I'm OK, You're Not; A Journey in personal Discovery
Author: James Tippett

Chapter 7
Lessons from Religion

   Chapter Seven – Lessons from Religion

   Look back through history and you don’t have too look far to find some sort of war started because of religious beliefs. In fact, you can look back very, very far and still find religious difference as the cause of several wars1. But I find it hard to believe that the God that created us intended for us to kill each other, there are far too many diseases for that theory to be true, yet it continues. But wars do not all contain blood shed and carnage, they can also be waged through oppression, ridicule or isolation as in the war of words, war of wills or a war of beliefs.

   Who is to say what religion is the best? Or that one is better than another?  We all believe in something, even atheists2. Why is everyone so concerned with what any one else believes? Why should anyone think in this vast universe, that his or her way is THE way? In the United States two of our strongest founding principles are freedom of speech and freedom of religion, yet in some social settings and even in our personal lives we see restrictions on what we can say, what we believe and how we choose to do it. Is religion more a state of mind, or is it mind control? Why does there have to be group demonstrations to prove that you believe in something? Do our gods only exist in churches, shrines, synagogues, and mosques? So why, if we don’t “Go to church” are we cast down upon. Not reflective of our beliefs, reflective of someone else’s beliefs, how they view us. I’m OK, they are not. I pray and believe everyday of the week, not just on Sundays.

 

 

OK, maybe not everyday, but   I can read, I don’t need someone to read to me, and then ask me for money for the new lights or flat screen televisions in the elementary school, when there was nothing wrong with the old ones. I wonder how many times Jesus or Mohammad asked for a new pair of sandals before the current ones lost their utility?

   Instead, we have huge displays, idyllic statues, congregations more concerned with the show, than the One they are there to worship. I do acknowledge the societal need for togetherness and community yet in some circumstances groups of like minded individuals can take things a little too far, to the detriment of those not aligned with their views.

   Public displays that go along with religion are continually at the forefront of controversies as some people take offense to these displays. At the far extreme is the Taliban3, who tore down and destroyed centuries of religious effigies in the belief that they were blasphemous, and even executed those that were not of their religion.

      Wars started based on religious beliefs are another way of saying, I’m OK, You’re NOT, except they take it to the extreme and start killing people over it. The idea here is not to do that, obviously. Instead we are advocating the acceptance of the differences, realization of synergistic contributions, and living with each other in peace, looking to maximize the benefits to society from the gifts and talents that we all have. (Insert song bird’s melody and John Lennon type songs here) It is meant to realize that we all have differences, if we didn’t we would all be driving the same car and vying for the same job.

 

 

   How do these concepts play out in your personal or work life? These same concepts can arguably be applied to social class, ethnicity, and even the way you dress or the length of your hair.

   When the problems start is when those differences are being forced on us, for no truly good reason. This does not immediately apply to laws, and regulations set in a democratic society, with which as a society we all must live by and obey.  Discussions related to these social implications are beyond the scope of this book. This is about you and your thoughts and views. Some may wrongly assume that I am attacking organized religion, yet that is very far from the intent.

  We don’t see Certified Public Accountants waging wars against garbage collectors because they are not accountants. They accept the roll of the collector to their company’s success, no more or less important than they are. If there were no garbage collectors we would indeed be in a sad state of affairs given all the paper accountants go through.

   Yet the garbage collector may yearn for another profession. Why? Because in general, society may look at them as second class citizens making the individual garbage collector feel the same way, even though this is far from the truth. This is manifested by the evolution of the term “sanitary engineer”, as an attempt to elevate status in the eyes of others.

   There are many professions viewed as lower status yet if no one wanted to do them we would have problems. We see this in the skilled trades to a certain extent. In high school we are bombarded with college options, the need to pass regents or other state exams.

 

 

When we fail, or elect not to go to college we feel as if our life is over, or at least predetermined to rest at certain social status. And, as I have mentioned, that is not always a bad thing, but in someone else’s eyes we did not make the grade as defined by them and their beliefs.

   When society wants a carpenter to do quality work for them, they do not understand why it is so hard to find a quality carpenter, let alone a Jewish one4. No one appreciates that you can weld titanium, wire a house, or fix a modern day car engine, until of course they need it done. If you don’t have a Masters degree in something or another, some will view you as less worthy of societal fortunes. Everyone on the earth has a purpose; unfortunately it is those who take the most advantage of the others that excel, not those who look for synergistic benefit. An interesting work by Robert Greene5, The 48 Laws of Power, has recently made my recommended reading list and fully explains Green’s view of what it takes to succeed. The book identifies 48 laws, each with and example explained by historical events, related to the gaining and use of power. But like executives off to jail, it is full of accounts of people going too far and ending up in very dire straights.

  You may have a particular interest or aspiration that only you seem to see the relevance in or the benefit of. It may be a job or career choice that does not pay well, a strange hobby, a certain way of folding your clothes, or preparing your food.  Someone may verbally berate you for those decisions. The result is phobias, fears, doubts, shaken egos and less self-confidence.

 

 

Why does someone think that the way they do something, or the way they are, is the only way? Is there only one kind of tree or animal in the forest? NO. So our religion, what we believe, how we choose to believe it, and what community groups we join, if any, is up to us, not them.

   Some may argue that we need structure, a Priest, a Pastor, a Rabbi or Grand Pubah, and I do not disagree that they are a good source of knowledge related to our chosen beliefs. Yet when we elevate them to God like status, we violate the very nature of most religions. Transferring our belief and faith in our God to a human being is a recipe for disaster.

   A common issue that I often hear is in relation to confirmation in the Catholic Church. Confirmation is a choice sacrament; the choice is up to the person getting confirmed. Parents, driven by any number of the outside influences highlighted so far, direct their children to be confirmed. These same parents, many of whom do not even go to church regularly, want their children to be confirmed, why?

   By this point in the book you should be able to answer that. If the person, who is in line to be confirmed, wants to be confirmed then that is the only thing that matters, not what parents, grandparents or priests think. By forcing someone to do anything that they are not convinced that they want to do, you strengthen their rebellion.

    One thing I do not find particularly appealing in the Catholic Church is that it is assumed that you have done something wrong between last Sunday and this, which requires your attendance at church to forgive. The message, you are a bad person and you must come to me for redemption.

 

Again someone is telling you that there is something wrong with you. No matter how much good you think you did in a week, you still sinned somehow.

  Religion, no matter what faith, does have the ability to bring together large groups of people under a united cause. Most is up to some degree of interpretation, and supposedly that is where the Priests, Rabbis, Pastors, Grand Puhbah’s and sheep herders have come in to show us the way.

  The major religious faiths6 of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, spawning Catholics, Protestant, Lutherans, Baptists, Sunni, Shiite, Eastern Orthodox, Jehovah’s Witness and others with a variety of religious beliefs, way beyond the scope of this book and my knowledge,  all basically emanated from the same belief in a God, generally the same God. Somewhere along the way some enigmatic individual interpreted one thing or another differently, and got enough people to follow them to create a religion defined by their beliefs. I think the war’s started some time after that.

   When we are born and through the prime development years, our minds are mostly made up for us as to what religious faith we are, going forward the strength of that faith throughout our lives is obviously dependant on the faith of our parents, or their influence over us. I realize that parents, or guardians, are responsible for our upbringing and some do it, or did it, better than others.

 

 

 

   How we view the world up to around age 14 is largely transferred to us through their eyes. Right around this age however, dependant on the level of control exerted by the parents or guardians, the individual emerges. We begin to see the world around us though our eyes, hear it with our ears, feel it with our touch, process it all through our wonderful brain and begin to compare our process results with the guidelines set down by those closest to us and our experiences up to that point in our lives. The separation anxieties that may result from differing interpretations, just as with religion,  is another of the corner stones of I’m OK, You’re Not  as our relationships with those we see as “in charge” may lead to a great deal of anxiety, if we let it. Plenty of stuff for your journal here.   

   One last thought is on our values. Values naturally evolve from our experiences growing up and normally are imposed by those around us. Values are handed down from generation to generation, society to society, and community to community. You need to understand is that what ever your “values” are, it is a good idea to take a look under the hood and question if they are your values, or the values of someone else.  Based on some of my observations, we are missing some of the good values and many others are conflicted, but again that is not up to me to decide for you what values you feel are on your good or bad list. By now, just saying “List” should make you get out your Journal. Get it?

  So now that we are reflecting on our being, let’s next examine some of those that may be manipulating, or benefiting from, our engrained values discovered during this chapter.

 

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