Religion and Spirituality in society have often divided many people and Nations. Humanity often feels strongly that their belief system and the higher being that they worship is the true religion. But often we fail to see just how alike every religion or spiritual belief really is.
Christianity is the largest religion in the world. It has dominated western culture for centuries and remains the majority religion of Europe and the Americas.Christian beliefs center on the life of Jesus of Nazareth, a teacher, and healer who lived in first century Palestine. The primary source of information about the life of Jesus is the Gospels, which were written sometime between 20 and 100 years after his death and became the first four books of the New Testament.
As a Christian brought up in a traditional Catholic home, I believe in God and the salvation of Jesus Christ. It has given me strength and hope throughout my life that has allowed me to overcome so many of life’s tragic experiences. I left the Catholic Church many years ago, not because my beliefs had changed, but because I no longer agreed with their traditions and teachings that often went against the teachings of the bible. For example, The abundance of statues that represents Saints and biblical figures which adorned the walls of the church. Catholics often pray to these statues for whatever their need is at that time. But in the Bible, one of the commandments states: “Thou shall not worship any graven images…” When I questioned a priest about this his reply was that they were not worshiping the statue but the person it represented. Well…. Correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t the bible also teach that you should only worship God? Well, that being said, I did not agree with its teachings so I left and embarked on a spiritual journey of my own beliefs.
I am a Christian and I believe in God and the Salvation of Christ. I also believe in many of the teachings of the Bible. But I am also aware that the bible has been translated over hundreds of years in many different languages. As the bible continues to be translated, edited and printed in today’s society, it no longer holds the original teachings during the time of Christ. Just like a game many of us played when we were children in school… someone whispers a sentence to you and you are supposed to whisper that same sentence to the next person. But by the time it reaches the last person, that sentence has changed from the original message. It is all a part of human nature to change things we see and hear because of our own personal interpretations.
Although I still believe in the teachings of the bible, I only take from it what speaks to my heart. You can get several different people to read one passage in the bible and then ask them what it means to them, and quite often it will mean something different to each person. I myself have read the same passage in different occasions and depending on what I was going through at the time… it would mean something different to me at that moment. These days I consider myself a Christian of many different beliefs. It is all about what speaks to my spirit and inspires me at certain moments of my life. Below I write about the controversial religions that have been around since ancient times yet has been banned and labeled as non-religions by Christian Churches and beliefs and marked as “evil” in a misinformed society.
Spirituality goes beyond all religions and beliefs. It is a search for a spiritual dimension that not only inspires but creates a sense of harmony within ourselves and the universe around us. The relationship between our humanity and something greater than ourselves urges us to seek answers to things beyond our own understanding. Our human nature during times of intense emotional, mental or physical stress compels us to search for a meaning to what we are experiencing. Often, we seek inspiration through nature, music, the arts, or any set of philosophical beliefs. This can result in a broad sense of principles that stretches beyond all religions.
Spirituality means something different to everyone. For the majority of people, this is found in their Christian beliefs. For others, it can be a form of meditation, yoga, quiet reflection, exercising, taking walks and learning to find peace within ourselves. Spirituality can also be found in religions that revere the connection we have to Nature, the Earth and the Universe around us. Even skeptics can’t stifle the feeling there is something more than just the concrete world we see. There is no right or wrong way to experiencing spirituality. It is all about what speaks to our hearts, what inspires us to reach for more and hopefully help us create a sense of fulfillment in our lives. As humans, we can’t help but continue to ask the big questions. That instinct seems to be wired to our minds and make us the unique individuals that we are.
Our personal spirituality, the essence of our own beliefs makes us who we are. But that does not mean that what is right for us… what works for us will be right for someone else. The passion we have for our own spiritual connections oftentimes causes us to reject the beliefs of others. Intolerance for the spiritual beliefs of others will cause an imbalance in our own life. Intolerance for others can destroy the peace we strive to achieve in our own spirituality. As spiritual beings, it is important to be accepting of others and their beliefs in order to maintain peace within our own spiritual realm. But this is something as humans we constantly struggle with. Lack of understanding and the intolerance of others will always cause havoc in our own life because it destroys the peace inside of us that we are constantly in search of. Accepting the belief of others, especially when it causes harm to no one, is the only road to peace in our own spiritual journey.
There is a controversial religion that has emerged in recent years. It is a faith that accepts all religions of the world to worship under one church. I personally love this idea because I do feel that is important for people of all faiths to come together as one. There is a church in Lynwood Washington run by the Rev. Steven Greenebaum that does just that. The church is called Living Interfaith Church and it offers people of all faiths and beliefs an interfaith experience. Instead of focusing on only believing in Jesus, Muhammad, or any other religious figure that are specific to certain faiths, this church focuses on bringing together people of any and all religious views.
Living Interfaith Church defines its theology as a faith that welcomes the teachings of all religions and spiritual paths that leads us to a life of compassionate action. Interfaith does not promote which religion or spiritual path is right. Instead, it teaches that we are all brothers and sisters who have experienced what is sacred to us differently at different times and places in our lives. This faith celebrates the different spiritual paths with the understanding that it is our actions in this world that count. It believes that we are called to unite as one with compassion and love. I believe that Interfaith is the best model in our religious beliefs that teach how we should treat one another.
This church draws from the teachings of the Koran, the Hebrew Bible, 2 volumes of the Humanist Manifesto and the “Black Elk Speaks” which is a Sioux book as well as other elements. In the liturgy, they include sayings and invocations from different religions including those of Bahai, Shinto, Sikh, Hindu and Wiccan traditions. For anyone who believes that their faith is the only way to God, this religion is not for them. The Rev. Steven Greenebaum states his faith by saying “My faith is Interfaith. My spiritual path is Judaism. My tribe is Humanity.” That last line specifically connects with me. I believe there would be more acceptance and tolerance if we all believed that Humanity is our tribe.
Paganism and Wicca
Paganism and Wicca is a very misunderstood form of religion. It has often been described as a non-religion in traditional Christian society. The fact is that Paganism is a religion of nature which means that Pagans revere Nature. Wicca is a previously underground religion that practices the Wicca Craft also known as Witchcraft. It is a way of life that teaches about survival and about the ethical use of our natural innate powers. Pagans and Wiccans believe in a spiritual way of life. It is basically rooted in the old religions of Europe, even though some also find a connection in the beliefs of other countries. This belief in the sacredness of all things can be found worldwide. Pagans see this as their heritage and practice the beliefs and values of their ancestors in ways adapted to suit modern life. It is a celebration of the sanctity of Nature, believing in the Divine of all things.
The Wicca Craft is a lifestyle that gets into every potential that you have. The Craft draws its strength from the vast diversity of nature itself. Christians believe that this is an evil religion that practices Satanism. This can’t be farther from the truth. Witches are NOT Satanist! It is a label that has for centuries stigmatized the Wiccan and Pagan religions. In truth, this religion teaches and emphasizes to cause no one any harm. Wicca is a very peaceful, harmonious and balanced way of life. Wicca and Paganism is a deep appreciation of nature. It is being awed by the beauty of a sunrise or sunset. It is the beauty of the woods under a glowing moon. It is noticing the morning dew on the petals of a beautiful flower or a soft breeze that caresses your skin. It is the song of birds and the sounds of all creatures and being humbled in the presence of Mother Earth. A Witch is a healer, a teacher, a seeker, a giver and a protector of all things. The beliefs and practices of being a Wiccan or Pagan is not a cult. These religions define themselves as followers of the Earth and Nature. The cycle of Nature is their Holy days and the Earth is their temple with its plants and creatures and their teachers. They respect life, cherish free will and accept the sacredness of all creation. Although modern Christianity refuses to acknowledge these religions, I find nothing wrong with this these religions that simply believe in all things good and pure. Due to society’s misinformation and the fear of the things they don’t understand, many Pagans and Wiccans practice their religion privately and do not go around broadcasting their beliefs openly out of fear that they will be targets of violence and cruelty in a society that refuses to accept anything outside of their own understanding.
Whatever your religious or spiritual beliefs are, it is your own personal journey to what brings you peace. The only perfect religion in life is the one that brings you the peace and that personal fulfillment for your own life. I feel it is important to always be accepting of others and their beliefs without judgment in order to keep a balance of good-will inside ourselves. When we allow the negative feelings of hatred, jealousy, and basic intolerance toward others, we destroy the peace within ourselves and our own lives.
I am someone very open and accepting of others and their beliefs. But I do struggle with those same negative feelings that inflict us all especially when someone causes harm to another human being. Perfection does not exist in Society, but we can always do our best to be the best that we can be for ourselves and for everyone around us. All it
takes is acceptance, tolerance, understanding, hope, and most important of all…. Love.
I am very aware that there will be many people who do not agree with this article because they are passionate about their own spiritual beliefs. My main goal is to inspire people to learn to accept others for who they are and how they treat you, not by what their belief system is. When you judge the beliefs of others, you deny yourself the opportunity to learn and grow as a person and you disrupt the peace in your life that acceptance allows you to feel. Remember… what you see in others is a reflection of who you are.