November 2015

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Religious scariness

I have been doing fine as a Pagan for over 20 years. And I thought that I had finally "gotten over" the fears and awfulness that were a part of my experience of Christianity. That religion may be a comfort to many, but all it did for me was make me fearful, anxious, and upset all the time. I finally left in 1990. I moved through phases of relief, anger, and other emotions; but eventually I thought I had reached a place of "live and let live".

Then two things happened in the last couple weeks. And I hate using this terminology (it seems to be all over the Internet), but I think this one thread I was reading on a tarot forum should have had a "trigger warning". People were being polite and giving various views about whether a Christian could "safely" read the tarot. Then there came the Bible quotes (mostly Old Testament). And somehow I found myself snapped back into thinking, "But what if they're right?" and feeling very afraid. Which is what tormented me for so long, both when I was inside that religion and after I had escaped. It doesn't help that I'm obsessive/compulsive.

The other thing that happened was that we watched the first two episodes of the new series, "The Leftovers". I did find an article online that helped me to understand that "the rapture concept is relatively new. It started with an Anglo-Irish theologian, who in the 1830s invented the concept...before John Nelson Darby imagined this scenario in the clouds, no Christian had ever heard of the rapture." The word "rapture" doesn't even appear in the Bible.

But why am I even concerned about what's in the Bible at ALL?? I had come to understand that the Bible was A holy book, not THE holy book.

So how do I regain my equanimity? How do I put aside what is not part of the belief system I had moved into and felt fairly at ease with? "What if they're right?" That is the awful phrase that can haunt you if you do not have absolute spiritual certainty. But really, NO one can have *spiritual* certainty. Religious certainty, yes. I had that when I was a born-again Christian and was terrified of what would happen to my family and friends if they did not convert. Now I am not certain about much of anything spiritual...except this:

"Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them." -- The Dalai Lama

I need to hold onto that as my lifeline. That is the Golden Rule in a nutshell. And that is really all any of us can actually know for certain.

::deep breath:: Stay away from toxic things. Stay with what is good and kind. If anyone else has some good, peaceful ideas, I am open to them.

Comments

The test of any religious system is whether or not it lives by the principle that seems to underlie any true spiritual system. Does it live by this principle: Does it try to really help people, or does it involve the control of people?

An ye harm none, do what you will. (Wicca). Do unto others what you would have them do unto you. (Christianity).

What is our purpose in existence? That can be summed up in two words:
help others.

That's it. That's how simple it is. Now, look at the history of the major spiritual systems. Do they live by that principle?

Islam: Do back in history and you'll find a lot of violence and taking over other places against their will. Today's Islamic extremists live by the principle of killing anyone who isn't Islamic and thinks just like them.

Christianity: Again, a long history of wars and violence, plus the witchcraft craze in which 50,000 or more died by fire or by hanging just because some one else in that religion thought they were too different

Shinto: At one time it was peaceful, but during World War II it was taken over by the state to serve the militarists and to raise hatred against anyone not-Japanese.

One can continue with these types of examples. The point is that "what if they're right?" doesn't apply because by their own actions these religions have proven they are right; their histories are steeped in blood. Even today Muslim extremists kill innocents. The Jews and the Palestinians are constantly trying to kill each other. Religion is about control, especially control of women and their sexuality.

They are not right. They cannot be right, or any God that exists would be a truly violent monster who loves death and total control.

Just because a lot of people think something is right does not make it so. If that were true, then slavery would still exist. The South would have won the Civil War. And so on.

What is "right" is what works for the individual as long as by doing what they believe is "right" they are not consciously harming others.

The level of hate and intolerance has grown in this country, and neither is "right", yet both are reflected strongly in religious extremism and in political extremism.

Believe and practice as ye will, as long as ye do not consciously harm others.
Thank you so much for your reply. Lots here to think about, but much that gives me clarity and comfort!
"Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them." -- The Dalai Lama

Thanks for sharing this!

My kind of basic, bare-bones, bottom-line spirituality is:

God helps us as we help each other

and

When you ask for help, help comes.

Obviously, there's a lot of different ideas throughout history -- and even throughout my own personal history -- about what constitutes "God", "help", and from where such help might come/what it might look like, etc., but those are two core beliefs I've held onto whether I'm reading pagan texts, listening to San Francisco Zen Center podcasts, attending mass, or letting Muslim friends share with me about their beliefs/rituals/holy times, etc. Like the quote you shared, I try to find common themes and take what I need (and leave the rest).

I hope either/both of these axioms are helpful to you. It sounds like we have many similarities in our histories, despite obvious differences in our ages/anatomies/etc. This just makes me all the more certain that nothing happens by accident, and how cool it is that we are journal friends!

Have a great week.