I have chosen this topic for my first blog because spirituality is, for most people, closely tied with religion. As this entry tries to illustrate, this need not be so. The following is an excerpt from my book (see the Books page in the header above) presented here verbatim.
The Virtues of Quiet Devotion and the Prehistoric Mind
All of the experiences described in this book and more have helped to shape my views of religion. The basic concepts and implications that surround a belief in a creator, God, or some higher being are very simple and inherent in the simple plan outlined in the next chapter.
Man has taken these basic concepts and created dogmatic and rigid religious institutions that do not serve God or man well. While we may call for freedom of religion, we overlook the fact that there is often little freedom allowed within organized religion. Too many people blindly follow the attitudes and edicts of their religion and religious leaders without first applying their God-given reason.
We commonly associate the worship of God with organized religion. However, there are many ways to worship God within a religious dogma, as well as external to organized religion all together. I am in favor of a quiet devotion to God without the limitations and distractions of rituals, and traditions.
I believe that quiet devotion to God can be the deepest, truest, and most profound kind of relationship you can have with Him. I believe this to be so, in part because you are not seeking any sort of recognition from your fellow man. It is a pure and intimate relationship with God, unfettered by appearances and rituals.
There are many out there who share this concept of quiet, unpretentious worship. But their devotion to God is unseen by others except perhaps through their compassionate, gentle, and caring ways. I share what follows with you to illustrate that there are other ways to worship God than through the rituals and traditions of organized religion.
At the same time, many religious teachings have great value by providing a moral code for how we should live our lives. It is the narrow-mindedness and fanaticism of some “religious” people that I find objectionable.
Many of us have been indoctrinated by our religion leading us to believe it is the only (right) way to show devotion to God. There are myriad ways to give homage to God, and not all involve affiliation with a particular religion. It is not for us to say which practice is better than another. A person’s relationship with God is a very personal one, and should not be subject to scrutiny or criticism by others.
At the same time, one should not try to impose their religious beliefs and attitudes on others. To attempt to do so, in effect, is a dismissal of other valid means of worship.
This leads us to the notion (in some, but not all religions or members) that the people of one religion or another are the “chosen people” of God, or that there is only one “right” way to worship God. Stemming from this is the idea that if you do not believe in a particular religion, then you are damned to hell or should be killed. Conversely, there is the attitude that in order to be “saved” you must believe in and practice a particular religion. That’s all nonsense.
The concept of a chosen people has always baffled and annoyed me as it does not stand to reason and it defies logic. God created all people and loves all of His children. Why would He favor one group over another? A mother does not give birth to two children only to love one and despise the other. She gave them life. She loves them both even though they may have different personalities and pursue different paths in life. She tries to guide both and help them find their way, but in the end they will each choose their own path.
Is one way to worship God better than another? In my view, God does not require or expect elaborate rituals or traditions. These are man-made constructs. God only expects acknowledgment of His existence and thanks for the many gifts and blessings He gives to all of us. These are the essence of “worship.” In this minimalist view, nothing more is required.
If you wish to offer morning and evening prayers, go to mass on Sundays, burn incense in front of the Buddha, or pray to the Great Spirit in the Sky, so be it; it does not matter. No one way is better than another, or more pleasing to God’s eye than another. They are all expressions of devotion to God. Where things go wrong is when people try to impose their religious beliefs on others, or judge others in the context of their religious beliefs.
This is not what God wants. Remember religions are man-made rituals, traditions, and belief systems, and like man, they are flawed.
What are the most basic, fundamental aspects of a belief in God and what are their implications? One way to approach this question is to try to imagine you have gone back to prehistoric time before there was any religion. Imagine you have become aware that there must be a creator or something greater than yourself. How does that affect your outlook on life?
Here are some ideas that came into my prehistoric mind.
● Belief in God means that we acknowledge His existence.
● Acknowledging His existence suggests that we should communicate with Him in some way.
● Knowing that He is watching suggests that we should maintain a sense of accountability for our actions and how we treat others.
● All of the inhabitants of the Earth came from Him and are a part of Him. Therefore, we should cherish and respect all life on Earth.
● Awe and wonder about the magnitude and mysteries of the universe give homage to God’s greatness and acknowledges our diminutive existence in the expanse of creation.
As a civilization, we have become perhaps too dogmatic in our view of religion and worship. The ideas above illustrate how simple the conceptual framework surrounding a belief in God can be.
For my own part, I am content to take the prehistoric approach to worship, and quietly express my devotion to Him, giving thanks on a daily basis for the many blessings and gifts He has given to me, both large and small, while marveling at His wonderful creations all around me.