Messengers, Followers, Teachers, Edifices, Divisions
If history is correct, humans have never been content to just live in the world. They have consistently yearned for some kind of meaning in their lives. Often that pursuit of meaning has expressed itself in the form of religion.
For those who have chosen to follow groups with any kind of religious or spiritual trademark, the pattern seems to be the same. When a religion begins, one person usually has an idea or believes he (historically, mostly male) has the right message, the truth, or has a special message, powers, insights, given to him from an exterior divinity.
In ancient times spiritual teachers were often wanderers or lived in small villages or towns. Small groups gathered to hear these teachers. Over time, followers began to expand beyond these villages. Official teachings were established based on the words purported to have been said by the founders or, in some traditions, messages or rules given or spoken to an official messenger (or inspired messengers) by an exterior divinity. ( Who becomes an official messenger after the first messengers die often depends on the rules of lineage)
It didn’t take long before religious organizations began to sprout up all over the world. Centuries-old edifices and sacred centers are still standing as testaments of humans’ need for spiritual roots.
Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, all seem to have followed this pattern. Continue reading
The I-Am-Not-Worthy and Only-by-the-Grace-of-God Schools
Although my father was Lutheran, I grew up as a Roman Catholic. My mother was Catholic and she insisted that my sister and I go to the local Catholic elementary school.
My sister went on to attend a Catholic High School. As a teenager, I went into the Franciscan seminary but left after my sophomore year, finishing my last two high school years at a Catholic high school and then going on to a Catholic university where I had every intention of becoming a Trappist monk after I graduated.
I lived through my Roman Catholic heritage but found myself moving towards a liberal and progressive Protestantism, until I eventually made the leap into a local Unitarian Universalist church as a non-theist.
My Roman Catholic heritage made me very aware of how strong the “I-am-not-worthy” and “only-by-the-grace-of-God” schools of theology dominated so much of Catholic teaching during the fifties. Continue reading
God as Metaphor of the Ineffable
God has been around a long time in Alcoholics Anonymous. For some, He remains the brick and mortar of the program. For that same group, He is the only Higher Power, a power that can, literally, move mountains.
For others, like myself, God is a metaphor of the ineffable. He or She only becomes the ultimate etiology of reality when nothing else can explain the mystery behind the mystery.
We are here. We are the effect of what came before. And something came before that.
But, at what point, does all cause stop at the door of the Ultimate Cause, the Cause that has no Cause before it? That, my friends, is the stubborn question that will not yield an answer. And, in my judgment, the door will never, ever open to that answer because Being is itself: it has no Ultimate Cause. It just is. And always has been. Continue reading
“You know, John, there’s another school of thought.”
I always loved that phrase, “another school of thought.” It seems less hostile, less likely to deteriorate into a conflict-driven debate. Especially, if the sentence comes from a close friend. It is even more poignant when the discussion is about religion.
I grew up in a very Catholic environment. In fact, my entire education was in Catholic schools—elementary, high school, and college. Unlike some of my friends, the experience, in general, I found rewarding and nurturing. I truly admired the clergy-in-the-trenches who taught me what it meant to live in the world of “service.” It has made a marked difference in my life. Continue reading