. I have another mission which I will undertake now.
I refer to the religions of this modern world, the ones congregated by groups of people, as organized religions. There seems to be so many of them. Yet there are really only two basic types of organized religions: revealed and non-revealed.
In revealed religions a great deal of faith is required. Revealed religions also tend to be more complicated and structured. As the name implies, in form of religion "God" reveals a body of knowledge, along with a set of rules, to one or more individual persons who then pass along this information to others. In the happiest times one can chose to believe or not. In the worst times, persons are given no choice and must accept the dogma as presented, without question.
Examples of revealed religions include Judaism (where God revealed the Commandments to Moses), Christianity (where Christ, the Son of God, revealed the Word of the Father), and Islam (where the angel Gabriel revealed God's will to Muhammad). More recently we have the Mormon faith based on the teachings revealed to Joseph Smith.
Non-revealed organized religions are more natural, if you will, because they are the result of human inquiry alone instead of depending on revelations received direct from God or through a divine messenger of God. Non-revealed religions, while more philosophical in nature, still are based on the core aphorisms of an enlightened teacher. Examples include Buddhism, Brahmanism and Taoism.
Which at last brings me to my point. It is said that no two people ever seen the same flower, sunset or rainbow. Each of us perceives things or fails to perceive things in our own special and unique way. This as been proven time and time again.
If you put five people in a room and have them witness a staged event, you will get five different renditions of what happened, ever though they all saw the same thing. Put twenty people in a circle and whisper a secret in the ear of the person to your right. Ask him or her to pass it on. By the time the "secret" comes back to you, it will be an altered version than may have little to do with your original words.
This being the case, how can we ever perceive the concept of a deity in the same exact way? Each of us must find our own understanding of the meaning of life. If that understanding includes the existence of a Supreme Being that is wonderful. If not that is wonderful too.
Organized religions tend to come with a one-size-fits-all picture of God and a prescription for salvation that leaves little if any wiggle room. In some ways, organized religions are like the military: It's the Army way or the highway.
These organized religions are perfect for some of us. Perhaps most of us. And there certainly is a great deal of truth at the core of most major religions. What I find lacking are many of the people who practice these same faiths. Especially a few of the so-called spiritual leaders. I am bothered by the free license taken with the core teachings of Christianity for example and the manner in which individual interpretations are used to justify a wide range of negative, decidedly un-Christian behavior.
Having found organized religions lacking, I long ago decided to found my own religion. It is the one true church, for me at least. Our doctrines grow and evolve with the maturity and ever deepening wisdom of the clergy and the congregation.
The major tenant of my church is to love everyone but never underestimate them; never ignore the likelihood and consequences of not being loved in return. Look what happened to The Son of God. Before him, there were only four of us on Earth according to The Holy Bible when the first murder was committed.
The only other tenant is to give what you have in order that you may receive. Coveting material things is silly when you think about. All things material remain behind once we pass on. The bigger the pile we leave the more trouble we end up causing.
The only commandment of my church is the one Ben Franklin called the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It works for just about everything.
The great work and mission members of my church are charged with is to devote ones lift to work and worship. The only work of value is that of serving others; the only worship worthwhile is that which brings one closer to greater light, greater compassion and understanding and greater love.
Written scriptures? Why do I have need of those. All books are mine to read; every single one has lessons to teach. Since none of them were actually written by the hand of "God", but rather came from the minds of men and women, all books are what they are; inspiration is always divine whether one is writing a cookbook or a prayer.
Preachers? Nope. The same God or Universal Force that created me also gave me a mind and an intellect. These are the only tools I need to interpret the natural laws of the universe and make my own way toward salvation. No one else can do this for me. The language of God is love and the lessons of live come to us through our eyes, our hands and our hearts. Neither books nor words are needed for us to commune with the divine and fulfill the great work and mission of our lives.
Churches or houses of worship? Don't need those either. My church is my life. I go where it takes me. I have no resources to waste on monuments or structures when the whole wide wonderful world is the best place of all to worship.
What, how does one join my church? For goodness sake, you can't join my religion. No one can. If you need to join something, my church wouldn't be right for you anyhow. If you are content and at peace with yourself and your God, yet dissatisfied with organized religions, start your own church just like I did.
But as far as adding new converts goes, well take my advise and don't. When it comes to politics and religion, two or more gathering together means there's bound to be trouble. Remember Cain and Able. That's the reason I founded my own church and why I decided to call it A Religion Of One.
You're welcome to use the name, but as far as the rest of it goes, well that's between you and "your Maker" as my grandfather used to say. May he rest in peace.
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