LOTUS OF THE HEART
Living in Love beyond Beliefs
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For this writing, "religion," or "spirituality," is a system of forms (beliefs, stories, practices) that provides means of contact between the Sacred and humans. "Religiousness" is the response of a person or community to the Sacred.
This essay arises with sensitivity to the varied feelings concerning religion. As in politics, we see regarding religion intense feelings and often at extremes. I believe we can find a middle way about religion, avoiding extremist thinking: fundamentalist religion, fundamentalist anti-religion, both biased and myopic in mind-set.
What I am most interested is to highlight how religion is vital for the role it serves. We can no more blame religion for its shortcomings than we can blame politics for its failures. These systems, like others created by humans, are receptive to being used to express both the highest and basest of human intents. Such faulty social networks are vital, while imperfect - however, so are we flawed, and what we share in together partakes in our shortcomings and our excellences.
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Before proceeding, I consider it important to give a personal view that many of religion would disagree with. It is likely many persons are responsive to the Sacred without any idea of being so; some of these may not believe in the Sacred. That is, one does not have to be consciously religious to be a deeply religious being, nor does one have to like religion or believe in any Higher Being to be in this way. These I would conclude are exceptions, but those that are may, in some cases, be more genuinely religious than most who identify with a religion. In this, speaking theistically, many who have no faith in God may be more godly and responsive to divine Grace. That one does not believe with the reason does not mean one is not in living, vital contact with the Heart of Life. We cannot assume persons who seem unable to find a way to have religious faith or, thereby, acting in bad faith, and this anymore than we can assume persons who appear to find faith easily attainable are acting in good faith. In fact, it seems the religious venue has a deadening effect on many persons, putting them farther from faith than if they had no association with religion whatever. We cannot know the heart of anyone else as to why or why not they find religion something they are or are not drawn to. It is undoubtedly preferable that one have living contact with the Sacred apart from a religion to one who is faithful to a religion but lives without this communion in daily life and through Nature.
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I once felt much-wounded by religion, after serving as a clergyperson and professor many years in religious settings. Accordingly, what I write arises from a struggle with religion and, also, experiencing how one can be religious and not in a religion. For many years, out of the church ministry and serving as a chaplain, I rarely visited a public religious gathering. Now, I rarely do. Yet, I am not against religion, not opposed to religions, and feel an association with a religion would benefit most persons. However, the need is little recognized in western culture now.