Humanity is more than consciousness; animals are conscious; living, playing, eating and reproducing they are aware of the moment they live in. Humanity alone goes beyond consciousness to a new level we call self-awareness. We seek meaning in life, worry about dying and prepare ourselves for future events. Self-awareness provides depth to our life at a high cost. The cost is chronic anxiety.
Unlike animals we seek ways to deal with chronic anxiety. We use drugs, coffee to get us started, alcohol to slow us down, pills to tranquilize us and tobacco to give us comfort. We have sought religion to answer our questions of meaning and morality.
To achieve security we demand that religion be inerrently true, doubt not allowed. Our immaturity requires that the religion we choose be the only “true religion.” Instead of encouraging the growth of our humanity, religion seeks to keep us wrapped in a cocoon of childlike immaturity. The same can be said of Atheists who insist their view of nature as Godless is the only “true” view.
Throughout history worldwide religions, Christianity, and Islam included; believe they possessed the inerrant truth. They traffic in security giving doctrines of faith and grace, love and protection. Once we recognize that we can never possess the ultimate truth only seek it; a new pilgrimage begins. We no longer must convert others to our one “true religion” when our maturity begins to allow many viewpoints.
Do you wonder why Christianity is in decline? Attempts to convert others to one true religion repels more people than it attracts. Insisting on the literal belief in miracles and signs insults the intelligence of a 21st-century human. Sometime after Jesus walked the earth and shared his message of love and acceptance of others theologians high jacked the story and sought to find meaning in his horrible death. They settled on the destructive message of atonement for the sins of mankind. They made God into a monster who could not forgive without the brutal human sacrifice of Jesus. Portraying God as a punishing parent and Jesus as the passive victim leads humanity to view themselves as guilt-ridden killers responsible for Jesus’ death. This theological line of reasoning seeks us to act as slaves, falling to our knees and begging for mercy. By throwing this traditional theology aside, we can see the true message of Jesus as a beacon to achieving abundant life. Jesus preached about love, acceptance and overcoming boundaries dividing the human community.
To survive the Christian church must transform the guilt-ridden liturgies and consider new interpretations of the legendary man in whom the presence of God was more pronounced than in anyone throughout history. Myths about supernatural achievements do not solidify faith in the modern era. Such stories were used by 1st-Century authors to demonstrate the strong connection Jesus had with God. By the time the Gospels were written little was known about Jesus’ life but much of his teaching survived. One must sort stories written to fulfill Old Testament prophecy from stories of his teaching. Sorting out the actual message that Jesus shared is no easy task.
The factual nature of Jesus’ life stories are questionable, but even some passages of basic teaching are probably fiction. Some passages thought to be the earliest teaching of Jesus are peppered with a philosophy expounded by a class of Greek prophets called cynics. For several hundred years, they challenged authorities by living an austere life devoid of material wealth and power. In the first century, you could find them standing on street corners where they lectured on the evils of the material life. One must ask if Jesus preached this message or if the Greek author used this philosophy to expound on his view of how to live a good and righteous life. Once again uncertainty rules and the fact that we can never really know the full story is reinforced.
Today Christian denominations are floundering without a modern view of the Christ experience. They have the 1st-century view of Jesus provided in the New Testament. The 4th-century doctrines and creeds and the 13th-century guilt ridden liturgies. Not only are they reluctant to move onto a 21st-Century view of Religion they are vehemently opposed to change.
Many citizens in the 21st-Century are atheists who embrace the vast universe and would never consider something they don’t understand a miracle. Today’s religion is considered a holdover from a long passed barbaric time. Throwing God out with the bath water takes no great intellectual effort, leaving a void and emptiness in their understanding of life.
We no longer live in a world where God lives above the sky, and things we don’t understand are described as miracles. Many of the religious words are signposts and symbols of the presence of a guiding force in nature we label God. To survive Christian denominations have a monumental task of seeing their religious words as symbols, not as stated, rational truths.
Self-awareness, the spark of life within all of humanity observes the universe in all of its glory and warts. An all knowing God uses this spark or is this spark, connecting all of nature. To seek divinity is to explore fully our humanity. We won’t find God on the outside of life but in the depths and complexity of life itself. We must acknowledge that we can never fully know God and will forever be limited to expressing God from the limited experiences of humanity.
The Christian faith needs to seek the truth of God and in the process make the world a better place. Recognizing we will seek yet never find the ultimate truth. Motivating the world toward a kinder, gentler acceptance of all of humanity is the best we can hope for.
Every minute of every day we literally travel into the void of the universe. Life is a mystery we can explore in our limited lifetime. Set aside ancient beliefs, creeds, doctrines and worship liturgies; seek to explore and understand the human experience. Most importantly make your passage glorious and memorable.
Don’t worry, be happy. Chronic anxiety sucks.