By Wes Annac, Editor, Openhearted Rebel
I wrote the following for the 285th issue of the Weekly Awareness Guide, a written document distributed weekly via email that I offer for $11.11 a month.
Income from the guide helps me get by and ensures I can continue to offer free content, and every subscription is appreciated. The option to subscribe is given at the bottom of this post (learn about subscribing with cash/check here).
I’m one of those people who will tell you they’re spiritual but not religious. This is because I have a problem with the way religious leaders portray and profit from God.
My problem is not with the idea of a creator or other states of consciousness we possibly depart into after death. My problem is that religious leaders use God to control people. They tell people our creator is a man in the sky who judges sinners, but despite his disdain for those who sin, he’s allowed countless corrupt leaders to speak for him. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
My problem with God is a problem with man, because man has muddied what God and spirituality used to represent. Don’t get me wrong; there have always been well-meaning people who try to show the way and don’t stray from their path the moment they’re tempted. But there are also a lot of scammers, snake-oil salesmen, and just plain selfish people. They manipulate the masses into supporting them by appearing enlightened or close to God.
The problem here is not just with these so-called leaders, but with the followers who attribute such divinity to mortal men and women subject to the same mortal temptations as the rest of us. I like to write about spirituality, and because of this, some people assume I think I’m enlightened. Quite the opposite; I’m a flawed human being like the rest of us. I’m just fascinated with spirituality and I try to incorporate the wisdom I receive from it into my life.
People jump to put someone on a pedestal if they like what the person says. They do this for a number of reasons – the person they look up to might seem cleverer or more articulate, they can speak for those who don’t have the words to speak for themselves, or they talk about spirituality, enlightenment, and other high concepts.
People love having someone to prop up as their new messiah. Some leaders love it – particularly those who love attention – but others are disheartened that people would regard them so highly instead of looking within, where they’ll find the real magic. We should acknowledge that we prop up these leaders and praise them without question, and then, we should accept that nobody is perfect. It’s best to find what we seek in ourselves instead of in someone or something else.
This brings me to my next problem with religion: the idea that God and heaven are inaccessible unless you follow a strict doctrine and listen to someone who says you can only reach the creator through them. You can only find liberation if you follow the priest’s instructions and, in the case of Christianity, admit you’re a sinner who can be saved by Jesus alone.
This is all wrong, and it represents one of the biggest problems most rational people have with religion. It restricts your freedom to be who you are, and religion is obviously well-known for suppressing individuals who break the status quo.
I doubt that the source of all existence would care if you follow the rules in a book that’s thousands of years old. Our existence is far too complicated for those things to possibly matter. I prefer to think you advance spiritually by being yourself, being humble, helping others, and exploring your consciousness. The best part is that you can be who you are and you don’t have to go to some fictional hell.
I have a problem with people who use God as a justification for killing each other. It’s wrong on so many levels, and it’s crazy to me that religious people – those who’ve tried to be the closest with God throughout the ages – never stopped to think that murder violates the golden rule.
The problem here is that man has complicated what were originally simple spiritual ideals regarding loving your neighbor, treating others how you want to be treated, and refraining from harm except in self-defense. Radicals in every religion throughout the ages have not only violated these ideals; they twisted them into ideals that represented the exact opposite. Loving your neighbor turns into hating anyone who’s different.
Treating others how you want to be treated turns into ignoring how others feel and pursuing your own agenda. Refraining from harming others turn into fighting and killing people whose beliefs don’t match yours. They’ve eradicated the original religious ideals that helped people feel better and live in a more positive way. This is a massive problem for which we should hold religion accountable. But we should also remember that not everyone is an extremist, and good-hearted religious people do exist.
When studying religious and spiritual texts from various cultures, I find that they all share a common philosophy on the purpose of life: they believe our purpose is enlightenment, or the rediscovery of God and of ourselves as God. Most religious people would immediately cry blasphemy at the idea that we ourselves are God, but like it or not, this is at the heart of most ancient religious texts.
It’s not so heretical to consider we are one living entity that created this existence, separated itself into the countless life forms we see around us, and took up this experiment called life so it could eventually rediscover itself.
According to the texts, this realization (and the higher state of consciousness it accompanies) is known generally as enlightenment. For clarity sake, I should note that enlightenment is believed to have different phases and is not a singular event.
When I read these different texts that all say the same thing, it makes me think there must be a fundamental truth that underlies most religions. You should be careful when studying religious texts, however, because you also come across a lot of untruths.
But the theme that you achieve enlightenment through love, empathy, humility, meditation, and service to others is intact in nearly all religious texts. They all teach the golden rule. Maybe this is what the religions of the world should focus on instead of fighting over whose god is godlier.
My problem with God is that he seems to be doing man’s bidding; making preachers into billionaires while millions of people have plenty of faith but a poor standard of living. Religion seems to have corrupted the few basic spiritual truths that exist, changing them into ideals that help religious leaders get rich by making their scores of followers think they know what God wants.
Do you really think God cares whether some preacher can afford to build a football stadium-sized mega-church? If our creator is anything like those basic truths make him/her out to be, then he would care much more about whether we help each other prosper. Compassion trumps selfishness, and all you have to do is be a good person. Sadly, it’s more lucrative to get greedy and take too much from those kind-hearted folks who are willing to give.
My biggest problem with religion is what I’ve been saying this whole time: it limits freedom. To me, this is the antithesis of what religion and spirituality should be. From what I understand, the spiritual journey is about freeing yourself from the illusions you’ve created and being completely honest with yourself about who you are, what you want to do in this world, and what could potentially get in the way of that.
You achieve the opposite if you suppress your true self because of your religion. You reinforce your illusions and let them define who you are instead of liberating yourself from the fakeness of the world around you.
“We can find religion in the freedoms we choose” – Ziggy Marley
Without getting too deep into my personal beliefs about God, I’ll say that the moment an authority figure becomes involved, you are no longer free. Yes, there are good gurus with good hearts who genuinely help their students. But overall, nobody should stand between you and God. We should scrap the need for a middleman and go straight to the source on our own.
To me, spirituality is about the freedom to rediscover who and what you really are. I like to share the little bits of wisdom we get from religion regarding love, compassion, service, and spiritual progression, but I have a big problem with religion as a whole and it won’t go away anytime soon.
About the author:
I’m a twenty-something writer & blogger with an interest in spirituality, revolution, music and the transformative creative force known as love. I run Openhearted Rebel, a daily news blog dedicated to igniting a revolution of love by raising social and spiritual awareness.
I also have a personal blog in which I share writings related to spiritual philosophy, creativity, heart consciousness and revolution (among other topics).
I write from the heart, sharing informative and enlightening content with anyone who wants to check it out.
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