Sunday, November 15, 2015

Religious Hatred Can Be Ended by Dr Andrew Cort

Americans and Iraqis were killing each other in the Middle East. Several young men in Pakistan murdered their own sister yesterday because they decided her choice of a singing career was sinful. A man is on the run from the police in Connecticut after murdering a Wesleyan College student and threatening Jews and other people that he hates. Jews and Palestinians continue to kill each other in the Holy Land. A man in Brockton, MA, my home town, appeared in court today for his arraignment on a murder charge: while waiting in jail, he carved a swastika on his forehead in order to clarify whom he hates and thinks should die.

And so it goes. On and on. Everybody hates everybody else, and sooner or later someone who agrees picks up a gun or a knife or a bomb and does the "work of God."

Then the atheists chime in, self-righteously spewing venom toward anyone who believes in anything, and blaming 'religion' (or God) for all the violent idiocy of people. But hatred is the cause, not religion, and these atheists have as much hatred as anyone else. They just have a different belief system based on buzz words like "facts" and "scientific experimentation" and other modernist mantras that they assume make "obvious" sense: more justifications for why "we're better than they are", and "those people don't get it", and "all the problems of the world are their fault", etc., etc.

It never ends. Liberals hate conservatives because conservatives listen to the "Christian Right". Conservatives hate liberals because liberals are godless heathens. Men hate women because of what Eve did back in the Garden. Women hate men because religion has taught them patriarchy and justifies abuse. Even within a religion, sects hate sects, gurus hate gurus. Everybody hates everybody and it never ends.

But it Could end. There IS a solution.

It's not a foolish solution ("Everybody give up religion and we'll all be happy atheists"). It's not a violent solution ("Let's kill off everyone who doesn't believe what we believe"). It's not a happy sentimental solution ("Oh, let's all just love each other"). It's a Real solution. And like most solutions to difficult problems, it's not 'simple'. It's a solution that will require serious efforts to think, to understand, and to make changes in how we live our lives and how we perceive reality. Because if we want the world to change, We have to change. As long as we stay exactly the way we are, the world will stay exactly the way it is. The problem is not "the world". The problem isn't "those people". The problem is us. Period. If we don't start with that recognition, then all we'll do is keep on arguing, and 'reforming', and complaining, and 'writing new policies', and spinning our wheels trying to get somebody else to change. But this has never accomplished anything, and it never will.

Real change always begins with changing the way we think. (The Christian gospels, by the way, say exactly that. The Greek word is metanoia, which does not mean "repentance". This is a ridiculous misinterpretation. Metanoia means "changing the way we think").

This is what Socrates worked on with his students. Their minds - like ours -- were so clogged up with absurd prejudices and groundless beliefs and indefensible opinions, that he had to force them to question everything and bear witness to their own inner nonsense, until finally they let it go and their minds were empty of all the garbage. Only then could real learning begin. Socrates didn't try to replace their 'wrong' understanding of piety (or justice, or courage, or wisdom) with his own 'right' understanding of piety (or justice, or courage, or wisdom). He had no answers for them. He just forced them to drop their own ridiculous 'answers', all the foolish assumptions that formed the basis for their useless and violent actions in the world. Then they could begin to learn. If they wanted to.

Most people, of course, don't want to. It's much easier to just continue wallowing in our inner nonsense, to go on hating and killing or whatever it is we do to get through the day -- bullying people, joining gangs, killing enemies, making fun of anyone who's different - it's all the same thing, and it's all so easy.

We have to Want to change. This is why Eros was such an important figure in Greek Mythology. Eros is not simply about sex. Eros represents the desire for everything that is good, true, beautiful and worthwhile. Without this desire nothing will ever change. But if we have it, change is at least possible. And, again, change has to begin with changing how we think. Socrates knew this. The authors of the Gospels knew this. It isn't a secret! But it isn't easy. It's hard. And no one wants to do anything that's hard. But sometimes, strenuous effort is necessary.

What does all this have to do with ending religious hatred? It means we have to think differently about religion. We all think Their religion is teaching something different from Our religion, and only Our religion is Right. So everyone else is 'wrong' at best, or 'evil' or 'inferior' at worst.

But all of this is just foolishness. The whole premise is wrong! All our religions are teaching exactly the same thing! And it is not that "we have the real truth", or "we have to convince everyone to believe this", or "we must destroy the disbelievers", or "God is on our side", or "this is what God wants us to do to be moral", or "this is what really happened in history", or serpents are evil, or women are bad, or sex is terrible, or abortion is a sin, or atheists are going to hell, or any such nonsense. People get these ideas because they accept misinterpretations (like translating metanoia to mean 'repentance'), because they take everything superficially and literally without thinking, and because it's easy to just "believe" what someone else tells us to believe, rather than making any effort to think and understand.

So what IS religion talking about? It's talking about the growth and maturity of the human soul. This begins, as noted, with emptying the mind of nonsense and becoming open to real learning. And it continues with efforts of the soul to evolve consciously, to reach higher levels of wisdom and understanding, and ultimately to attain what eastern religions call "Enlightenment". But this is not an Eastern concept. It's a Universal concept. We've just forgotten it in the west, because we've read our mythological and religious literature literally rather than symbolically.

All of these stories, from different times and cultures, seem different on the outside. But on the inside, when we study them symbolically and allegorically - rather than merely literally and historically -- they all tell the SAME story. They consistently weave the tale of a soul - your soul - that has descended into material life and must now do the work to find its way home again. This inner journey, the basis for all 'Sacred Quest' legends, has been called "The Return to the Promised Land", "Persephone's Ascent to Olympus", "The Resurrection of the Soul", "Muhammad's Journey to the Seven Heavens", "The Quest for the Holy Grail", and many other names. Everything that happens along the way - the wars, the joys, the obstacles that are overcome - must all occur deep within oneself. In other words, the inner esoteric teachings always present the psychological map for spiritual initiation.

When this shared noble purpose, this stunning underlying Unity of all our traditions, is finally understood and accepted, there is no further need for religious hatred and bigotry. The atheist observation that 'these stories are not rational' becomes irrelevant, and all the ugly enmity between science and religion, liberal and conservative, east and west, Jew and Christian, men and women, heaven and earth, etc., etc., comes to a quiet and inevitable end.

Please, stop merely "believing" what the Bible 'says'. Instead, make the effort to deeply ponder what these stories Mean.

Read "Return to Meaning: The American Psyche in Search of its Soul", by Dr. Andrew Cort, D.C., J.D. To place an order, to read Free Excerpts, and to find out about Talks and Seminars, click here now

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