Religion: does it make you want to kill someone? Does it increase your readiness to die? Religion: that old bugaboo: more and more people are becoming fanatical and intolerant of anyone and everything other than "their" religion: instead of living in the discovery of the Infinite, more and more people are hunkering down in the "safety" of being told by someone else how to think and what to believe... and at the very same time, more and more people are turning away from organized religion because they -- at the very least -- have discovered that they have eyes that can see: all of the justifications for intolerance, for the theological oppression of women, and the justifications for violence are not -- truly -- of "religion": but of power hungry men who simply use religion for their own ends.
Do you sincerely want to get into the simple essence of religion? Here's where you could begin: go to a second-hand bookstore and purchase a copy of the Bible. Take it home -- and when no one is looking -- open it to the Sermon on the Mount: tear out the entire Sermon (one of the most probable teachings of Yeshua the Poet of Nazareth): carefully cut out all of the following words: "You have heard it said"... and ... "But I say unto you"... Now throw everything else away! Yes, you are reading this correctly -- throw away everything but those words, repeated a number of times in this Sermon by Yeshua. For at least a year -- for some folks it will probably need to be longer -- preface as many of your thoughts as you can with: "You have heard it said": and then in the very pregnant pause that you will increasingly hear in your thought patterns, repeat the words of Yeshua: "But I say unto you"... The simple essence of religion wipes clean the mind of our habitual thought patterns and reveals this Divine Secret: we (each one of us) have been created by Love, for Love, to become Love: everything which nudges us further and deeper into the direct experience of this essential truth can be embraced and cherished. By the very same token, everything that pushes us away from this total identification with Love, needs to go the way of "You have heard it said" -- into the garbage bin where it belongs... Yeshua the Poet brought a spiritual rEvolution to the table of humanity -- that his gift was expropriated by men for their own ends, instead of for the full development and liberation of every person and of human history, is of course, not exactly surprising... for it fits into the very same pattern that is afflicting every major world religion and many of the male leaders / priests / gurus / and sheikhs of these same religions: power that does not serve, lift up, and free is always an abuse of power: and power that expresses itself in domination and not in liberation is an abomination!
The simple essence of religion? How about this line from "The Forty Rules of Love" (A Novel of Rumi) by Elif Shafak: "One hand pointed up to the sky, the other hand pointing down to earth, every speck of love we receive from God, we pledge to distribute to the people." The simple essence of religion is always a "competition" of kindness: who can love more? Me or God? And then a life of active love! The simple essence of religion is always a revelation of tolerance, mercy, compassion, beauty, justice, peace, harmony, reconciliation, forgiveness, nonviolence, and equality: for everyone -- leaving no one out or behind. The simple essence of religion is always the gentle freedom to explore, grow, change, seek, develop, and liberate one's mind, heart, and life in personal and unique ways.
The simple essence of religion is always the enlightenment of "welcome home" and the realization that home was the one place that we never really left.
Robert Daniel Smith was privileged to serve the homeless and marginalized for 30 years in Salinas, California. Together with his wife, Michelle, they founded an intentional community called the 'Companions of the Way', also in Salinas. Robert and Michelle are community organizers, Catholic Worker renegades, sacred activists, writers, poets, artists, Divine Mother devotees, and practitioners of Kriya Yoga as taught by Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment. Michelle is also a Montessori public school teacher.