The first non-textbook I read when I settled down to academic study, strangely enough, was about Abraham (a nostalgic look at a past-life period?). Reading laterally, I covered the belief systems of some early societies. I read about the nature of religious belief, and about the major religions. I came across a simple and very useful framework for examining religions, which I used some years later when I was on a school board.
When I came to enjoy the bliss of my own family, I recovered my faith in a Creator – logic (yes, logic) took me to this position. Reflecting (perhaps) the experiences of my formative years (and what I was taught) and drawing upon my reading, I realised that all faiths are beneficial and equal; one would have to be brainwashed or an egomaniac to claim that one faith was somehow superior to the others. While I continue to hold this view, I prefer the Hindu metaphysics, because it is more comprehensive in its explanatory scope and yet, at its core, quite simple. It took me many years to reach this position.
All religions offer a devotional component. We all pray, in different ways, but for the same reasons. Some of us are a little bit more selfish at times than others. The forms of prayer vary, but their intent is the same. Is one form better, more effective, or better liked by God? …
All religions guide us in our relationships with fellow humans. This ethical component draws upon a belief in a Creator (and this was not denied by the Buddha) and, as we are all bound to the Creator, we are bonded to one another. In intent, then, the ethical component of all religions of faiths is the same. Those religionists who argue to the contrary may well be placing themselves and their powers over us; I distrust the integrity of such people. This is not to deny the equivalence of the humanist perspective to the core ethics of the spiritually religious.
All religions have an explanatory component too – which offers us, with varying degrees of clarity, a story about man’s relationship with his Creator, his place in the universe, and the way the universe is (and was and will be). It is in this area that wars between men usually commence. It is in this area that men who seek to rule as much of mankind as possible claim the superiority of their faith – by means contrary to the ethical teachings of their own faith.
Expediency is just, as is killing in the name of Christ, butchery in the name of Buddha, massacre in the name of Mohammed, horror upon horror in the name of Hinduism, just to gain favour with God. A God of Love supposedly condones … the slaughter of some of his Creation by self-chosen preachers of God’s Love. I fear an anthropomorphic God.
We are a blood-thirsty, power-hungry species of animal left to find ourselves by a Creator who merely set up the mechanism and let the details evolve. We cannot blame God for what happens, or what we do. Neither can we justify our actions by blaming God in some way. I find it difficult to believe that what happens to mankind or to individual men is important enough to God, or even to involve God.
For, God must weep at some of the antics of His creation or some of the consequences of the actions of the created, especially of those who set themselves as religious leaders of their people, and who seek to expand their power in the way of the imperialists. That is, by brute force, or by applying the principle of divide and rule, or by sneakily breaking down another faith or religion; and offering conversion and salvation …
(The above excerpts from ‘Destiny Will Out’ indicate how I returned to acceptance of my Creator. My God is not a chastising father-figure; in civilised nations, the father today is a nurturer and guide. My God is not a God of love; judging by the way His followers have behaved, and are behaving. He could not be; for love is not tarnished by butchery or exploitation.
I prefer a God who allows his flock (his creation) to grow up with self-dignity, self-reliance, and care for fellow humans; and not subservient to agents of self-selected religious leaders. Are we humans akin to flocks of sheep? Such a God can be available for us to seek some much-needed solace, with the ultimate objective of fusing or being absorbed into His domain.
If we were to ignore the ‘explanatory’ component of institutional religions with their divisive dogma, and to rely only upon the devotional and ethical components of religious faith – including our love for the shared Creator – will we be more free of any control by religious institutions, or by the influence of political institutions upholding their alleged religious banner, while we behaved in a more caring manner towards fellow humans?)