Compassion: The Illusive Goal of Organized Religions

Previous issues of the Stonyhill Newsletter on the subject of compassion talk about the primitive ego of our inner-child using black-and-white beliefs to keep our world simple and safe. Duality thinking is an effective way to manage the anxiety that comes with uncertainty; however it is also the primary source of the conflict and violence we are currently experiencing in the world. Because of duality thinking, and the need to be right, the primitive ego of our inner-child is unable to manifest a sustained compassion for others.

Because of our primitive ego’s insistence that our beliefs, especially our religious faith beliefs, represent absolute truth, there is no way we can avoid offending those who disagree with us. When we presume to be right, and automatically assume the beliefs of the other person are wrong when they disagree with us, the result will always be emotional conflict.

Faith beliefs themselves are not the problem; they merely represent the various beliefs that define the tenets of a particular religion. They always represent the cultural worldviews prevalent at the time they were written. Where faith beliefs become problematic and begin to create conflict is when our primitive ego insists that we are right because our faith beliefs come from religious scriptures and creeds that are exclusive, literal, inerrant, and reflect absolute truths.

Despite the fact that compassion is the publicly stated goal of most organized religions, the ability of organized religions to actually manifest compassion in the world is significantly limited by the rigidity of their faith beliefs, creeds, and claims of absolute truth. In other words, regardless of whether we are talking about an individual or a religious institution, compassion and absolute truth are simply not compatible.

A true sustainable compassion will not be possible in our emerging global culture until all religions renounce their claims of ultimate truth and accept the reality that all paths to God are valid. All human beliefs are relative and subjective to the person who holds them. This is especially true regarding the unverifiable beliefs of faith.

To assume that any human being, or human institution, can somehow “absolutely” know or understand the mind of the Initiating or Universal Consciousness of the universe is as absurd as a dog claiming to understand what it means to be human by simply using a sniff test. Absolute certainty is a dangerous form of mental illness and ignorance.

Unfortunately, the majority of our institutional main line religions are still based on a religious imperialism that demands an uncritical obedience to religious authority, and the conservative assumption that the faith beliefs and creeds of their particular religion actually represent ultimate truth. Any challenge or inquiry into the validity of such claims are ignored, suppressed, or assumed to represent heresy.

As we have seen in the two previous Newsletter articles on compassion, authentic spiritual growth and the ability to sustain compassion have little to do with religious beliefs; they have to do with self-transformation. When membership in a religion means making disciples and convincing others to adopt the “true” faith beliefs of that religion, it reflects a major concern over the speck in the eye of the person being converted, and little to no concern over the beam in their own eye.

It also assumes that the other person, regardless of his or her own faith beliefs, is misguided. The acceptance and adoption of faith beliefs are, almost universally, the primary focus of organized religions. Unfortunately, the institutional goal is too often the consolidation of institutional power through growth in paid membership and unity of belief; not compassion.

Stated simply, when any person or institution claims to possess the absolute truth on any subject, including religious faith beliefs, it is conclusive proof that they are working out of their inner-child’s primitive ego and have not yet awakened spiritually. They are trapped in the dangerous ignorance we call the “absolute certainty” of religious imperialism and focused on projecting their “holy” criticism and judgment onto others.

Such behavior is an embarrassment that makes virtually no sense to those whose spirituality is focused on their ability to transform themselves and manifest a true sustainable compassion for others. Authentic spiritual growth comes from a growth in self-awareness that is all too often missing inside the institutional churches.

SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

Those desiring to achieve authentic spiritual growth have a very powerful tool to use in their journey to enlightenment and true compassion. That tool is Google. With Google, we can explore and research virtually any subject without leaving home.

A spiritual practice that will lead to greater compassion and a more authentic spiritual growth is the practice of taking a religious faith belief and looking at modern historical and biblical scholarship to see what others have to say on the subject. Faith beliefs to study for example might include the virgin birth, the parting of the Red Sea, Jesus walking on water, Jesus turning water into wine, killing the first born of each Egyptian family, or the plagues that God brought down on the Egyptians. There are literally hundreds of faith beliefs that most of us have simply taken “on faith” and never explored their validity.

If your research challenges your faith belief, ask yourself the question “What does this mean about my faith”. Then sit with the results of your research and the question in a quiet setting and pay attention to the wisdom or insights that emerge.

The next day, research another belief.

One person said that we could change the world in one generation if parents and teachers in every culture could simply learn be truthful, to the best of their ability, when answering children’s questions…. especially their questions about the validity and verifiable truth of our various religious faith beliefs.

Dick Rauscher is retired from 25 years in private practice as a pastoral psychotherapist, a certified Fellow in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, a New York State licensed Mental Health Counselor, a writer and publisher of the Stonyhill Spiritual Growth Newsletter, and the author of many other articles published on www.stonyhill.com on the subjects of authentic spiritual growth, The Primitive Ego Theory of Human Development, and the intentional evolution of human consciousness.

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