By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 9/18/2018
Posted: 11/10/2008
Topics/Keywords: #Metaphysics #Spirituality Page Views: 2942
Sometimes an unfamiliar point of view can provide a refreshing change from the tired old doctrines of childhood religions.

It's another beautiful day here in the Greater Phoenix "Valley". The air is cool and dry; the sun is shining, the smell of freshly cut grass fills the air. It's the kind of day that would spell "spring" most anywhere else in the country; but here in Central Arizona it's not only fall, but late fall. In the central portion of the country they are having sleet, snow, blizzard, and severe thunderstorms.

Glad I'm not there!

As I stood outside on my way to lunch today, though, the thought crossed my mind that the gentle weather and fresh smells I was enjoying were particularly human pleasures. Not just compared to other animals, of course, though surely it would be much too hot here for penguins and far too dry for sea lions. But I was thinking in spiritual terms. We Americans tend to think of angels as floating out there, somewhere, happily plucking at their harps in honor of the Deity while occasionally taking a moment to adjust their halos.

No wonder studies show the majority of "religious" Americans fear death! (At least, the kind of "religious" people who spend more time watching cable TV than in meditation.)

It doesn't take much study, though, to explain why so many people turn to religion, even if it isn't to alleviate fear of one's own mortality. The majority of people were simply born into their parents' religion and have never questioned it. The remainder of people who claim a religion as their own, did so because of an empty feeling within that they hoped religion would fill.

And yet, far too often, they will admit—it did not.

Some bounce from religion to religion, hoping to find one that will do the trick. They seldom do, because the fact is, religions offer dogma instead of spirituality, and dogma is a poor substitute. Indeed, a glance back at the days of the Crusades, Galileo, and the Inquisition shows us that the only way to achieve nearly universal membership in a single religion is to make thinking for oneself, in fact, illegal and punishable by death.

I'd be the last person to suggest that the majority of humans now want to think for themselves. But enough do that there is a bull market in selling paths to non-standard spirituality to the religion-weary. The basics of the New Age Movement, in which dogma was to be replaced by following one's own heart-path to God, was quickly sullied by replacement dogmas, ranging from the Christian-friendly A Course In Miracles to the less Christian-friendly Celestine Prophecy to the Christian-unfriendly Wicca. I'm not saying these paths do not contain Truth; I merely observe that many of their adherents insist that theirs is the only Truth; and that smells like dogma to me.

Many of these new age movements derive much of their information from Far Eastern spiritual practices and traditions, especially from China, India and Japan. For many, the unfamiliar point of view provides a refreshing change from the tired old doctrines of childhood religions. But dogma is still dogma; and virtually all these belief systems are based on the idea that God is out there, somewhere; that we became disconnected from God in some basic way, and that only "righteous behavior" (defined by the specific religion) can restore the connection we crave. For good measure, most of these belief structures add some manner of "everlasting punishment" should the rules not be followed to the letter.

Those four beliefs are lies. But they very cleverly succeed in keeping most people in fear and disconnected from God. They also make the stakes too high to risk pondering Truth for oneself; which very cleverly discourages independent thought.

If religions hadn't had this effect on their own, rulers would have had to invent something that would!

The Four Big Lies of Religion are mostly easy to discount, if you can get someone to apply logic to the problem at all—which, admittedly, can be difficult. For example, God is defined by nearly all religions as being "all-good" (omni-benevolent), that is, as having our best interests at heart. For such an entity to have invented a Hell in which to punish—eternally—all transgressors with no hope of reprieve is preposterous in the extreme. Our supposed "disconnection" with God is generally blamed on "original sin" and the idea that humans are, in some way, inherently flawed. Yet that would mean that God, who is also supposed to be All-Knowing (omniscient) and therefore a "Master Builder", was instead a rather clumsy creator. The idea doesn't make any sense. Neither of these ideas makes any sense, as any children's Sunday School teacher can tell you; every bright eight-year-old immediately sees through these lies and says so. The real purpose of Sunday School is, therefore, not to teach but to indoctrinate. The successful Sunday School graduate cannot think for him or herself; however he or she will be good at parroting memorized platitudes.

And the first, biggest lie of all—that God is outside us, somewhere? It is reinforced with every iteration of "Our Father, Who Art In Heaven…" Where the heck is Heaven? If I can't find it on a map, then "our Father" is as distant and unreachable from me as it is possible to be. How many times have you heard that the Lord's Prayer, which begins with those words, is the "greatest prayer ever written"? If it is, it is only because it has led more people to search for God in the wrong direction than any other.

But, if God is not outside, where is God? —Because I do believe in a God. I just don't believe in one with gender (God is not a "He") or who hangs out on the Sistine Chapel ceiling giving Adam the finger.

It's very simple. God is within.

Within you. Within me. Within the family cat and the refrigerator and, yes, even the TV set. Within Obama and Bush and Osama and Lindsey Lohan. God is the Universe, and every atom, molecule, cell and person is an expression of that Oneness.

If you search your heart (and not your fears) you will find that you inherently know this to be true.

As an Expression of God, you create your own circumstances. Whether you win the lottery or are raped, you are responsible. The proof? Studies show that people who have been robbed once, are likely to be robbed many times. People who have one car accident are likely to have several—which is why their insurance rates go up. Studies also show that a person who wins the lottery once, is likely to win it again despite enormous odds against. What's the common denominator here? People create what they have come to expect will happen.

Billions of people haven't followed traditional religions without getting something out of it. What they get out of it is this: They get to pretend they aren't responsible for their own lives and circumstances.

But when you don't take responsibility for your own life, anything can happen. You are still creating it; but you are doing so without intention.

It isn't easy to create with intention, but it is possible and it's possible to learn how to do it better. That was the point of another New Age contribution, The Secret. But where The Secret concentrated on improving one's material circumstances, one might be better advised to work on improving one's spiritual circumstances.

Because, as expressions of God, we are not humans trying for a spiritual experience. We are spirits having a human experience.

Who needs harps when you can enjoy the scent of freshly-cut grass?