On the one hand, it is essential to our individual and collective development to enrich our spirituality. This is a huge factor in our humanity and the world around us. Spirituality is an emotional need. Without spirituality, which encompasses love, fear, morality, and ethics, we are nothing more than intelligent locusts.
On the other hand, religions, almost universally, oppress – rather than free – our spirits. Most religions simply restrict parishioners with dogmas, sins (rules), and threats (eternal damnation), all of which hinder true spiritual growth. How should someone embrace a God of love when he or she fears eternal damnation for “sins” that open for interpretation? Stealing is a sin, but is it wrong to steal bread to feed a hungry child?
Consider that humans create and run religions. It is also human nature to hunger for more power after getting a taste of it. Isn’t that the message in the Garden of Eden myth? And churches through the ages, right into the present, have mixed politics with religion. This has brought money, power, and fame to many church leaders. I am not strictly speaking about the Christian churches, though many have perverted the teachings of Christ numerous times. This includes all religions, even Buddhism.
It is a vicious irony that the system developed to empower us and bring us closer to God is the very system used to keep us away from any enlightenment, and in fact, oppresses us all.
Religion affects us deeper than politics and education because it manipulates our emotions. Again, religion encompasses love, fear, morality, and ethics. These things are subject to emotion-based thought processes and thus, manipulation. This is why religion is such a powerful weapon.
Only a religious zealot would strap a bomb to himself or herself to kill others. Anyone thinking logically would not consider killing themselves, since suicide is technically an unforgivable sin, let alone killing indiscriminately. Only a religious zealot would bomb an abortion clinic to stop abortion. Anyone thinking logically would see that this will also kill innocent lives (such as the pregnant females and the fetuses they carry, nurses and administrative workers, and doctors) who are at the clinic when it is bombed, or that effective social programs and education can eradicate the circumstances that lead to unwanted pregnancies.
I use the term religious zealot here to generalize a person that is thinking emotionally, without logic. In both examples, you will always find a cleric or pastor guiding that follower to commit such acts, either directly or indirectly.
And so you have genocide, ethnic cleansing, Fatwas, and crusades, all of, which destroy “others” who have been demonized within religious-political contexts. Again, this is not strictly a Muslim tendency. The Christian faith is replete with the blood of innocent people, who were considered heretics, impure, demonic, and any other adjective one can think of that defines someone as an enemy or an outsider.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Through better educational programs, enriching interpretations of scriptures (not just Christian), enforced tolerance laws, and compassionate endeavors we can learn to accept all religions as truth and live peaceably.
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