Every day that passes, hundreds of thousands of babies are born all around the world. It is estimated that about three hundred thousand babies, to be more exact, are born worldwide every single day, into different families, cultures, religions and environments, each under its own unique set of circumstances. In most cases, these circumstances play a big part in producing personality. It’s hard, if not impossible, to fully understand just how much of what we believe and feel as adults, how much of what we think, however confident we may feel about our beliefs and ideas, comes from these elements which we are born into, seemingly by no decision of our own, which surround us as we grow up, things including but not limited to family life and social position. Or how much of who we grow to be is already embedded in our own DNA when we arrive on this planet, just like the essence of a tree is embedded in the smallest seed, and how much of us is perhaps actually something carried over by the spirit from a previous incarnation? Most importantly, from all these possibilities and theories of reality, how can we be so sure of the absolute truth of either one? Are we born with a distinct personality which is further shaped by our life experiences, or is each of us born as a blank slate, another blank page yet to be written in the book of history? If we believe the latter possibility, then who is the author of such a book anyway? Who or what designed this world full of beauty and inspiration, but also overcome by brutality and ignorance? Is this all part of a grand design which we simply cannot comprehend at our level of consciousness? A divine plan perhaps? Or are we all accidents, existing merely by chance – a chaotic concoction of coincidences?
Many religions and philosophies attempt to provide us with answers to these timeless questions, which personally fascinate me almost to the point of obsession, a feeling which manifests in my life as a driving desire to discover the truth hidden deep within the soul of the world and its inhabitants throughout the ages, the perpetual truth masked behind all the advertising, the corruption, the labels, the denominations and the propaganda – the perennial philosophy, as Aldous Huxley would refer to this truth I seek. See, I grew up in a Christian home. My mother, a true follower of Christ, is devout, caring, and kind to all people – the purest person I’ve ever had the privilege to know. She, along with my father, raised me to live with integrity, with respect for everyone and everything. They recited Bible passages to me from a very young age and taught me about God – Jehovah, Jesus, the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. As a young child, I believed what I was told without applying any critical thinking. I found out that when I grew up a bit and started learning more on my own, reading more, wondering more, thinking outside the box, the absolute certainty of many of some of my beliefs didn’t seem so certain at all anymore. I realized that we all have the capacity – no, the duty – to wonder, to inquire into the deepest parts of our spirit. My mother wholeheartedly believes that one must accept Jesus as one’s sole savior and God incarnate in order to reach heaven eternally after death – if not then the alternative is hellfire and suffering, also eternal. I’m not saying that any of this is something I believe or I don’t believe necessarily, but what I am saying is that one must make the effort to investigate and learn from religions and philosophies other than one’s own, in order to compare – not to create division, but to connect the similarities, to dive into the differences, to enrich one’s life experience. An early unease with this situation about hell, and the injustice and cruelty I feel about the idea of it, as well as the possibility that it could be a total invention, a tool for mass mental control, and an unease with not knowing how people can be so convinced of their beliefs beyond doubt, have been like fuel for me, they have ignited the fire of inspiration in my soul to always learn and to grow more, to leave aside all vanity and to follow what is true and good, to always dig deeper and to doubt everything – to believe all but to believe nothing all the same. To believe in one religion exclusively is to shut oneself out of the richness of other cultures, of deeper understanding among brothers and sisters who are also God’s children.
Closing ourselves off from religious and philosophical teachings from many of the world’s great people throughout history and today because they did not or do not share the same label as us is closed-mindedness, it is willful ignorance, and it only results in a loss for ourselves, at least in the immediate sense. Way too much suffering has been caused and is still being caused by people with the idea that they must spread their perceived truth to humanity by any means necessary, disregarding all values in the process. How can we be completely certain of any specific religion or belief unless we consciously expand our horizons and study other people’s beliefs? After all, a child born to a Christian family in America, especially Central or South America where the culture is centred around family values more than in North America, has a high chance of growing up with Christian beliefs and forming a Christian family, while a child born in India might grow up as a Hindu, also respecting and caring for the planet and for humanity, trusting in God, except that he may call God by a different name, or by various names which could even represent the different energies of God at work in the universe – such as the Atman which represents our Spirit, the Divine reflection of God’s essence, referred to as Brahman. In the Middle East, many Muslims bow down daily in reverence to Allah, devout and pious people who have no appetite for destruction and death. They worship the same God of Abraham who founded the Jewish faith and also inspired the faith of the Christian religion and all its subsequent denominations. After all, Allah is just the Arabic word for God. Jews and Arabs are basically cousins, and yet the ceaseless fighting and war is devastating families and communities, all because we can’t put our pride aside, put our differences aside, and coexist as a peaceful people, as vessels of the divine Spirit, without labels and hence without prejudice. It is essential that we all open our minds and hearts to the wisdom of others.
With so many religions, philosophies and ideologies, one at times might wonder how any critically-thinking person can follow one specific religion or belief system and feel completely confident in it. How can one be certain that one’s belief is in fact the ultimate truth of the universe, without ever even considering any of the other “ultimate truths” our fellow humans believe? We have friends who we have known for years, and yet we never ask them about their beliefs because we are so sure about our own. We all walk around in multicultural communities, everyone interacting with each other in a friendly manner, working, playing, socializing, everyone making their earthly existence work out as best as they can by means of constant collaboration. We call ourselves brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, co-workers, friends, relatives, partners, and yet we all might call ourselves by different religious labels. One of us might believe that you and I will reincarnate here on this planet or on some other one, as people or animals or anything, or you might believe we will either go to heaven or hell. If my friend stopped for a moment to think about what his religion teaches him to believe about someone who does not share his same religious belief, he just might conclude that such a person will burn in hell upon death, as if he could accurately judge said person’s purity of character. But just as a reminder to those who see others in this way: Jesus himself warned against attempting to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye as you blindly ignore the log in yours, and he also dared any man without sin to be the first to cast a stone at the woman who was about to be killed for having been caught in the act of adultery. Do not judge others because there is plenty to judge in yourself, not so that you can put yourself own, but so that you can correct any continuous mistakes and destructive habits.
Just as one person might believe his friend will go to hell, another might believe that he will simply drop dead one day and that will be it – the movie’s over and everyone exits the theater. So many beliefs to critically consider, at least if you’re on a mission for the real Truth, not just the convenient one. All of us ordinary citizens pretend that we are so sure of our beliefs, but if each and every one of us would take a moment to try to understand each other’s views on deep, important subjects, we could hardly handle such a conversation for more than a few minutes without our egos getting in the way, starting trouble and leading to fights breaking out. Why is this? Because we have turned personal beliefs, spirituality, religion, and many subjects on humanity and life into delicate, offensive triggers for those who can’t wait for the next opportunity to express anger or feel offended and hurt once again. On our quest to become completely politically correct, we’ve come to live in fear of each other instead of respect. We can’t handle even friendly opposition to our opinions.
This is an issue which has been bothering me quite a bit lately, due to my specific set of circumstances. You see, I was born to two very loving, compassionate and authentic parents, and I already mentioned my mom for a moment. My father is also very religious, or spiritual, depending on your definition of those two words. My dad has described to me how he would wrap a pair of headphones around my mother’s pregnant belly, so that I was being influenced by the words of the Bible before I was ever born. My mother read Bible stories to me since a very young age, and I grew up going to church. I also have some very hazy childhood memories of attending synagogue services, as it can be said that my father has always felt a strong connection with the Jewish faith and people. To be honest, it’s difficult to pin him down to a specific religion, but one thing was always clear with my parents—The Bible is God’s book, and His Holy word. Interpret it as you wish, but it is the only book to interpret. According to some sources, there are approximately thirty thousand denominations within the Christian faith alone, not to mention many other religions and belief systems regarding the universe, ranging from Judaism to Islam, from Buddhism to Hinduism, from atheism to Satanism, from the beliefs of the Native American Navajos, to New Age spirituality. Who is right, if anyone at all? For someone who was born to atheist parents, or into a household in which religion or spirituality do not have much influence, and who came to the point of embracing a specific God or religion later on in life, the answer might be easy. If such a person has gotten to that point in life, then they believe they have found their truth, by walking their own path. No one has imposed their beliefs on this person. They searched and they found, they have experienced something. But is that the case for someone like me, who grew up on Bible stories? Can I truly believe what I believe just like that, without fear of being ignorant?
All the death, the horror, the injustice and the ugliness that dwells inside us as well as all around us is ignored. This enables us to go along our day, minding our own business, pretending everything is fine in the world. After all, we all have enough of our own problems to deal with. How could we possibly make time to listen to other people’s issues, and to care for them? How can we possibly take time to listen to, or read about, other people’s beliefs, and to ponder them, to consider them at the very least? It seems that a lot of religious folks are unfortunately too busy to do these things, although they sure are quick to cast judgement upon others who do not share the same label to define themselves. In fact, however, someone who truly follows the teachings of Christ, and loves his neighbors as himself, who judges none, who teaches love and compassion; someone who walks with the needy like Jesus or Buddha, someone who lends a helping hand to his brethren, that person is walking in the teachings of all enlightened beings since the beginning of time, regardless of his religion or denomination. Such a person simply has no religion because he has no need to impose any belief on anyone else. This person is full of love for himself and for the planet, as he sees the world as family to himself, as identical in nature.