STEP TEN CONTINUED: Seek tolerance and, when possible accept all religious faiths without judgment.
Instruction: Explore word meanings.
Until I left the religion of my youth, I didn’t realize that my perception of the world and of other religions had been skewed. In many ways, we were told what to believe and how to believe it. We were taught why our religion was the right one, and why other religions, especially world religions, were mistaken, misguided, and their followers would go to hell. Later in life, I discovered that there were other religions that were even more aggressive when they taught their adherents that their way was the one and only true way. Some even taught that only a specific number of people would make it to heaven, and no one outside of their religion would be among the chosen few. We try not to judge or condemn these religions even though we might strongly disagree with many of their teachings. One way in which they convinced their followers that theirs was the only true path was by giving slightly different meanings to words and taking things out of context.
In my youth, I was taught that the word “occult” meant evil and a tool of the devil. A quick look at the definition of the word shows it doesn’t necessarily mean it is evil or of the devil. “Occult” is defined as “supernatural, mystical, or magical beliefs, practices, or phenomena.” Actually, the original definition of “occult” was “unseen.” Those who look at some religious beliefs that are held today would say that they involve the same kinds of things. Certainly, belief in a Higher Power is dealing with the supernatural. One definition of “mystical” is “inspiring a sense of spiritual mystery, awe, and fascination.” “Magic” is defined as “the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.” Most religions believe in mysterious or supernatural forces that rule the universe, and those who claim to have such abilities are often labeled demonic, angelic, or savior depending on how those abilities are used. For myself, and I believe for many others, the way a religion defines a word says a lot about the control they are trying to have over their members. Painting every path as demonic, evil, or wrong—except the path that they espouse—is a form of manipulation and abuse.
Today’s assignment is to consider the meaning of religious and spiritual words. Are the definitions accurate or biased according to a particular religious group? How have people been manipulated by the inappropriate use of words that make something evil when, in fact, a little bit or examination might show the positive nature of words such as “occult” and “magic?”
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