This is a conversation about religion. Yikes!
Often, just the mere mention of the word religion will get people to unconsciously straighten their backs and tighten their guts, while waiting for whatever is coming next. For me, I’ve lost count of how many people, once they discover I am Jewish, who want to share with me the simple fact that as soon as I make Jesus Christ my lord and savior I would be welcomed into God’s Kingdom of Heaven. Since Judaism is considerably older than Christianity, by, oh what’s that number, 3,760 years, I’ve often thought of all my dead ancestors and where they wound up after leaving their earthly bodies.
But interestingly I do believe in Jesus. But more about the historical Jesus as described in Reza Aslan’s bestselling book, Zealot. I am also very drawn to the Gnostic Gospels found in Egypt in 1945. Gnosticism being more about humankind’s individual relationship with God than it is about having a strict organized religion, created by men, to control men and women, boys and girls, with fear and damnation.
Even as a little boy in Sunday school, learning bible stories out of the Old Testament, I could not reconcile a loving, creative and merciful God with one who would smote (here is a word you don’t run across too often) you if you by chance angered Him, or for that matter, Her. If this was what organized religion was about, than I didn’t want any part in it. Immediately after my Bar Mitzvah at the age of thirteen, organized religion and I parted ways.
Now does that mean that I am against organized religion for everyone? Of course not. Just because I chafe at the yoke of religious dogma does not mean that that very dogma, and the organization that exposes it, does not bring enormous comfort to those who believe in it. And religion does more than just comfort our souls, it brings structure to our lives. But in my life it is my relationship with God, and God alone, that brings me even more than just comfort and structure; it brings me enormous joy and happiness, unconditional love for ALL my brothers and sisters, and the knowing that God has asked me to fulfill a function while in this body, a purpose so-to-speak, that will benefit all of mankind. I am hoping it is through the words I write.
The opposite of Love is not Hate, it is Fear.
We are all at the beginning of a brand new year. We each have the power to make of this year what we desire. We do it through our thoughts, the choices we make, and how we face and overpower our fears. So please remember this: God gave each of us free choice. He will never interfere. But he does ask two things of us; that we make no decisions by ourselves — and that we always choose wisely. Have a wonderful year.