Today’s blog explores belief, specifically our need to cling to the certitude around our beliefs, thereby making everyone else wrong. Whether we are Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Pagan, Hindu, Jewish, Catholic, atheist or anything in between, how are we called to set aside our perceived separations and find a place of mutual honor and respect?
The Core Wound of Separation
In my book, Authentic Freedom – claiming a life of contentment and joy, I reveal the core wound of the human condition – the wound which is the cause of all suffering. The core wound is our false perception of separation. The beneficial purpose of this false perception of separation is that it allows us to have an individual and unique experience in this human experiment. However, this false perception of separation is also the cause of fear along with the compulsive behaviors that arise out of this fear. When we indulge the fears which arise out of our perception of separation and engage in the resulting compulsive behaviors, we do harm to ourselves, to others and to the world. In these situations, the perception of separation is no longer supportive of our human experience, but detrimental to it. The perception of separation has gone awry when it causes us to forget our Oneness within ourselves, with each other and with all of creation. I call the less than loving actions that come out of this false perception of separation the work of the ego. For our purposes here, ego is the part of us that has forgotten our Oneness and forgotten our original nature as love. Ego seeks to separate and divide. There is perhaps no other place that this function of the ego is more obvious than in regards to religious belief.
Ego and Belief
One of the ways we, as human beings, have lived out the divisive function of ego is by creating belief systems and then fortifying these religious beliefs by deciding that we are right and everyone else is wrong. Separate belief systems, in and of themselves, are not a bad thing. In fact, creating separate belief systems helps us to find meaning within the context of our geographical, sociological, anthropological and environmental cultures. As a species, we thrive when we gather in small, interdependent communities, working toward a common goal with similar motivations. Our separate belief systems are reflective of and supportive of this need. Our separate belief systems, however, have gone awry, when instead of supporting our interdependence, they seek to divide. When I am right and everyone else is wrong, the ego is working hard at sowing the seeds of discord, instead of supporting our original nature as loving, compassionate, harmonious beings.
God or No God?
As a woman raised Catholic in a Western culture, I believe in God. What this means for me is ever changing as I allow the “old man in the sky” God that was preached at the pulpit transform into a God that is bigger than anything I could every have possibly imagined. And just when I think I have a handle on God, I find out more. But what is funny about this is that even in the Catholic Church, there is no agreement on what or who God is or what God looks like…if anything. In fact, God is spoken of in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as breath, spirit, love, father, mother, lover, healer and it is clearly stated that God is without gender. For me, these personal as well as nebulous images and descriptions of God works. It helps me in my journey to sometimes think of a God that exists outside of me as helper, guide, companion, and at other times as a God that dwells within me and maybe even as me. I can also think of God as none of these things. I can even go so far as to think of No God.
God vs. No God
As a woman raised Catholic, I also find that I can see beyond my Catholicism and have enjoyed exploring and learning about other faith traditions as well as traditions that are not grounded in a specific system of belief. I can read and reflect on just about any discussion of philosophy, theology, religion, etc. and be open to hearing and understanding something from another person’s perspective and experience. I can find that resonates for me as truth and I feel free enough to set aside those things that don’t resonate with me. In my professional work, I can honor the beliefs and backgrounds of my clients and I can hold these beliefs as sacred, even when they might significantly differ from my own. I find that I can do this for two reasons: 1) because ultimately, NONE of us knows for certain if God exists or not and I doubt we ever will and 2) because it just doesn’t matter!
It Just Doesn’t Matter
It doesn’t matter because I realize that our belief systems, specifically our attachment to being right, are merely functions of our ego. We craft our beliefs and cling to our certitude around them because we have forgotten our original nature as ONE with each other and with all that is. When we remember this Oneness, we live in love, compassion, peace and joy, and we have no need to make ourselves right or better than anyone else. When we remember our Oneness, we are able to hold each other in mutual acceptance, respect and support and can honor the individual and unique ways in which we choose to live out this human experiment. In this way, it just doesn’t matter if what works for us is belief in a God or no God at all and we can honor and respect each other for our unique choices and can find the truth in each other’s beliefs regardless of the language or images we use to describe them.
Where do you find yourself clinging to your need to be right?
Where are you tempted to label another’s beliefs as wrong?
How are you being called to remember Oneness so that you can be more tolerant and accepting of another’s beliefs and to find the truth within their beliefs that resonate with you?