The Christian response, the Jewish response, the Islamic response, the Buddhist response, the Hindu response, the Baha’i response, the Gnostic response, the Bhakti response, the Zoroastrian response, the Shinto response, the Taoist response, the Esoteric response—they are all the same when one is truly enlightened. It doesn’t matter what the question is! The unifying spiritual response is: I choose spiritual and loving thoughts, words, and actions over religiously dogmatic, materialistic, and self-aggrandizing thoughts, words, and actions!
Regardless of whether the faith tradition has tens of millions of devoted followers or tens of thousands of devoted followers, the collective response must be to choose:
- love over hate;
- tolerance over combativeness;
- compassionate and joyful intentions over hateful and violent inclinations;
- divinely attuned thoughts over fear-based and anger-laced thoughts;
- harmonious and respectful intentions over divisive and hurtful intentions;
- openness to doctrinal integrity over dogmatic handcuffs.
The various ideologies associated with the world’s faith traditions become dogmatic monuments which fuel theological rifts between religions. Dogmas are human inventions. They are the offspring of a fixated idolatrous theology that subverts future enlightened spiritual perspectives. Dogmas are intellectual labels that become libelous, defamatory, and debasing.
Are we advocating a universal world religion? Absolutely not – unless it is an open-minded search for Universal Truths underwritten by a collective desire to honor the attempts from all of the scientific, philosophical, and religious traditions to expand their awareness of the nature of these Universal Truths.
Until we collectively move toward that universal symbiosis, Eckart Tolle (and many other enlightened humans) describe our collective journey as one in need of a consciousness triage. In his book, A New Earth, Tolle says:
Religions, to a large extent, are divisive rather than unifying forces. Instead of bringing about an ending of violence and hatred through a realization of the fundamental oneness of all life, they bring more violence and hatred, more divisions between people as well as between different religions and even within the same religion. They become convincing ideologies, use them to enhance their false sense of self. Through them they make themselves “right” and others “wrong” and thus define their identity through their enemies, the “other,” the “nonbelievers” or “wrong believers” who not infrequently they see themselves justified in killing.” (Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, New York: Dutton, 2005).
Research Confirms That Religious Separatism Is Hazardous to Our Health!
The perspective Tolle describes is one which humankind needs to grow out of as quickly as possible. And the sooner the better. The neurosciences would agree. For example, some compelling research suggests that “religions that sell fear may damage the anterior cingulate in the brain, and when this happens people often lose interest in other people’s concerns or act aggressively against them (M.R. Milad, G.J. Quirk, R. K. Pitman, S. P. Orr, B. Fischl, and S. L. Rauch, “A role for the human dorsal anterior cingulate cortex in fear expression,” Biological Psychiatry, 2007, Aug. 16).
In a related study fear-based religions create symptoms that mirror post-traumatic stress disorder. Brain-scan studies have shown that once we anticipate a future negative event, activity in the amygdala is turned up and activity in the anterior cingulate is tamped down (A. Etkin and T. D. Wager, “Functional neuroimaging of anxiety: a meta-analysis of emotional processing in PTSD, social anxiety disorder, and specific phobia,” American Journal of Psychiatry, 2007, Oct. 164 (10): 1476-88).
One more piece of sobering research – representative of hundreds of similar studies – found that people who find themselves ruminating on guilt and fear, or harboring negative attitudes toward an unresponsive God, clergy, other church members, and other religions, tend to suffer from poorer health and depression (H. G. Koenig, K. I. Pargament, and J. Neilsen, “Religious coping and health status in medically ill hospitalized older adults,” Journal of Nervous Mental Disorders, 1998, Sept. 186 (9): 513-21).
It seems that fear-based religions can be hazardous to our health in more ways than one. Perhaps the Rx we suggested at the beginning of this blogcast will help. One thing is for sure we must move beyond our dogmatic biases, intracultural hatreds, and unenlightened pettiness if we are to put ourselves in the position to honor the ‘sane response’ to our human dilemmas. We’ve got to shed the old to embrace the new, move from our current level of limited consciousness to a more expanded view of our relationship to the Infinite.
Did you know that one of the Kabbalistic names for the Infinite is Nishayon. It means ‘forgetting.’ “One knows God through unknowing, through shedding inadequate conceptions, just as a sculptor cuts away everything that obscures the clarity of the hidden form.” (Daniel Matt, God and the Big Bang, Jewish Lights Pub., Woodstock, Vt., 2012, pg. 171).
The right collective response is there! We just have to shed divisive materialistic thoughts from our consciousness and replace them with loving, spiritual, compassionate, and sacred thoughts, words, and actions.
Here’s What You Can Do Right Now!
Become aware of your thoughts, and whenever you identify a divisive, separating, judgmental thought surfacing, take action! Choose, in that moment, to switch your thinking and replace your thought with one that is loving, compassionate, open, and sacred. You will be amazed at the difference it makes, not only in your actions towards others, but in your own inner, spiritual sanctuary.