Many religions have told us that our world will end in destruction, but what if they’ve got it wrong? What if instead our world progresses in love, joy, peace, and happiness to the point that the world ends in a state of love, respect, and kindness — in other words, what if the world ends in heaven, not hell? Isn’t that what free choice is all about? Having the power to choose how our world ends either personally or globally?
Religious abuse is seen in different forms. Sometimes it is physical, sometimes mental. Sometimes it is obvious, and sometimes it is subtle and hidden. Sometimes we are aware of it, and at other times we see it only in unwanted behavior.
Why are some people afraid of other religions and other religious beliefs? What’s the danger in a religious smorgasbord of faiths? Why can’t we take what we like and leave the rest? I believe the day is coming when people who believe their way is the only way will fade into the past along with the ideas that one race is better than another or that one gender is better than another.
Because The Divine created the laws of the Universe, The Divine can just as easily ignore or reverse those laws. We are impressed with physical miracles like healing, but we often pay little or no attention when love miracles reverse or set aside the direction of someone’s life. Because we see, feel, or can touch a physical miracle, we are more astonished. But love miracles can be more powerful in a person’s life and in our world.
Imagine the miracle that changed Mother Teresa’s life, and how the love miracles she gave to those dying in Calcutta affected not only India, but the entire planet. Imagine the miracle that changed the life of Siddhārtha Gautama who was raised to be a prince, but after he encountered poverty for the first time dedicated his life to seeking the spiritual path and came to be known as the Buddha. His sacrifice of the rich life planned for him was a miracle of love that changed the world.
We often think of the miracles of Jesus as being the evidence he had a divine connection far beyond the scope of most individuals and even many other spiritual leaders. But, I propose it was not his physical miracles that changed the world as much as it was his miracles of love and forgiveness that set multitudes of people free. If we want to change the world, then love is the miracle that will bring about the transformation. As we take inventory of ways in which we have hurt others, let us extend forgiveness and love miracles to ourselves by seeking forgiveness and granting forgiveness to those we hurt in the name of religion and to those who hurt us in the name of religion.
For breakfast this morning I enjoyed a new spread that I hadn’t heard about until a few weeks ago. It’s called Biscoff and it’s made from the European Biscoff cookies. Very tasty. That’s a piece of personal information that probably doesn’t arouse any major controversies. However, if I were to say I experienced a Buddhist religious experience, or a Native American religious experience, some religious people would be offended. Why?
Every now and then it helps to do a simple cleansing. The cleansing we speak of is letting go of the past and forgiving all who have harmed us. Another form of cleansing is to release the problems of yesterday and start each day new. Carrying yesterday’s baggage will weigh us down with burdens that should be released and left in the past.
Each religious tradition has something to teach us if we will be open. Sometimes the lessons could be negative examples of what we don’t want, but for the most part, there is something good, some golden nuggets of truth that can help us on our journey. Look for the good, accept what resonates with your soul, and leave the rest.
There is no word for “religion” in the Native American language. There is no fixed set of rules or dogma, only the idea that each individual is responsible to seek their own path, to live in harmony with nature, and with all beings. Respect, honor, courage, and love form the basis of their spiritual paths.
 Jean, Terri (2003-06-01). 365 Days Of Walking The Red Road: The Native American Path to Leading a Spiritual Life Every Day (Religion and Spirituality) (p. 141). F+W Media, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
Forgiveness is not an option to those who want to discover spiritual freedom and maturity. Associating with someone who hurt, disappointed, or abused us is, however, an option. We can choose to give them a second, or third, or countless chances to prove they will not repeat the abuse, or we can choose to love them, forgive them, but not associate with them.
Like all of our feelings, we “own” anger. Ignoring or suppressing anger only makes it stronger. But, the way we own our anger is important. We don’t own it in the sense of giving vent to it in destructive ways. Instead, we simply acknowledge our anger, seek to discover its source, and deal with that. We will find in most situations the source is not something external but internal.
I was taught that miracles occur when The Divine momentarily sets aside the natural laws of the Universe. I’ve often wanted to perform miracles. What I failed to comprehend was the miraculous power of love. According to a worldly mindset, wrongs need to be righted. An eye-for-an-eye mentality is prevalent and dominates the majority of world thought when it comes to how to treat one another.
Love suspends the law of justice and uses forgiveness to replace it with the law of grace. Grace is often defined as unmerited favor. Instead of punishment, we are forgiven. Instead of imprisonment of the mind or of the body, we find freedom. Where hate threatens to overpower us, love has the strength to abolish hatred and bring peace. Love is miraculous and perhaps the only miracle we need. Turning water into wine is a showstopper, but forgiveness and love are the true signs of strength and power.
Anyone and everyone can perform love miracles, and the more we perform, the more we transform the world — ours and others. I no longer strive to perform healing miracles, healings of the body, that is. But I do strive to perform healings of the heart and spirit by practicing forgiveness and love every day. Miracles will happen. You may not notice them at first because it’s like watching grass grow. But the grass does grow, and miracles of love happen all around us.
We never want to discourage someone who is making progress no matter how slow it seems. Overcoming religious abuse takes time and determination, and this is partly because our social lives are often tied to our religious lives. Changing our religious beliefs, even if it’s to gain spiritual balance and strength, is made more difficult when our social worlds might come undone.
Judging someone prevents us from loving them. If we are not careful, judgment can escalate to angry words and hurt feelings. Judging can turn into a form of attack, and attacks happen when we are fearful or not feeling love within ourselves. When we avoid judgment we can examine our hearts to discover the source of the fear. Forgiveness also plays a huge part in avoiding judgments. We forgive ourselves, and if need be, we forgive others.
In order to make a positive difference in the world, our behavior is more important than employment, financial status, gender, race, nationality, or religion. Love, kindness, forgiveness, compassion, respect, and honor are ways to make a difference in the world.
When positive things happen, it helps if we pause to remember to say this simple expression of gratitude: “Thank you. I would like more of that.” This is setting our intention and letting the Universe know that we are grateful. It is also a simple reminder that positive and healthy things are what we want. Gratitude and setting our intention help us to recognize when we are acting in ways that attract these things and when we are acting in ways that repel them.
Even though we each have our own path to walk, times will come when we can share our paths with another, and when others will be able to share their paths with us. We might think this is a permanent joining, but time will eventually lead us apart once more. Sadness might follow, but we might soon find another to walk with. Also, we can learn the joy of being alone for a time.
When we allow ourselves to face our feelings, we must also accept responsibility for them and not try to blame others for the way we feel. Those who are in a committed relationship often tend to blame the partner for their sadness, anger, or grief. When we own these feelings instead of trying to transfer them to someone else, we can work through them faster and learn the lessons they were meant to teach us.
Some might suggest that finding and following our own spiritual path is dangerous. It is no more dangerous than allowing a group of people who have come together to form what they call a religion to determine what path is right for them collectively. In many situations, we are drawn in by at least the appearance of love, acceptance, and a family-like atmosphere. If these feelings prove to be genuine, and if our gut instincts confirm that this is so, then we have found a good place. However; if the atmosphere doesn’t extend to those outside the fold, if love is seen as conditional, and if our gut instincts whisper or scream that things are wrong, we need to listen and remove ourselves, emotionally at first, and then perhaps physically in the end.
One thing we need to remind ourselves of is that we don’t have to agree with everyone or anyone. We each have our own path to walk, and no one else’s path will be exactly like the one we take. I don’t have to label my path as better than yours or worse than yours. It is simply different. By remembering this, we can be kind to others and accept their journey without judging them.
When the Jewish temple was destroyed, the nation of Israel went into exile without their sacred place of worship for two thousand years. During that time the rabbis devised a plan to make each home a temple by ritualizing the Sabbath. Candles were used in the ceremony, and the meal became an offering. Bread and wine were served as a type of communion.
The notion that the path to The Divine goes only through a religious structure is wrong — whether that structure is a building or a regulated set of beliefs doesn’t matter. Most people understand this fact, but at times we forget, or we allow the subtle influences of religion to convince us that home worship or having a home church/temple is not good enough. For more than two thousand years it served the Jewish nation. Home worship continues to work today and will always be a legitimate path Home.
When we struggle to find a religious system that meets our needs, we can always choose to worship at home. We can ritualize the practice, but even that is optional. Most things fall into a pattern, and by doing the same things in the same way during our home practice, we could unknowingly be creating a new ritual. But, we can always vary the pattern anytime we feel a need for change.
Happiness is a collective choice we make. We choose to forgive, to love, to stop judging, and to align our will with that of our Higher Power. By making these collective choices, we are choosing to bring happiness into our lives.
Courageous people value themselves enough to speak up, be it for them or for another. Love for self and others is a needed ingredient for courage. When we love and respect ourselves and those around us, we lesson the grip of fear. At times, our love is not as strong as we would like, and the courage becomes tenuous. Those who move forward regardless of their fears set a brave example.
May 12: Patience is one of the most difficult lessons for me to learn. I want what I want when I want it, and sooner if possible. I understand that things come to those who wait, and rushing things can be self-defeating, but I still find it challenging to let things unfold in their own time. But, when I am able to be patient, things come when they are supposed to, and if they don’t, I usually find it was for the best.
The path to peace includes qualities such as the ability to tolerate, accept, and embrace. Another word that tends to include all three of these qualities is respect. When we respect another, we tolerate their religious beliefs even if they are vastly different or even opposed to ours. We accept others as fellow human beings worthy of love, and we embrace them as family. Respect goes a long way to solving religious and political differences.
When we realize our lives are not perfect and accept our flaws, we can see the beauty hidden beneath the surface. We are perfectly imperfect and worthy of love, perhaps even more so because of our imperfections. Love should not be withheld from anyone because of seeming imperfections, and this includes us as well.
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Our purpose is to help individuals to heal who have been injured by religion or the religious. We welcome your comments and questions.