What if they are wrong? What if you are not deprived, evil, and unworthy? What if your essence is good? After all, aren’t we created in the image of The Divine? That one sentence, “What if they’re wrong?” can be the small hole in the dam that opens a flood of new insights, new knowledge, and a new way of living.
Religious Recovery offers healing for the religiously wounded. When our spirits are broken, we need something, someone, or some Power higher than we are to lead us out of religious darkness and into the Light.
Forgiveness is a key element in Religious Recovery and in recovery in general. Forgiveness works best when it starts with “me” and ends with “we.” Often we find it easier to forgive others than to forgive ourselves, but we are only human. We make mistakes and must extend the same amount of grace to our lives as we would to another’s.
Religious freedom gives each individual the right to choose the religion they want to believe, but it does not give them the right to force their decision upon someone else. As George Carlin said, “Religion is like a pair of shoes…find one that fits for you, but don’t make me wear your shoes.”
When we concentrate on the negative and overlook the positive, we do ourselves a disservice. When we look back over our past and see our mistakes — or “sins” as some religions call it — and not the positive, loving, Divine-like things we have accomplished, we hold ourselves in a prison of our own making. As a father, I tend to forgive and forget the mistakes my children make and only hold onto the happy memories. I hope they can see themselves the way I see them. Yes, they made mistakes, but it doesn’t make them less lovable or any less my child.
Doing the right thing isn’t always easy. Part of the problem is we don’t always know what the right thing is. When we come to a place where there is uncertainty concerning the right path, the voice we listen to the most, often determines our course of action. If that voice is in sync with our hearts and with Love, then it is trustworthy. But if the voice that speaks the loudest comes from fear, shame, judgment or even hatred, we must have the courage to say no to that voice and choose Love.
Spirituality is an inner connection. It can — and often is — enhanced by religious experiences. But, ultimately it is the sole responsibility of each individual to make that connection and find that spiritual/religious path that leads them Home.
Every once in a while it’s healthy and fun to set aside a dream day. A day specifically set aside to dream. Some dreams that immediately come to my mind are of winning the lottery, buying a new car, relaxing on a beach, or climbing a mountain. Our daily lives often seem so unremarkable that by simply taking time to relax and daydream about what could be, we can be revitalized, strengthened, and given something different to anticipate.
The first dreams that come to my mind are often shallow. After all, we know that many of the things I listed will not bring lasting happiness. So, during the course of our dream day, we pause to consider different types of dreams. We dream of a world without war, hatred, and bigotry. We dream of a world where everyone respects one another — and also our planet.
We might dream of a world without boundaries because we no longer fear those who seem to be different from us. We dream of a world where we champion the cause for love, and where Light blocks out all spiritual darkness. We might even dream of a world where religions no longer feud with one another, and where faith has become personal freedom and not fear of punishment. Let’s make time for dreams. Who knows, we might see them come true.
One way to overcome guilt is to change it from a fear-based emotion into a mental-based decision. We might feel guilty because of our decisions, but if those decisions are based on our doubts and questions — if it is as much a mental decision as it was an emotional one — then we can set guilt aside more easily and enjoy our new freedom.
Guilt raises its ugly head quite often when we decide to remove ourselves from a religious environment that no longer works for us. This fact should not surprise us, especially if the religion we were associated with used guilt as a tool to shame, blame, and coerce its followers into obedience and submission. The tentacles of guilt can cling tenaciously to us for years.
Sometimes a simple thought, allowed to grow and develop in our hearts, has the power to change the universe. May that thought be this: We are all created equal in the eyes of The Divine, and all paths lead back to our Creator.
Sometimes we need to take a step back and examine what we believe and why we believe it. Is it because of what we have been told, or is it because we know in our hearts it is true? Does it bring peace or strife, love or hatred, joy or regret?
What would happen if religions concentrated on their similarities and ignored their points of disagreements? What would happen if we boiled down religious beliefs to a handful of statements that everyone could agree upon and allowed the individuals to work out the details? What if those principles were based upon love and forgiveness? Upon respect for all human beings?
Some would have us believe the time for new religious thoughts has passed, and we should stand firm on the beliefs of our forefathers. Why should we fear new ideas and spiritual concepts? The revolution we seek is not a political or even a religious revolution, but a spiritual revolution involving love, compassion, and grace. We welcome it, but at the same time we question the motives of those leading the revolution. Are they personal motives, or divinely inspired? A lot of damage has been done in the name of religion, but seldom do we find unconditional love and forgiveness misleading us.
Stone Four of Religious Recovery states that “I will question every experience, all information, personal motives — mine and others — including the ideas presented by The Religious Recovery Program.” I would add this quote from Bryant McGill which states “Revolution starts in the mind. Question everything!”
In Religious Recovery the relationships are not between healers and patients but between patients and patients, because we recognize our own need for healing no matter where we are on our spiritual journey. It is not the function of the group, or of the facilitator, to heal another. A Modified Serenity Prayer reminds us the only one we can change is ourselves, and only when we have changed ourselves can others be helped by us — not by direct teaching, but in the group dynamics that come about in the 13-step program of Religious Recovery.
Another way to say the same thing is: the only way we can help others heal is to be in a state of healing. We can’t force another to be healed, but when we heal ourselves, little by little, we offer the example of our lives. We see a healthy person and it inspires us to be healthy. We see a happy person and we want to be happy. No one can make us healthy or happy. Every individual has to choose what his or her own life will be.
What we can do is show courage. Change is not for the timid. The fearful are not healed, not changed, and seldom break free from the self-made bonds they have imposed. But, when we see an individual who has broken free and is making a better world, it inspires us and gives us courage to follow — or to even blaze our own trail. We ask Divine Spirit to help us realize there is only one person we can change, and that one is me.
We respect the work that religion has played in our world and still plays in the lives of countless. Our goal is to not only promote openness at meetings, but also to promote openness to other ways of thinking, believing, and experiencing The Divine.
One foundation of Religious Recovery is openness. At our meetings we do our best to create a safe place where people can talk openly about the religious abuse they’ve experienced. A key element in creating that safe space is our understanding that it’s best to leave your religion at the door. By that we mean, we are not here to bash or praise any religion, so we ask our participants to try to refrain from mentioning any specific religion by name, and also not to mention any specific religious leader by name.
Step Two of Religious Recovery tells us The Divine has no religion and is greater than religion. It seems as if the choice is not about which religion is right, but what relationships are right. Love, respect, forgiveness, compassion, and grace are some of the elements that should define a relationship with That-Which-Is-Greater-Than-Self, and also a relationship with our fellow man.
Most religions feel certain that their way is the right way and their truth is the best truth if not the only truth. How can each one claim exclusivity, because if one is right, all the others must be wrong? What if we choose a wrong one? Many religions tell us that our eternal destination depends on making the right choice. I wonder if it’s possible that none are completely right and that many could lead us in a “right” direction.
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?
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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.