On Being – Chapter IX – The Commonality Among Faiths (Part I)

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Introduction

In this section I am looking for parallels among the major Faiths – Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism – to promote the idea that across time, cultures, and distances, the message coming from God/the Divine has been the same message. If that is so, why then have we persisted in killing one another for seven millennia? Why do we continue to deny one another the right to life, free will, comfort, safety, community, tolerance, and equal opportunity – rights given them by God? Why, after all of these years, have we not accepted that violence, intolerance, coercion, mistrust, and dishonesty can produce nothing of permanent value for anyone?

The answer is simple enough: ego. Ego cannot tolerate even the slightest departure the world may take from the “truth” it works so hard at cultivating for itself. Ego is operating wherever humans are involved -particularly in matters of religion. Here it is too easy to fall into the trap of needing to be right. The rationale might go something like this:

“If God is the leader of our Faith, then God’s Will is being communicated to us through the apparatus of our Faith. How can we be wrong? Allowing that another Faith might be right is like saying ours is wrong, is like saying God is wrong. God cannot be wrong; therefore the Faiths who differ from ours have to be wrong.”

And so it goes…

Now, to the list of commonalities. These are the ones which I have found. This list is by no means complete, and only includes what I call the ‘major Faiths.’ As for my approach, I began with my own religious tradition. We learned all about The Ten Commandments in Grade One, and I use them as a basis of comparison with the other traditions. What would you add to the list?

 

I           The Lord Is. The Lord is not guided by His Ego; neither should you be.

II         Respect God. Do not use God’s Name to curse.

III        Give one day of the week to the Lord and God’s Creation.

IV        Honour your Family. Honour your Father and your Mother. Look after your Sister and your Brother and your Children, and the unfortunate in your community.

V         Do not kill.

VI        Never Lie about Other People, or Betray their Trust

VII      You shall not take anything that belongs to or is intended for another.

VIII     Always work to ensure no one is lacking in what God has intended for them.

IX        You shall live as Stewards of the Earth and of Humankind, in such a way as to honour God, our Ancestors, our Children, and also future Generations.

X         Resolve to be part of the Solution, not the Problem.

XI        Dedicate Your Life to Service.

 

I – The Lord Is

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Catholic Version: I, the Lord, am your God. You shall not have other gods besides me (Deut. 5:7, KJV).

Jewish Version: You shall have no other gods but me (Exod. 20:3, KJV).

Muslim Version: There is no other god beside God (Al- Quran, 47:19).

Hindu Version: God Exists. One Absolute OM. One Trinity: Brahma, Vishnu, Maheshwara (Shiva)

Buddhist Version: Belief in non-creator deities; some Buddhists revere the Buddha as a god (but not a creator-god) while others do not.

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In first grade I was presented with my first textbook – a child-friendly version of the Catholic Catechism. On page one, there was a depiction of the Earth set against a starry background. The text below introducing God and saying something to the effect that…”God has always been.” I distinctly remember thinking to myself at that moment, “How could something always be?” Apparently, the notion is difficult even for a six-year-old to accept; how much more difficult for an adult! As an adult many years later I had occasion to revisit this question. I found my answer in asking another question – Since something cannot come from nothing, something had to always be, so if it was not God, what was it?

Those who run around like Chicken Little, proclaiming there is no God are, in my view, blind; spiritually-desensitized by their ego. Those who claim their version of faith is the only true version, or that they are the only ones qualified to speak for God, are just as wrong as the atheist, and for the same reason – ego. I so conclude because to reason the non-existence of God, or, that any one book could contain all there is to know about God, is only possible if one is deliberately and in every possible way blocking the most visible evidence to the contrary.

Only ego is capable of doing this. Only the ego-bound are able to think and feel this way without knowing there is something egregiously wrong in doing that. One who is atheist has chosen to separate themselves from the facts, to ignore what is self-evident, to ignore any and all evidence of something greater than the self and of being an integral part of something far greater. Ego both creates, and is sustained by, its own illusion.

Rather than conviction, disbelief in God is a reaction to the face of God shown to them by other people. It is preoccupation with the silly things people say about God which is preventing atheists from discerning the truth in what people say about God. With ego, it is all or nothing. If the ego catches someone in a lie on a single point, then it tends to be skeptical of everything this person says. The all-or-nothing approach is a perspective of ego; one that limits its ability to discern. The ego can discern between for and against, or right and wrong, for example. It cannot accept shades of grey, or anything supporting the notion that  variability among people and in Nature is not only acceptable, but desirable.

American playwright and anthropologist Robert Ardrey averred that it is precisely variation that species use to ensure their future.

Three of the major Faiths – Christianity, Islam, and Judaism – aver theirs is the only true Faith; that those who live according to any religious standard but theirs are misguided and perhaps even hell-bound. Throughout their history, each Faith has experienced internecine struggles, each perpetrating violence, in the name of God, upon the other, and upon their own. These individuals do not appear to have been bothered by the utter imbecility of one group condemning to hell the adherents of another, in the name of the God whom both groups worship.

Hinduism, to my knowledge, does not aver ascendancy or authority over any other Faith. Furthermore, there are many versions of Hinduism, and none of these claim ascendency over the other versions. The Hindus agree there are many paths to God, and welcome discussion of their respective differences as opportunities to refine their own beliefs.

Faiths call God by different names. They all refer to the Mind, Soul-body, and Soul which imagined, and then created the universe. All of the Faiths have established a scriptural ‘authority.’ Each cannon is believed to have been communicated directly from God to their prophets, perhaps involving heavenly intermediaries.  Most of these scriptures were written down centuries, if not millennia, after the events they describe. The Jews received the Pentateuch from Moses, who received it from God. The Christians claimed for their own, chronicles written by people with, at best, second-hand knowledge of Jesus’ ministry, nearly a century after his death. The Muslims,  received their scripture from Mohammed(PBUH), who received it from the Angel Gabriel.

Adherents of the respective faiths might privately acknowledge that they do not believe or follow all that is in their scriptures; neither do they believe it is necessary to, in order to be true to their if you do not believe every word, then you do not believe any word. Does this all or nothing approach not sound suspiciously like ego? Hmm?

With respect to religious differences, I do not see anything worth going to war over, do you? Doesn’t the fact that we worship trump any differences over how we worship? Still, from their inception, most faiths have made war upon each other. They have gone to war, in the process murdering innocent men, women, and children, over what to call God, who His chosen people are,  and who was Her greatest spokesperson. The Hebrews justified the slaughter of innocent Canaanite men, women, and children, in Exodus, because their scripture promises that land to them and to no one else. The Crusaders ‘gallantly’ charged into their holy wars shouting “God wills it!” and, “In the name of Jesus Christ,” despite Jesus being so demonstrably anti-violent that if you knew only one thing about Jesus, you would have known this, and could not possibly have missed it. The Moslems have their jihad, which some have egoically interpreted to mean, virtue in the murder of non-believers, who could be Shia, Sunni, Christian, or Jew.

God would never tell anyone to do violence against another one of His children; any such order attributed to Him is someone’s ego speaking. Is there a single parent who would tell one of their children to murder another of their children, for the purpose of not having to share the family home with them? How then might anyone conclude God could order one of His peoples to murder another of His peoples, so they need not share the ‘Promised Land?’ I realize there are all kinds of clever theological arguments to rationalize murder, but show me the parent who would order such a thing and I will show you someone who should never have been a parent, and also someone bound by ego and bound for jail. I entertain no doubts about God’s parenting ability. Do you?

VIOLENCE IS NOT WILLED BY GOD – it is willed by ego. It was ego which motivated the Israelites to slaughter Canaanite men, women, and children, together with the Hebrew belief that it was the Will of God. The Israelites were only mindful of the need to find a place of their own. They were not considerate of the Canaanites, or of any other indigenous group, who got there before they did. The Hebrews had emerged from 400 years of oppressive enslavement by the Egyptians and were tired of wandering the desert. There was no willingness among their leadership to include the needs of the indigenous in consideration of their own. This is a normal reaction. Long and intense suffering, such as the Hebrews endured in slavery, is perfect ego-fodder. Hebrew parents would have seen their own children experience horrible oppression, the while wanting to protect them from it –but incapable of doing so. Does any parent know pain greater than that of seeing your own child suffer, and not being able to take their pain away?

Pain has the effect of drawing people “deeper” within themselves, where they are no longer sensitive to the pain felt by others. Some Hebrews were, as were their leaders, seduced by ego into inflicting upon others the very suffering that had been inflicted upon them.

The ego cannot stop even there. The sorry situation ego is responsible for creating, ego must somehow rationalize, or it will feel guilty -recalling the egoic cycle of Action-Reaction-Guilt. The challenge for ego is to make itself believe its own actions are justified, though they be, by all appearances, identical to the terrible things others have perpetrated upon it. No small task here – I’ll warrant there were many among the newly emancipated Hebrews who could not find themselves capable of murdering innocent men, women, and children, solely on the basis of how terribly the Egyptians had treated them. It would have been necessary, therefore, for the leadership to find a way to manufacture support for the slaughter they were about to inflict upon the Promised Land’s current occupants. Such a directive came, just in time, from God Himself. Really? How fortunate. No one would question the Will of God.

The Hebrews were exploited and brutalized by the Egyptians for four centuries. Their only crimes were: in not being Egyptian and in believing in just one God. Interestingly, an Egyptian New Kingdom pharaoh,  Akhenaten, introduced the notion of “One God” to the Egyptians, some thirty years before the birth of Ramses II, the pharaoh of Exodus.[i] The Hebrews were no threat to the Egyptians; but they were perceived as threatening to the Egyptians because they would not accept slavery. But ancient ego, just like the modern kind, is able to imagine all sorts of threats without any help from anybody. When the Hebrews left Egypt, they were determined to never be put in that situation again. Their determination was borne out of the severe oppression they experienced. With this experience fresh in their psyches, there were only two ways they could respond:

  1. The way of ego: No one is going to do that to us again. We will find our own land. If someone is already there, we will take it from them, just the way others would have taken it from us. We will make it ours…because God wills it.
  2. The non-ego way: No one is going to do that to us again. No one should ever treat anyone that way. We will find our own land. We will endeavour to make peace with our neighbours and to work collaboratively with them. We will never raise arms, except in defense of ourselves and our neighbours against the oppression and aggression of others.

At that time, sadly, it was ego which had the final word.

Today, the Jews are still fighting for their homeland; but they continue to expand their current turf into areas that ethically and morally belong to the Palestinians and into lands taken from other peoples in the 1967 war. Israel’s conservative governments have been provoking their neighbours and some of their neighbours have been provoking Israel. This, some 3400 years after establishing the land purportedly promised them by God. After all this time, you would have thought the Jews, and their neighbours, would come to realize there is no changing anything with violence.

Violence exchanged for violence is simply a game of tossing logs into the fire of ego which is burning between respective nations. But so long as they, and their neighbours, choose to not extend their thinking beyond the level of ego, they will never perceive their own folly, nor the lack of justification for the evil they continue to perpetuate upon others, and others upon them. Non-egoic thinking reveals that violence is by nature reactionary and therefore cannot result in anything of permanence. Non-ego informs people that it is folly to wait for the other side to take the first step toward peace, because they might never do it. Non-ego knows that if either nation were to make the first leap of faith, they are, at the least, assured of planting a seed of peace which may resonate and grow into the very solution both sides need. I believe President Obama recognized this in his approach to a deal on the Iranian nuclear program and the lifting of economic sanctions.

I wonder if it would not be better if only those who are directly responsible for a war – the leadership and the people backing such leadership – were in the front lines, and doing the actual fighting and dying. Those directly responsible for starting wars would be tossing themselves, together with their ego, into the fire. I believe this might have occurred in ancient times. If disputes among nations were settled like that today, I suspect there would be no wars. There  would also be a lot less people having to get along in life without mothers and fathers, wives or husbands, brothers or sisters.

The Lord Is. To truly know that the Lord is, and what the Lord is, one must escape the limitations of ego. The egoic interpretation of God’s Will and Message has been responsible for all of the “faith”- killings perpetrated and experienced by humankind over the centuries. The ego’s insistence on being right on all points, introduces error, apostasy, downright lies – even atheism. One must cultivate non-egoic consciousness -in this way, one is able to discern between what is true and what is not true; between the God’s Truth and ego’s fantasy.