What are we doing? Instead of being nice, instead of being compassionate to each other, instead of helping each other, we are judging each other for our beliefs. That isn’t faithfulness to a God. That is faithfulness to a religion. It is clear that we have come to a point where we confuse a religion for God.
We have confused the story for the message. We get caught up in the details of our differing theistic stories and we argue, often violently, the details of these stories instead of honoring the common message.
We see this played out in our wars. We see this played out in disputes in our communities. We see it played out in our domestic and international policies. Our relationships are damaged, our families split, our nations torn, and our minds confused because we have all become conditioned to be more faithful to a religion, and the story in the particular religion, than to the message of the God. In essence, we have been taught to worship the religion instead of the God.
Religions vary. Characters in the theistic stories vary. Time, place, and languages vary. Throughout the world’s recorded history, many religions have held prominent roles in their respective societies; and even though the details of each story may vary, the message of the story has always been the same.
Be loving. Be forgiving. Be compassionate. Be kind. Share with others. Treat people as you want to be treated.
Why don’t we focus our religious enthusiasm on these wonderful messages instead of fighting about the details of our differing stories? Why do we treat our religious designations with the same blind and belligerent loyalty as we do our favorite sports teams?
For thousands of years, from wars to science denial to slavery to rape to mandated inequality; the sustained influence of religious dogma has left a polarizing effect on the global population. But in this heated debate, let’s not convict the message of God for crimes committed by the ravenous guidelines of theistic dogma.
Religions are born from the stories of a people’s subjective experience of God. The expression and devotion of religion’s followers isn’t always negative. There have been many beautiful works done in the name of religion. And while the subjective experience of God holds personal value, it is important to not lose sight of the objective reality that religion can be good – it can even be great; but it can never be God. As a global society, we would take a magnificent step towards peace and harmony to not confuse the two.
© Steve Maraboli
From the book, “Unapologetically You”