Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Identity (part 5) -Deconstructing common beliefs about Religious Identity

Dearest brothers and sisters,

When it comes to identity and the main religions of the world -there exists different teachings, different thoughts, and diverging sects in each religion that exists presently (and for that matter, has ever existed).  Some strands over the years have withered and faded away, some have become more popular recently and have taken a more dominant position presently than they ever have in the past.  Either way, these different religious sects and diverging religious views create minor and major differences inside any one particular religion for the adherents of that particular religion.  The problem however, is that the outside world (and especially the Western world) likes to categorize and stereotype religions as being homogeneous.  In order for the mind to comprehend and understand religions, religions were transformed and thought to be homogeneous and seen as “one” when they never were.  

In fact, Islam has different teachings and diverging sects ranging from the most conservative branch to the most liberal.  For example there exists: Shia Islam, Sunni Islam, Quranism, the Nation of Islam, Kharijite Islam, Salafism/Wahabbhism, Sufism, Isma’ilism, etc.  To complicate things, even inside of these sects, there exist smaller regional sects and ways of thinking which the outside world never hear of or encounter.  Catholicism/Christianity also has different teachings and diverging sects.  These sects range from Orthodox Christianity (Greek, Ethiopian, or Russian), Coptic Christianity, Catholicism, the Church of Latter Day Saints/Mormons, Protestantism, Evangelicals, Jehovah Witness, etc.  To complicate things further, inside each of these groups, there exists different ways of thinking about God, the Trinity, and Jesus.
Buddhism also has different teachings and diverging sects as well (Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana) ranging from Conservative views and practices to more open minded Esoteric beliefs and views.Judaism has different teachings and diverging sects as well dating from Roman Times such as the Samaritans, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Essenes, and the Zealots.  In recent times, Judaism has evolved into Karaite Judaism, Sephardic Judaism, Ashkenazi Judaism, Hasidic Judaism, and Reform JudaismEach branch of Judaism affects the way the adherent views God and lives his or her life.  This also alters the way one gets along with the other types of Judaism in existence that competes against his or her view of Judaism.
Sikhism also has different teachings and diverging sects ranging from Namdharis, Udasis, and Nirmalas, as well as the mainstream Sikhism, which most are familiar with today around the world.Each religion listed above (and the religions I have not mentioned) have been greatly impacted by the historical timeline and historical atmosphere it was created and formed in.  Each religion, during its formative years, has been deeply influenced and heavily affected by the regional“culture” it was created in and the political atmosphere it found itself in.  No religion escaped the regional, political, or financial burdens placed on it.  In addition, religions in South East Asia, particularly Sikhism and Hinduism were re-defined and re-structured due to Colonialism which has major affects on the adherents of those religions (even today).  With that said, for any person, in any religion, to say, "They hold God's truth" it is nothing more than that particular individual saying, "For me, this is what I think God is".  It is nothing more than personal, individualized opinion based on their beliefs, centered on and around their own cultural beliefs and cultural views.  It means nothing more.

"Birth lotteries" affect the religion you are born into.  “Birth lotteries” contribute to the region and area you are born into and grow up with. "Birth lotteries" decide the regional culture, regional rituals, and day-to-day thought processes and behaviors that you inherit from your family and your social environment.  Depending on the social situation and social environment that you find yourself living in, seek beyond what the "birth lottery" has given you and seek your own "truths" in the life you live.  For many people, it means the freedom to choose which strand of teaching you would like to incorporate into your own personality in order to justify your own opinions and world views (even in your own religion).

Always remember, 
(a) If you do not agree to the message you are hearing, you could always change the priest, preacher, imam, or rabbi by going to a different mosque, synagogue, gurdwara, church, or temple.
(b) If you do not like the atmosphere in the church, temple, gurdwara, mosque, or synagogue -you could switch sects and look into different teachings in your own religion.  
(c) If you do not like the particular sect or you disagree with its teachings, you can read for yourself and evolve your own belief system by talking to others of the same faith who share your own views.
(d) If you have lost hope in your own belief system, you could change to another sect, or even change the religion.
 In other words, with the examples mentioned above, no one has the right to judge you based on his or her religious perceptions, religious teachings, religious views, the religious sect he or she is from, or the religious beliefs he or she holds.  No one has the right to judge you on what you identify with. No one has the right to believe themselves as being higher in opinion than you. Especially when it comes to religion where so many religions, theories, teachings, and sects abound.

Mainstream religions (and by that I mean "mass" religions with strong followings in regards to the number of adherents and the amount of finances collected by their adherents) believe they have the right to condemn others and persecute others, damning individuals and groups, and looking down upon them.  Judging their way of life and believing they speak for God.  If those religions and those adherents choose that particular frame of mind and point of view, that is their individual and collective choice to do so.  Just remember what they believe is not necessarily true even if they believe in it with passion, with conviction, or with emotion.  What they believe is their belief system and that is all it is.  It is nothing more than that and it is nothing less than that.  Do not feel forced to believe in a religion, or its teachings, or its value system without understanding the historical and cultural timelines involved with it.  

Be weary of people who identify themselves as being a part of a religion or sect and only see one side of the coin without seeing the other side.  For example, those people who identify themselves as Buddhists and only promote their religion as being peaceful.  Meanwhile, they do not acknowledge atrocities committed by nationalistic Buddhists in Sri Lanka, or by Buddhists in Myanmar, or by Buddhists in Cambodia, or by Tibetan Buddhists engaged in guerrilla warfare during the 1960s and 1970s with China. Though Buddhism can be a peaceful religion, it has not always been peaceful.  

It is easy to accept the propaganda by the media and vilify easy targets such as Islam, Judaism, and Christianity (for that list is stained with a long list of atrocities and bloodshed in every region across the world). For that reason, I focused on Buddhism in particular for in truth, there is no such thing as peaceful religions.  There only exists peaceful teachings and peaceful passages that exists in all religions and in most religious texts.  However, when it becomes politicized, it often becomes conservative and rigid and peaceful passages are forgotten in order for economic means to push forth.  Often times, when religions become regionalized and politicized, it becomes based on survival and with survival, it often means becoming more rigid, less compassionate, less understanding, and more about creating a homogeneous identity for the adherents and individuals in that particular region and religion at any one time.  The religion takes on a ethnocentric world view and incorporates the “US vs. THEM” mentality.  

One can highlight teachings if they choose to do so.  When it comes to texts, one finds what one seeks to find due to his own knowledge, his own life experiences, and what he has been taught to believe at a young age.  However, the wisdom in each religious text is so interwoven with double layered meanings, contradictions, and riddles that what you are able to read and see is limited on your own understanding and your own limited life experiences.  You might not be able to fully understand what you read and therefore will interpret it the way you want or need to which is incorrect and can limit your perception of the world and others in it.  It can also cause severe damage to all those you come across.  Often, what you see at one time in your life, you will see differently at another time in your life.  Since you are always growing and changing, how you look at one passage from a text at one particular time might be different at a later age with more experience and more understanding.  

In a world where every individual creates his or her own purpose and meaning in life, faith enables individuals to believe emotionally and passionately in something and therefore find their meaning in life through their faith.  However, the danger occurs when faith allows an individual to manipulate the mind enough so that not only does it become interwoven and tied in with his personality and belief system, the individual personifies his faith with his emotions and it becomes his sole identity.  When this occurs inside an individual, it often blinds the individual to the reality that existed before his change and exists presently after his change.  Therefore, this “blindness” enables an individual to miss things he or she would have otherwise seen had he or she been clear sighted and not emotionally fused and emotionally connected with his or her faith. This emotional bond tied into faith also opens the door for individual to become manipulated by politicians, by religious teachers, and by individuals -so be careful what energies, teachings, and thoughts you put into your mind.

Do not forget that all religions feed into the “War Machine” of the physical, material, economical, regional, and political world we live in.  In fact, Jesus Christ (under Constantinople during the formation and expansion of Christianity and under the Roman Catholic Church during the“Age of Discovery” -millions of people were massacred while adherents spread the “Good News” around the world).  Under Martin Luther and during the start of the Protestant Reformation (hundreds of thousands of people died in the German Peasants War). During the 30 Years War between Catholics and Protestants (8 million people died).  The Protestant/Catholic/Christian message once politicized and regionalized has fed into the “War Machine” killing countless of millions of innocent people in order to expand the religion outwards.  The “War Machine” of Buddhism is still active in Sri Lanka and Myanmar presently.  The “War Machine” was active in Islam (under Mohammad, under the reign of the Turks, under the Mongols, and the Muslim Mughals).  

Though religious teachings are based on peace, love, and equality, “peace without war and conquest has never existed”.  Peace can only exist under the victor's terms and the opponent’s subjection and suppression.  Social realities will always alter the teachings and theories of philosophical spiritual teachers.  The “War Machine” has also been active in regions controlled by religious groups in the past with a Conservative and rigid forms of understanding (ex: Taliban in Afghanistan and the Sikhs under Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale).  On a smaller microscopic scale, The“War Machine” also exists inside homes when a family member/family member(s) are forced to suppress their views, beliefs, and feelings in order to exist inside their home and be accepted by their other family members.  

Brothers and sisters, imagine hitting a dead end in an argument with a parent or friend.  I want you to picture this wall vividly and clearly.  Now that you picture the argument and wall, what happens next?  You have very few choices.  
(a) You decide to end the argument and agree to disagree
(b) You end the relationship because the argument meant more than the relationship
(c) You continue this argument at a later date because presently it is not going anywhere
 Now try that when it comes to social, political, and economic realities.  It is not possible to do (a) or (c) because in the real world, the side with the most finances, weapons, and powerful backers will push away the weaker side and conquer not only the land but the people and resources on the land.  Arguing over the issue will cost more financially than waging a war and then blaming the side that loses and taxing them by annexing their resources to pay for the war.  This is how religions spread all throughout history.  It has not been the peaceful image that each and every religion tries to convey and portray to its adherents and the public at large to attract more adherents.  The truth is, fighting over “God” is fighting over culture, identity, and a superior belief system.  That is why wars erupt because often you cannot prove a “God” is stronger or weaker than another “God”.  You are actually fighting for your“culture” and “region’s superiority.

For in truth, all religious founders founded cults and fringe groups.  Each founder had a small group of adherents who he taught and year by year, it grew in number.  However, it was still small in scope and very non-influential.  It was not until it became politicized and often regionalized that the cult was able to spread as quickly and reach as far as it did.  Often, religion did not spread through peaceful means (though every religion creates that myth).  Every religion will create a “defensive myth” and will create “martyrs” to cover the bloodshed of moving forth with their convictions and belief system.  Religions spread quickly through war and fear.  Often times, whole regions and areas were forced to convert when their King converted.  Religions did not spread as fast as it did without violence and fear being involved.   
Religion is nothing more than an ideology that grows from regional culture and regional identity.  Over time, regional religions create rituals and rites for a group of devout adherents before it grows in population and finances.  When it has enough people and finances, it automatically becomes politicized and has the power to influence governments, business, rulers, and the other groups of people around them 

“Born again” followers of any religion (ex: Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, etc.) usually pick the more conservative and rigid belief system of their own faith.  For some it makes up for lost time since they lost their way in the past and now they can “double” their efforts and convictions.  For others, it enables them to have purpose and dedicate themselves to something bigger than themselves since they have lost faith in the world and in others.  For others, it helps them come to grips with the past and creates a safety net based on their submerged childhood beliefs.  For some, it helps them feel better about their selves and enables them to feel “saved” from the “world of sin” that is around them, enabling them to have the power to judge others since God has “opened their eyes to the truth” 

Religions would have consolidated and formed differently and less rigid had it not been politicized.  
(1)  Had it not been for Constantine and his politicized formation of Christianity, Christianity at that time was different and more esoteric than what it evolved into with him pulling the chains.
(2)  If it were not for the Singh Sabha Movement and their politicization of Sikhism, “Sikhi” at the time had various different strands of thinking (mostly regional, often esoteric) and would have formed differently as well.
(3)  Had it not been for the Aryan Invasion, most of the caste structures and rigid belief systems about the afterlife in Hinduism would not have been created in South East Asia.
The list goes on and on my friends, for every faith that became politicized.  Often a theoretical belief system that attracts believers and grows in numbers will automatically become incorporated over time into the material and physical structures of the world by becoming politicized when a power struggle occurs.  This will often cause it to become more rigid than it ever was beforehand.

Adulthood and complete maturity is the realization that childhood myths come to an end.  Otherwise, you will always have an infantile outlook on life, on yourself, on the choices you make, and the way you look at the world.  You will often grasp on to cultural, nationalistic, and religious myths that are interwoven and intertwined with politics in order to identify who you are and what your purpose while living is.

1.) Just because you want to believe in the “Afterlife” and Heaven or Paradise does not mean it exists.  It means you need it to exist in order to give your life value, purpose, meaning, and direction.  Historically, the view of death started with two trends: 
(a) you died and went into the emptiness and darkness of reality, fading away into the oblivion never to return again.
(b) you died and since you are made out of energy and vibration (life force/spirit), your energy and vibration went into the reality to be used again by other living things that were also connected to this one reality of complete vibration and energy.
From those two strands, regions and cultures competing for adherents (which meant a tax base and a power base) tried to outdo each other by altering the conception of life and death.  With the Aryan invasion, it started by including that being a good person in this life meant that in your next life, you were born into a good caste and you lived a good life.  That being a bad person in this life meant in your next life you would be born into a bad caste and suffered.  Over time and with Christianity becoming created and absorbing other regional beliefs into the fold, specifically Norse and Celtic beliefs which combined an “afterlife” where you battled either on the side of the ‘good gods’ or the ‘bad gods’ depending on your life here on Earth the “afterlife” was born. Christians also absorbed Judaism’s teachings of death, where after you died your soul awaited God’s calling to return to his fold.  Combining these two beliefs, “Born again” for Christians meant going to Heaven when God called you into his fold after death.  There you would experience the “Kingdom of God” when the “End of Days” occurred.  Over time, Christianity evolved into the belief that being born again meant going to heaven after you died where those you loved awaited your return to them.  Later on, during the Renaissance era in Europe, Catholicism incorporated and added onto older ancient Eastern teachings and ancient Western writings of death and added layers of suffering for those that died and did not believe in God and “his teachings”.  With the printing press and the entertainment sector being created over time, the Western Judah-Christian/Catholic view of death and the afterlife took hold on the minds of majority of the world leaving behind Eastern concepts such as Reincarnation and Transmigration.  

You can believe in one version or the other (i.e.: the Atheist view on life OR the Judah-Christian view on life).  You can in fact believe in any view of the “afterlife”.  It does not make the view you hold about the “Afterlife” real or factual.  It just makes it real for you.  If you trace the “Afterlife” back to its ancient source, you find that the infantile views we hold about the afterlife now are just that, based on romanticized stories we hold to be true and want to be true.  In the past, after people perished their relatives would still worship them, revere them, and pray to them because though they died their vibration and energy was still around and could affect you in your life.  Presently, our viewpoint and perception of the life after death revolves around finding peace and happiness when that was never promised to us in the first place.  It is hard for people to fathom that when you die you are not redeemed for all the suffering and sacrifice you have went through while on the physical and material plane.  It is hard for people to accept that all “good” people will not find the justice they seek and that “bad”people will not be judged by God. That in fact, there is no God that will “judge” you or condemn you and the way you lived your life

2.) Similar to how languages formed in the past and branched off from very few language trees, belief systems followed the same trend.  Early on, when beliefs formed theoretically and philosophically, they were rooted and centered on vibration and energy. It was rooted and centered around God's existence in all things all at once.  In order to connect to him you would have to connect to the sound and vibration that is your reality, that is all reality and all forms. Connecting to that vibration and using it to channel through you would connect you to God.  God was not a judge, ‘nor a personified individual with human traits.  It was everything and anything that existed in the material plane.  God was 
“I Am” and “I am” existed in everything because it could not be removed from it.

Over time, and due heavily because of Western belief systems and Western schools of thought (due in part to the Abrahamic conceptions of God through the existence of Judaism, Christianity/Catholicism, and Islam -the 3 biggest “War Machines”) this conception of God was forgotten and a more human, personified, judgmental God took hold on the minds of people who have never encountered it beforehand.  In fact, in ancient days before Abrahamic religions took hold, when you wanted to focus in on something, and because God was too hard to focus on in his entirety, teachers created symbols and mantras in order to assist you with a connection to God and “All that is”.  Symbols however, failed for many, so teachers humanized symbols into people and made God into a personified being(s) with attributes (ex: Romans, Hindus, and Greeks making the God of War, God of love, Nature Gods, etc.).  However,  the Romans under Constantine eliminated all the other God(s) and created one God to worship which was the only way you could connect to God as a whole.  Through Jesus, you connected to God.  Through Jesus, a more loving, forgiving God you were redeemed and saved.  This eliminated all the other deities.  However, Catholicism brought back personified Gods of the pre-Constantine era by resurrecting saints that you could pray to that would give you love, success in education, or success in battle.  Around this time, numerology and astrology was taken out and replaced by Jesus and the saints.  All you needed was Jesus and the saints and you could connect to God.  Islam then transformed God into being out of reach and being only able to be reached through knowing and living the way the prophet wanted you to which was based on regional language and regional culture.

As you can see, as religions expanded, politicized battles changed and re-arranged what God was and blurred the lines of how God works through us and inside of our living reality.  Our vibrational connection with God will always exist however, it serves no one economically if the masses realize that and turn away from organized religion.  When you identity with God and realize dead or alive you are connected with God, you will be freed from any “regional”, “cultural” or “religious” teachings and views you were brought up on due to your “birth lottery”.  God has nothing to do with wars that occur, droughts that occur, economic hardships, diseases, and natural disasters that occur.  If you believe God will give you the strength to get over your hardships, then God will give you the strength to get over your hardships because God lives inside you and is all around you.  When you see God as vibration and sound, you will realize what you ask and want and desire is the only thing that God can give you by opening opportunities in your magnetic field, which you must utilize when it appears.  That is God.  God is vibration and energy and spirit actualized and made alive when you connect with him.  God does not judge you or want anything from you.  You are manifested in the material form through the “birth lottery”
 and you must utilize the opportunities you have when they are yours.  God has given you everything.  God’s “magic” works through you and for you by the choices you make based on the opportunities presented to you.  Your thoughts make God’s "magic"become a reality and a part of your reality.

3.) When it comes to morality and religions one must look at this one example to see how regional and cultural morals can influence you the way you look at morality and marriages.  “When it comes to Marriage contracts in most Islamic societies and communities it is not the usual practice for young people to seek actively a partner for themselves by following modern and western rituals such as dating. However‘Forced marriages’ occur where consent has not been given by the bride, or is given only under excessive pressure.  It is considered legal in the dominating schools of Islamic law if it is the first marriage of the bride and her guardian (wali) is her father or paternal grandfather. A guardian who is allowed to force the bride into marriage is called wali mujbir.  Also in Islamic societies,  Nikāḥ al-Mutʿah (Arabic) is a fixed-term or short-term marriage in Shia Islam, where the duration and compensation are both agreed upon in advance.   It is a private and verbal marriage contract between a man and an unmarried woman and there must be declaration and acceptance as in the case of nikah. The length of the contract and the amount of consideration must be specified. There is no minimum or maximum duration for the contract.  The Oxford Dictionary of Islam states that, "the minimum duration of the contract should be at least three days". The wife must be unmarried, either Muslim or one of the ahl-e-kitab, she should be chaste and should not be addicted to fornication or a virgin without father, and due inquiries should be made into these regards. At the end of the contract period (i.e. dissolution of Mut'ah), the wife must undergo iddah. The Mu'tah (both of Hajj) and marriage remain one of the most disputed issues among Sunnis and Shias. Sunnis prohibit both type of Mu'tah while Shia permit both.  Both Shias and Sunnis agree that Mut'ah was legal in the beginning.  Muslim narrator Ibn Kathir (1301-1371) writes:  "There's no doubt that in the outset of Islam, Mut'ah was allowed under the Shari'ah".

The point made here in this case example, is that sex, love, morality, family dynamics, family ties, and relationships depend more on power dynamics and cultural/regional dynamics than anything else.  God will be used against you as a "judge" but it is not God judging you, it is your culture, your society, your family, and your friends that judge you.  What you choose to do based on morality depends heavily on the environment and culture you find yourself in.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Your concept of right and wrong based on your upbringing will determine the actions you take in your life.  What is not accepted now was accepted in the past.  What is accepted now, was not accepted in the past.  What is accepted in one sect or one region is not accepted in another region or another sect.  What is accepted in one religion is not accepted in a different religion.  Realize that "morality", "right and wrong", "sin", "heaven and hell" are all weapons used by people's understanding of those concepts.

No comments:

Post a Comment