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My Religion is Kindness

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”

~ the Dalai Lama


“Nobody is born Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Catholic, Protestant, etc. People are born human and are slowly conditioned by narratives of race, religion, gender, nationality, etc. to be less than human.”

~ Jim Palmer


Good Morning My Confidants


I know there are times when people think I am anti-Christian, but I want to say that nothing could be further from the truth. What I am is anti-toxic-any-kind-of-religion.


My Baptist background scarred me deeply. So deeply. The religious dogma that surrounded me personally was so toxic that it took me well into my fifties before I could even call it “toxic” and not sort-of duck, and look upward in (sometimes) fear of a possibly lightning strike. I have gay friends who tell me they are sorry that was my experience, but it wasn't theirs. I look in their eyes when they tell me that. And I rarely believe them. What I see is something furtive. They aren't looking back at me. They also change the subject quickly. As if they are afraid merely talking about this is enough to get them damned for all eternity (I have literally seen them look upward while asking if we can change the subject).


I could be imagining that. I admit. I am not able to read minds. Sometimes I wish I could. Most times I am glad I can't.


I (personally) came to see that the Abrahamic religions were about control; you must believe this way, or you are going to spend all eternity being punished in ways too awful to be properly described (although my Baptist pastors took great relish in trying).


It was so very frightening.


Confusing.


Paradoxically, I was raised to believe in a loving Jesus who was like the shepherd, and upon losing one sheep in a herd of ninety-nine, went into the open country after that one lost sheep until he found it and when he did, he joyfully put it on his shoulders and brought it home. I was raised to believe in a Jesus who said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matthew 19:14 NIV)


But apparently was also supposed to say said that “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” (John 15: 5 & 6 NIV).


Terrifying!


And confusing. How could Jesus be both of these dichotomic men?


And according to Paul--"a Christian apostle who spread the teachings of Jesus in the first-century world." and "For his contributions towards the New Testament, he is generally regarded as one of the most important figures of the Apostolic Age*--“...the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine...” (1st Timothy 1:9-11 ESV)


(for some reason I never understood, Paul got to pick what was sound or unsound, and millions of people take him at his word)


Petrifying!


And even when I found a Christian teaching (through the Metropolitan Community Churches) that said it was “okay” for me to be gay...and that all the anti-homosexual stuff was a misinterpretation of scriptures, why even then I was still taught that there was ONLY ONE WAY to be saved!


But even though I somehow slowly began to sense what Jim Palmer (a former evangelical megachurch pastor who came to see that lives were not being changed for the good) said above, that I wasn’t born Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Catholic, Protestant, but taught to be a Christian, I still couldn’t help but think about, in absolute terror. how lucky I was to have been raised Christian, because I could have been born into a “wrong” religion that doesn’t have the ONLY way to Heaven.


I dwelled in dread and sorry and pity for all those poor human beings who were being taught “wrong” and how they were all going to hell!


I could be reduced to vomiting about it.


But then....


Then I began to use the discernment (an inner peaceful ability to know if something was correct or incorrect) I was taught use all of my life. And what hit me stronger and stronger and stronger was this inner peaceful message...that none of those people were going to hell. None of them were being taught the “wrong religion.”


And that was why all that talk that I had been indoctrinated with upset so much!


My constant unease was because I was being told that a day was coming where we would all be judged (by a God that had supposed unconditional love for us) and that people were going to hell, and I knew deeply and instinctively that they weren’t. That when I was told that I felt “bad” because I knew I was a sinner and I wasn't turning away from sin, when in fact, I was feeling bad because I was being told something evil.


The teachings of Jesus are beautiful. He taught something that had never in the Abrahamic ways had been taught before.


He was preaching LOVE.


He was teaching people to think of God as their Abba (which roughly translates into “Daddy”) instead of a scary God sitting on some kind of Olympic-style marble throne ready to stretch out his hand and unleash terror and pain and death. Jesus was teaching that God was unconditional love.


But his followers, who had been raised themselves to believe that God was vengeful—like Vulcan or Zues or Pele—just couldn’t get the message. They simply couldn’t shake their indoctrination that God must, simply must, have conditions for his love. Punishment was simply too ingrained into them to allow them to exorcize these ideas from their deepest consciousness.


I mean think about it.


The Hebrew people were taught that they had made a Covenant with the One and ONLY God. Then in comes the Babylonians and the Romans (and more) who would conquer them over and over again. How wrong it must have seemed to them. They followed the "One true God," so why didn’t their One True God save them? Or when he did, why did it take so long. According to tradition, the Babylonians enslaved them for seventy years and the Egyptians or four hundred and thirty years. And this wasn't God's punishment for them not believing that Jesus was the Messiah, because this was before Jesus was born.


So, they had to reason something out to explain it, and still allow them to believe that way they had always believed. They decided that they had done something wrong and were being punished. I mean, punishment was their everyday lives after all. Because they were more than once enslaved. So naturally, when the great temple was destroyed the final time, and some Jews converted to Christianity, they would have to make a belief system that included punishment, despite what Jesus taught. It was their only way to wrap their minds around the hardships that they saw and endured every day.


And when Rome itself converted to Christianity and the book we know today called the Bible was finally compiled together, they would have to pick the Gospels and writings, and there were in excess of fifty,* that included this view of God--including those beliefs that we had to turn to priests to tell us what to do--and reject the ones that taught something entirely different!


Because how else can you control your congregation?


For instance, the Gospel of Thomas states that, “Jesus said, “I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there."


Now if people had been taught that they could find Jesus anywhere, why would they need to go a priest or minister and tithe to their church?


I myself personally believe that there was a historical Jesus. I believe He lived and taught. I believe he had a message that could save us all. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ... And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:40)


Imagine a world where everyone followed, if not both of these ideas, at least the second one! A world where everyone loved their neighbor as they loved themselves (of course, that could start a whole new conversation about all those people who can't love themselves, but that is an essay for another day, that will probably have something to do with toxic religion being the cause of why they can't love themselves).


The Buddha, when he began to teach, never said that his way was the only way. He taught that it worked for him. and he thought it would work for anyone, but that they should try it themselves and see if it did. If it did give them peace, so be it. If not, then they should move on and find a way that worked for them.


But how can any church control its congregation if we are all allowed to make up our own minds?


It can’t.


But it can indoctrinate us so deeply, so marrow deep, that it is all but impossible to escape.


Napoleon Bonaparte said that, “Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.” I see great truth in those words. Control.


I personally believe that is the root to a lot (not all) atheism. It is not a rejection of God so much as it is a rejection of a definition of God that we all have been raised and taught to believe in. And when they reject that God, they reject the possibility of any kind of God. A “throwing out of the baby with the bathwater.” Let me repeat, I am not saying all atheists. I cannot and will not speak for others. That is a lesson I have learned. I can only speak for me. And through my writing, I do.


But I find it fascinating that so many religions, from all four corners of the globe, isolated from each other, from mighty cities to tiny villages along rivers in lost places, pretty much share a common set of beliefs that all fit under the umbrella of “Love your neighbor as yourself.”


Abraham Lincoln said that, “When I do good I feel good, when I do bad I feel bad, and that’s my religion.” When asked to explain his religion, the Dalai Lama has been quoted as saying, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”


I like that. When people tell me that I am kind, I am always deeply touched, deeply humbled. I know that I am not always kind. I can be a jerk. I can be cruel. But my goal is to always be kind, and I like to surround myself with people who live their lives that way. Who when I am feeling dark, they remind me of what I truly believe.


I am not anti-Christian. I am only against using it to make people feel horrible about themselves, to make them feel less than the perfect beings that they were made to be, I am not anti any religion. Not any religion that teaches us to love each other and help each other and stop expecting some Ultimate Being to do all the work for us.


I believe that is why we were created. To love and help each other. When all the horrible stuff happens in the world? That isn’t some “God.”


It’s us.


I think if we all tried to be “Daddy” on earth, we would live in Paradise.


I can’t change the world, but I can change my corner of it.


How about you?

Namasté,

(the Divine in me sees and recognizes the Divine in you)

BG “Ben” Thomas

Jan 24, 2024, Entry #024


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** Per “What are the Canonical and the Apocryphal Gospels? How Many are There?”, we are told that “Based on information gleaned from the Fathers of the Church, on extant apocrypha themselves, or manuscript references, the number of apocryphal gospels is known to be in excess of fifty.”: https://opusdei.org/en/article/what-are-the-canonical-and-the-apocryphal-gospels-how-many-are-there/#:~:text=%E2%96%BA%20Based%20on%20information%20gleaned%20from%20the%20Fathers,%E2%80%9CThe%20Church%20has%20four%20gospels%2C%20the%20heretics%20many%E2%80%9D

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Family tried to indoctrinate me as a child. Their efforts were entirely wasted and I cut off all contact with them for many years. When I did make contact again as an adult, I decided that they were not worth speaking to because their minds were thoroughly poisoned by their beliefs. They could not see other ideas, other ways to believe in God as anything but the road to the hell they so strongly believed in. I don't believe in hell. But you already know that about me, and my actual beliefs.


May the scars on your heart from the hate of that religion be erased by a river of kindness. I truly want that for you, Ben.

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Most religion is about control. Spirituality, on the other hand, is about Love. Post Toxic Church Trauma is a real thing. I am glad you are recovering. Namaste.

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I'm fairly heavily agnostic anymore. So much pain has been caused in the name of religions that it is hard to reconcile.

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