We turn to religion and faith in an attempt to analyze and make sense of our lives. We try to find some kind of meaning, especially when we face things like disease, natural disasters and death.
Faith is only helpful when it propels you toward the path of enlightenment. The path of enlightenment is the path of possibilities – becoming the person you are capable of being. Anything that takes you away from that is unhealthy, even evil. Anything that takes you toward that is positive and empowering.
Most people are a conflicting mix of emotional perceptions, created by the memes they are infected with. This causes them to develop core, foundational beliefs about all the important stuff: relationships, marriage, money, God, health and happiness. These core beliefs function as a lens between them and the world – and it is through this lens that they create their goals and decide what kind of life they want to live.
Dogma, doctrines, rituals, myths, superstitions, emotional attachments, and sectarian institutions all stand between you and your greatness. A positive religion is one that allows you to understand yourself and your place in the world in objective reality, without getting trapped in mysticism.
As I was flying here to Oslo, I read a fascinating article in the International Herald Tribune that really exemplifies how ludicrous the situation has become today. It was detailing the problems Iranian president Ahmadinejad is facing because he is not religious enough for supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other hardline clerics.
This is a man who insists the holocaust never happened, thought Hugo Chavez was a folk hero, and believes Israel should be bombed off the face of the earth. But wanting to kill all the infidels doesn’t make him devout enough for the Muslim clerics – because he promotes direct relations with God, instead of going through them. (It appears wholesalers everywhere get upset when the customer buys direct!)
There is without a doubt, a sacred and spiritual dimension to life. And the exploration of that dimension using your rational mind is the real path to enlightenment. While we can find many insights into this spirituality through ancient sacred texts, we can do so from the parables and metaphors, without a crazed belief that they are the literal word of God.
There are many “spiritual experiences “ we experience, quite grounded in science. ( The "runner's high" and creating an alpha state through meditation are examples.) And others that we can’t scientifically explain. But that’s no reason to subscribe to sky God myths from centuries ago to seemingly explain them. We should be able to be comfortable knowing there are some things we don’t know. And seek those answers with a rational mind.
The greatest faith is an empowering one, and the greatest religion is a life well lived.