Honestly, I would be very interested in hearing from people who maintain what they consider a spiritual practice with zero elements borrowed from any religion, anywhere on Earth, at any time in history. I think there are such people. Carl Sagan might be one example. He was filled with what looks to me…
Jack Preston King
Sorry it took a while to get back. Anyway… there’s a couple of things that immediately come to mind.
First is that if we took every religion in the world and removed elements that were “borrowed from” another religion, we’d have no religions left because none of them are 100% unique to begin with.
For that matter, most of Christianity is pagan in roots, because paganism predates Christianity by many years. This piece gets into more detail of how Christianity incorporated older beliefs to facilitate conversion — I think you’ll find it an interesting read.
The second thing is that the English language is filled with contronyms — words that have more than 1 meaning, 2 of which are opposite. For example, “cleave” can mean to split apart or to bring together.
To me, religion is a contronym. One definition is “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods” — fair enough, right? Except definition #2 is “a particular system of faith and worship.”
And the word religious? Well, religious means “relating to or believing in religion” So, back to the contronym. What if I “do” believe in a superhuman being, but I do not believe in any particular system? Damn contronyms. Interesting, you see?
As far as seeking enlightenment? That’s not actually a religious term.
Enlightenment is defined as:
- the action of enlightening or the state of being enlightened.
- a European intellectual movement of the late 17th and 18th centuries emphasizing reason and individualism rather than tradition. It was heavily influenced by 17th-century philosophers such as Descartes, Locke, and Newton, and its prominent exponents include Kant, Goethe, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Adam Smith.
So it would seem that becoming enlightened has little to do with religion in the first place but it wouldn’t surprise me if organized religion wanted people to think otherwise.
I might be so bold as to say studies indicate that people who closely follow any organized religion are possibly the least enlightened. Apparently, religious people are meaner, less altruistic and have a poorer understanding of the world. Google the phrase religious people are less kind and you’ll find a week’s worth of reading.
It half makes me wonder if the closed minds within organized religion are what fueled the movement in the 17th and 18th century to begin with.
On top of all of that, if I was to toss personal opinion into the heap, I’d also question why people think the existence of a “God” means that entity, whatever we call it, has any control over us.
I mean, seriously — anyone who has children ought to know better. Every parent has created a being that we have zero control over. If we’re “made in God’s image,” maybe He (or She) created us and has no more control over us than we do over our own children. Influence and control are not the same.
And still, I have not even gotten into this almost universal concept that “God” is male. I could pull up credible references that indicate that before the “bible” was converted to English, that it contained references to God being a woman, one and the same as Mother Nature. That would never fly in the male dominated Christian world.
And again, also haven’t gotten into the concept that we whitewashed Jesus. Isn’t it funny how many religions think “God” is the same color as them? I have a piece about that, if you scroll down my profile.
The way most people look at God is not how I look at God. The most amazing part is that we are fortunate enough to live in a time where we aren’t stoned to death for what we choose to believe and are free to believe what works for us.
Enlightenment works for me, in the manner that reason and individualism “work” for me in a way that dogmatic religious belief does not. Make any sense? Sorry that was so long. Hah!