Archive for November, 2007

Religions of the future

Religion provides much value to society. It offers a community for discussion, friendship, sharing and love. It also offers helpful teachings that benefit both ourselves and society in everyday life. However, the central tenet of a religion such as Christianity is the belief in God, in Jesus Christ, in the Resurrection. What if somebody wants to participate in the religious community without necessarily believing in all of these things?

We live in an age where a plethora of religious ideas are accessible and many different religions are practised. Unfortunately, most of the so-called Western religions are presented as package deals. To be a member, you must accept all. It is hard to be a Christian without believing in the Resurrection of Christ. You can believe in God, love thy neighbour, practise forgiveness, and believe the Teachings of Jesus, but if you are even a little skeptical about the Resurrection, you are not a Christian. Thus we have the problem of a package deal. What if we want to believe some things, but not others?

Despite their common ideas, religions have irreconcilable differences. It is impossible to conclude that all religions are 100% correct. We could either conclude that one religion is right and the others wrong, or we could conclude that they all contain some aspect of Truth. The former viewpoint is foolish and arrogant. No matter how convinced you are that you are right, there are at least a billion others who are convinced that you are wrong, and thus we should stay open-minded. This means abandoning the idea of a package deal. We should not have to choose one religion and blindly accept all of its aspects. We should be able to participate in a religion, believing what rings true for us, but reserving our right to skepticism. The focus must be towards inquiry.

This inquiry can come about through existing religions becoming more open-minded, or through new spiritual groups forming. Both of these things are already happening. The future of religion lies in groups that discuss and affirm their commitment to follow their ideals, but that do not require any fixed beliefs as part of their membership. Just as close-mindedness is so despised in science (albeit still common), the same must also become true of religion. No-one has a monopoly on Truth. We must be open to new ideas, aspire to become better people, and inquire about spirituality together.

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Look inwards for happiness!

The biggest mistake in our search for happiness is to look to the world to fulfill our needs. Happiness does not come from without, it comes from within. Everyone has heard this before, and yet we continue to ignore it. It is sad, because the more we look outside for the causes of happiness, the less we recognize the true causes within.

Hence, the first and most obvious problem with looking outwards for happiness is that happiness is not found there. If we continue to look outwards, we will focus on pursuing riches, obsessing over our health or looks, indulging in excess food or drugs, or seeking whatever else we think is the answer. Most people spend their whole lives in the endless pursuit of pleasures that will do nothing to raise their level of happiness. If they ever reach their goals, they only end up disappointed. At this point, they will usually come up with new things that they think will bring happiness – perhaps more money, or a better partner. Alternatively, if they are lucky, they may finally realize that they must look inwards instead, and thus the journey to happiness can begin.

The second problem with looking outward is that we can begin to cast blame. This is particularly common for people in intimate relationships. If we think that happiness can come from someone else, such as our partner, then we begin to blame them when we are unhappy. This could also occur with our boss, our friends, or our family. It is unfair on these people to blame them. It is also pointless, because they cannot make us happy. Casting such blame only increases suffering both for us and for them.

Therefore, we must stop ourselves from looking outwards for happiness. We must stop blaming anyone or anything for our own suffering. Fulfillment comes from realizing that we are responsible for our own happiness, and that its causes lie within. This should be good news, because the inside is the one thing we can reliably change.

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