Life is your adventure. Religion and spirituality can help you make sense of your life and navigate its challenges. When was the last time you stopped to consider what your life is all about? Why are you here on Earth? Children hear that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up. That is not quite true. Some paths require resources, money, skills or connections which might not be readily available to you. Your choices are not unlimited.
A myth is essentially a guide; it tells us what we must do to live more richly.
As early as people could communicate, they developed stories to explain their relationship with the world and cosmos beyond what they could see. They wondered at the divine mysteries in their surroundings, venerating them in their daily lives. From the beginning, people seemed to appreciate that there was something more beyond their experience of daily life.
With the development of communication, cultures developed stories which gave life and meaning to the mysteries which surrounded them. These are myths which date back in one form or another to the earliest civilizations. These days, we tend to think of myths as stories which are untrue. The original meaning was stories which put into words the larger context for human, animal and plant lives, indeed the lives of the earth and the universe. They were not meant as literal facts but as a reverent way to speak of our home and beyond.
The Koran and the Bible were both initially handed down through oral tradition and eventually published. This makes it difficult to know what was revealed as editions have changed over the years. Just one brief example. In current versions of the bible, the Angel Gabriel is said to have greeted Mary with the words, “Ave Maria”, or in English, “Hail Mary”. The Greek version which predated the Latin presents the angel’s greeting as “Kaire, kekaritomene” or “Rejoice, you have found favor.” Before that was the oral tradition in Aramaic.
Versions of religious stories appear to have changed over the centuries to reflect the civilization in which the great religions were practiced. We now take for granted, at least in the United States, separation of church and state which until several centuries ago was not even a consideration.
Since the industrial revolution, we have moved toward scientific explanation of everything in our world and away from a mythical explanation which took into account our values, emotions and personal experience of the world. Many religions have also taken the position that they are the one true religion and the others are of no account. God has not ruled on this debate, at least not yet.
The major religions have also suffered distortions of their teachings to justify inhuman treatment of each other. The crusades and inquisition are historical examples. The jihad which is geared toward killing random civilians is a more recent example.
When we return to the core teaching of all religions as originally intended to be followed, we find that the common denominator is to treat others as we would wish them to treat us. The challenge now is to return to the basics of our various religions or commonsense beliefs among people of no particular religion. We can treat each other with compassion although this requires us to release our hatreds, rivalries and competition with each other on a human level.
Life Lab Lessons
- Decide how you would like to be treated by others.
- Try treating others that way.
- Be open to how others would like you to treat them.
- Try acting in a way they would like you to act.
- Be aware of the brotherhood and sisterhood of your fellow human beings.
For free email subscription to these posts, sign up at http://www.eepurl.com/mSt-P
“Religion” is typically considered as a “belief system” or a “structure of beliefs and practices concerning the divine.” It’s a recent development in the meaning of the word, and it would have been foreign to, say, Aquinas, for whom religion was a virtue.
A virtue is the perfection of a power of the soul, or, in modern parlance, an excellenceof the human person. We see a height of humanity in courageous actions, a greatness we are all capable of. We admire courage, not as something for just this or that person, but as something every human being can and ought to aspire to. Virtue, then, is not the addition of some pleasing quality, slapped on like a sticker on the surface of this or that person. Virtue is the perfection of those powers and capacities every person really does have, our indwelling capacities for courage, patience, justice — and religion.
Last Sunday’s Conversation delved into the trend that more people are proclaiming to be spiritual while fewer identify with traditional religions, and what was behind this shifting view. We asked: How would you describe yourself in terms of being spiritual or religious, or both?