Six months ago I started going to a church. I’m not religions and I do NOT believe that there is only one religion that is “right” and all others are “wrong”. I went because I felt it gave me a sense of peace, belonging, support, and unconditional love. I went because it made me want to be a better person, and it helped me be accountable for my personal character defects. I felt it even brought my family closer. It increased my faith in a Higher Power and gave me a sense of inner strength.
Soon after, bible studies were recommended and I began “studying” with a really great group of loving, supportive, and understanding ladies. But recently, they started telling me that if I didn’t do things a certain way (read the bible every day, think a certain way, believe a certain way, renounce a certain way of thinking, get baptized in their church, etc.) I would not “earn the kingdom of heaven” and “be with God.” As many of you know, I’m a huge Buddha fan, and LOVE reading the Noble Truths (bed-side table readings)and other spiritual pieces. When I told them I was reading these, they told me I shouldn’t be reading that, because it “took away from my time with the “real God” and that I would never know the “real god” if I was reading other stuff.
They told me there is “only one way” and it is “very narrow” and that my way was “selfish” and “creative” and “not what God wanted”.
Six months of having a relationship with these ladies, and I felt like I was being told, “you have to be like us, think like us, do like us, or you will never be good enough, and will burn in hell.” I asked them, “what about those in remote parts of the world that never hear the name of Jesus but live like Jesus? What will become of them? Hell?” They answered “Oh, you don’t have to worry about them. You just have to worry about yourself.”
Not only did I feel like it was extremely selfish of me to go to “heaven” while others who simply didn’t “know Jesus” burned in Hell, I felt it was morally wrong (and against the bible) for anyone to even take on such a tremendous job of judging an individual’s soul destiny. Who is to say I am more deserving than another? Much worse, how could I go to heaven holding such self-righteous feelings?
“I don’t know about that… It feels wrong to me to say that kind of stuff” I said. The ladies replied, “After all that God has done for you and your family, how could you NOT commit your life to the Bible?”
Wait, what? Was she just shaming me? Was she saying that if I didn’t do as she said, I was somehow unworthy of the blessings of God? Was she saying that because I didn’t live accordingly, I was ungrateful? I felt a huge betrayal. I wanted to stop going to the church. I wanted to stop talking to these ladies…I wanted to run away.
It took me a few days (and some talking with friends) to realize that no one can tell you what “your truth” should be. No one can tell you what “The Truth” is. No one can tell you what what your “path should be”, what your destiny is, nor how to get there.
If there is a God, according to the God she keeps referring to, this God never wanted groups of people to start organizing religion into some rule book of “who’s right and who’s wrong” and “who’s gonna make it and who won’t”. If there is a God, it seems more plausible that He/She would shun the idea of people being shamed and scared into living solely by a specific religious doctrine and pseudepigrapha or else they will burn in a fire hell for eternity… That’s not love. That’s control, manipulation, and abuse. It leads to separation. It excludes and causes judgement, hatred, and violence. It leads to wars and animosity. These are the exact opposite of all spiritual fundamentals and falls directly in line with bigotry.
I decided that, just like me, they are living the path that they feel best for them, and that was perfectly ok. As such, I would continue to live my truth and to speak my truth. I choose to believe that we are all headed toward the same “place”, and I choose to believe that we must all find our own way there, and God didn’t single out a group of people to “show the others the way” but assigned everyone on this planet the VERY important role of supporting and loving each other as we all find “our way”.
It’s easy to control people and tell others they are wrong. It’s even easier to believe that our path is the right path and the only path. There is no “righteousness” in that. But to actually develop the capacity in our hearts and minds to love and support our fellow brothers and sisters, I believe, is the ultimate message and I will continue to make this my path, even if it means burning in hell for eternity.