Several weeks ago, I published the article "Faith is not Religion." When I did, I felt somewhat reluctant, not wanting to wade into the religious quagmire spiraling through American politics. If you have not read the article, you might want to read it before finishing this since I feel no less reluctant to write this article.
As we all know, there are three dominant religions in current history. Two of these began as what I think of as relief valves for the original, which is Judaism.
The Jewish religion was, as I understand it, founded on the backs of those who suffered for their faith. Their God was an angry demanding and unforgiving deity. This God maimed, punished, and killed those who dared not obey without hesitation, without question.
Then, a man who many now claim to be the Son of God walked the lands of what was then Palestine. Everyone knows the stories of His deeds, His words, His lessons, and His death. Central to His message was compassion, loving one's enemy as one's friend, turning the other cheek, building plows out of swords. He healed the sick, welcomed all to listen and follow. He spoke of a loving, forgiving God.
Centuries later, another man, the Prophet Mohammad walked the same ground, offered, I believe, an enlightened message, teaching the need for harmony and education. He too spoke of a loving, forgiving God.
I do not believe that either, Son of God or Prophet, intended hatred and fear to be central to what they felt humans needed for peaceful co-existence.
Yet now centuries later, followers of all three religions seem to feel it necessary to reach far back in time for the Old Testament God's discriminating lack of compassion so they might now beget a future.
Fear is not Faith.
I write this with conviction. I do not think followers of the three religions can ever live together as long as fear is the batter from which loaves of justice are baked and shared during meals.
However, humans, it seems, need to dwell on the past to seek a future. I think that knowledge of the past can be a foundation only, not building blocks for the unseen and unknown tomorrow.
We expend too much effort; exhaust too many lives ramming wet clay cast from spilled blood into barricades and levies, to keep out the undesirable element, which too often is the element we would see if we had a spiritual mirror to gaze in to.
Elected leaders, men and woman entrusted to speak publicly, to promote reason, and doctrines of faith, twisted and writhed under the erotic and enticing caress of wealth and fame. They distorted truth for personal gain, not the common good. They used basic human psychology to further whatever agenda they received payment to promote.
Those leaders, speakers, or their masters, knew too that fear is the heart of religion. Therefore, they used religion.
They understood, it seems, that as time passed, throughout history, men rewrote, adjusted, and added to the original teachings of the Prophet and Son of God. They created demons, burned witches, hung or disemboweled heretics, dunked the innocent, stoned, whipped, or killed disobedient wives and daughters, beheaded non-believers.
Many at one time waded through flowing blood in the streets of the holiest of cities.
They performed these acts as needed to control the masses, the peasants, serfs, slaves and willing but uneducated followers, without regard for truth, justice, or the teachings of the Son of God or the Prophet.
Politicians and their moneyed masters also restricted education, or lowered the standards of educational success.
Until all the people of Earth can set religion off to the side of discussion between our cultures, we will never discover true peace. Moreover, when religion is dragged back into the rooms where cultures meet to resolve differences, those meetings must be curtailed until religion is again outside.
Peace is a living without fear. Fear is not faith. Fear is religion. With true faith comes true peace.
Listen to the voices of men and women filled with religious fervor, and you will hear anger, and know that anger is often an expression of frustration or confusion. Those emotions are deeply rooted in fear. Too often, the fear taught us by religious leaders.