Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Be the change you seek -- Gandhi

In most organized religions the teachings are based on the originator’s transcendent or mystical experience, which is then transmitted to us. Religious belief is then not based on our personal experience but comes to us second-hand. We have inherited beliefs but may not have experienced these beliefs.

We can consider that we were taught/told that God is always with us. We thereby had faith that God is present in our life, what we have called a second-hand faith. But in some crisis we suddenly feel accompanied; we may experience God in our lives. Now we have first-hand faith. The experiential faith is the equivalent of deeper knowledge, true understanding, complete awareness. It is faith-in-experience, not simply experience because it refers to that which is transcendent of explanation by another or others. Notice that in this instance our faith is in the legitimacy of our experience. Our beliefs can be subject to doubt but our experience is not doubted because it is ours.

Most critically thinking adults will be hesitant about teachings and promises revealed in religion (organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, world views, and dogmas that relate humanity to an order of existence) unless they really feel them in their own spiritual experience. David Richo writes:

When faith remains second-hand— does not become experiential — here is what then may happen to the four components of religion:

·      Beliefs can become dogmatism.
·      Morality can become moralism.
·      Ritual can become rote and empty formalism.
·      Devotion can become superstition.

The challenge for adults with faith is to rekindle the original experience of a religion’s founder or to have a personal experience of the divine. Then the four components describe a faith that is spiritually aware and alive:

·      Beliefs help us structure our lives in accord with a realization in us that a divine plan is afoot in the universe.
·      A moral code becomes helpful in forming our personal conscience so that we become more loving and act with more and more integrity.
·      Rituals nurture us and give us a sense of access to the divine and its graces in our daily life.
·      Devotion warms into a personal relationship to God so that a sense of divine presence happens everywhere and anytime, especially in nature, where the evolutionary plan is most evident.

This is how inherited belief becomes the awakened awareness of adult faith. Spirituality is about God, especially one's own personal relationship with God, and any mysterious encounters or happenings that result from it. Spirituality has ethical components also, such as living a virtuous life by helping others and transcending one’s own selfish interests to seek what is right. 

I identify with “spiritual” not “religious” because to me “spiritual” indicates a more intimate connection with God. To me, religion takes something personal and makes it institutional.

Why do I feel positively about this new Pope considering I have abandoned Church dogma? Because Pope Francis personifies the god within each of us, the god most of us have not had the courage to honor. As the leader of the Catholic Church across the globe, he has opened hearts and minds to the value of first-hand faith, living in a spiritual and ethical manner.