Religion is a special way of sharing ourselves with others. Perhaps the best thing that we may share with others through our religions is our connectedness to each other and to our Creator.
We may go through many relationships with religion in our lives. Some of us may find our spiritual path by only a single religion, whether they find that path through their religious heritage or go seeking a path on their own. Some of us may try many religions and may finally understand that none of them will be their single path to the divine; these people may go on to develop a personal, independent relationship with their Creator.
Whether we have followed one religion or sampled many different religions, many of us celebrate our relationship to our Creator through religious worship. Our sacred traditions remind us of the intimate ways we are connected to each other and to all of Creation.
Some of us may sometimes err in our perceptions of religions. We may think one or another of the many religions we encounter may be false or hurtful. It is true that we may sometimes experience hurts from the careless words or hands of those who practice their religion sanctimoniously or dogmatically. There may always be those who would exclude from grace anyone who will not bow down to those holy laws peculiar to their own religion, holy laws which they may often purport to be the only path to God.
But those hurtful acts are the acts of foolish people who have warped their creed to ignoble ends. That their creed still has its roots in the divine remains undeniable, and there is still beauty and value in their creed beyond any mean divisive or invective words or deeds.
Religions are living wonders; they take on a life of their own that transcends the sum of their individual members with a continuity that spans many generations. The lives of religions are fulfilled and renewed through the members who practice their faith. If religions sometimes bring some harm to one another, or to their members, they may still yield a great good to those within their folds in need of companionship and guidance on their path through life.
It may be pointless to reiterate all the many faults of so many various religions. We may know that religions often appear to be made into tools to control and to subjugate us rather than to liberate and enlighten us. But in spite of any perceived faults in another person’s choice of spiritual paths we should respect the fact that the paths that other people choose to walk remain their own decision, and that the enlightenment they seek may be of a different order than that which we want for ourselves.
We cannot be free in our pursuit of spiritual knowledge and the blessings of wisdom if we hold a closed place in our hearts over any matter, particularly matters of faith or religion.
What we close off from our hearts will shut us away from life, experience and joy.
There are so many, many beautiful aspects to religious faiths of every kind, regardless of whether their roots lay in the east or in the west, in mystical experience or in doctrinal compliance. We are enriched by all the many various religions in ways both subtle and sublime.
Here I will speak personally of my love of religions.
I love the stories of Hinduism’s Bhagavad-Gita, particularly their hero Arjuna, yet Biblical stories are a fundamental part of my heritage. I see no conflict; both speak to my heart in different ways. The wisdom of Buddha and the wisdom of Islamic Sufis have brought me understanding and opened my heart to a wider world than I knew before I encountered them. Among my Jewish friends and neighbors I have witnessed the powerful roots of Judaism and the strength it gives their people against intolerance. I love to dance, and I see in Native American ceremonial dancing a reflection of the sacredness of dance that I feel within myself. I embrace the skies and feel the roots of Wicca emerging from within me uniting me with the Great Mother, Earth.
What wonderful joys these are, and yet the opportunity to experience these joys might be sundered in single a moment of reflection upon the darker sides of any of these spiritual traditions.
In the end we may only be bound by our personal faith alone, but along the way we may hope to share, and the many flowers that grow in the garden of our religions are worth experiencing, nurturing and caring. Those flowers within this precious garden that we may sometimes think are weeds will all have their own sacred places which we may discover in our hearts if we will only see them in the shining light of another person’s eyes and wisdom.