Choosing Better Spiritually Part 2………..

I once heard an atheist comedian by the name of Dave Allen tell a joke concerning a discussion between the Pope and an atheist. The Pope admonishes the atheist by telling him “Your like a man in a totally dark room searching for a black cat that isn’t there” to which the atheist replies ” You too are in a dark room searching for a black cat that isn’t there, only you believe you have found that cat”.

I for one am a Christian who has found that proverbial cat in that dark room and my life has changed for the better ever since that moment of revelation. I have written before about my spiritual journey < (I provided a link for new readers) and how choosing better has helped me in life. I guess I have been asked by a higher authority to explain a little further the journey I have undertaken.

Along with the Christian religions I mentioned in my previous post I also investigated a few of the world’s other religions when I participated in a class on Comparative Religions. This was before I was kindly asked to remove myself from further participation in college studies. A story for later. Anyway, I found the class to be interesting and informative especially since I was in my mid-fifties when I decided to go back to school. Keeping up with the younger students was challenging and actually proved to be quite a bit of fun. The class covered several religions such as Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Protestantism and Islam. My previous post outlined my experiences with being a member of various congregations that included Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist so for today I will share my views on Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and Islam.

One of Buddhism’s tenants is renunciation of craving and attachment, from what I remember Buddha believed that material happiness was short-lived and ultimately caused unhappiness when we became obsessed with the desire to constantly pursue, attain and keep that happiness in life. Interesting perspective from a man who was believed to have been born a prince and renounced that life to search for enlightenment and teaching like-minded individuals who became his followers. Buddha was therefore a unique man who actually practiced what he preached. While Buddhism has many other teachings and applications and I found studying Buddha’s life very interesting, I ultimately did not believe becoming a Buddhist was the path to follow. Ironically there are a few celebrities  who profess to be Buddhist, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lopez and Mark Zuckerberg to name a few. Probably not easy following Buddhism in the world of entertainment or social media so I guess good for them for giving it a try.

Hinduism is believed to be a mixture of various Indian cultures and traditions with no actual founder credited with creating or starting the practice. The practice of Yoga seems to have found its origins in Hinduism as well as meditation both of which are at least somewhat popular in many countries other than India. I came to believe that Hinduism was a very spiritual and personal way to view life. Decisions whether they were good or bad led to a rebirth (reincarnation) that provided us with new opportunities to choose better. Whether we did or not was up to the individual and the decisions they made. An interesting philosophy akin to freedom of choice and deciding whether we want to be judged as good or bad. Eventually if you are lucky enough, you reach Nirvana which I took to mean Heaven. Again, it was an interesting philosophy but just not interesting enough for me to become a practicing member.

Taoism was introduced to me when I was given a copy of the Tao Te Ching to read when I was recuperating from knee surgery in 2008.  It was a book of teachings attributed to Laozi and when I took my class years later I found it was an important part of Taoism. Taoism teaches one to lead a life of simplicity, a detachment from desires in order to live harmoniously with nature. The simplest translation could be ‘go with the flow’. When we try to shape the world or our life to acquire something we may not be meant to have we disrupt harmony and unintended consequences may follow. Interesting perspective but  not exactly what I needed at that point in my life while I was working full-time, going to school and helping raise 4 children the flow was more like a flood. Going with the flow may have helped others but like most people in that situation stress was a daily occurrence.

Finally we come to most difficult of religions for me to understand, Islam. First off all the teachings of Mohammed I read were unlike any religious teachings I had ever seen. I then set about researching Mohammed’s life and again I have to admit I was shocked. First of all I want to state that my blogging opinions are strictly my opinions and they have been formed by what I research, experience and believe. So here goes my view and opinion of Islam. I do not believe that Islam is a religion, my research and education showed me an ideology or maybe a manifesto created by a megalomaniac whose main goal in life was to rule the known world. Religion has been used to unite people at various times in history. The Catholic Church ruled many European countries for centuries by setting itself up as the not only a religious monopoly but a political monopoly as well. Where there was reformation in Christianity and the Catholic Church lost its monopoly, Islam has continued on throughout the centuries with the same barbaric standards it was founded on.  Except for mentioning God and Jesus in its teachings I found nothing religious about Islam. As an ideology I can understand why Mohammed created this ‘religion’. Some teachings I remember are: lying to infidels is allowed when necessary as long as your ultimate goal is the destruction of that infidel at a later time, no tolerance for other religions, slavery of infidels is permitted, child brides are permitted and there are many other disgusting and abhorrent things I luckily have forgotten. Why in the world anyone believes Islam is a religion of peace is beyond me. I have read several books dealing with the interaction between Islam and Christianity throughout history and they are full of violence toward Christians and other nations with Islam’s ultimate goal being world domination under a Caliphate. Islam is indeed a scary doctrine with many followers throughout the world. It definitely would not be a ‘religion’ of my choosing.

I guess that wraps up my journey thru the world religions I have studied and looked at with an eye toward finding my Spiritual Center. Eventually I will explain why the Church of the Brethren is my current home for Spiritual guidance and how my Church has helped me accept Jesus as my Savior and Guide in life. That will probably be Part 3 of my journey.

Before I sign off I guess I will add an explanation as to how and why my college experience ended 6 credits short of a degree. I went  to school in late 2009 after I was laid off from a very good job I had with a defense contractor. Jobs were scarce at that time and to enhance my Information Technology experience I decided to take some college courses on IT and a few elective courses as well. Along with IT subjects I studied Philosophy, Writing, Critical Thinking and as mentioned above Comparative Religions. As a requirement for the Religions class I was instructed to attend and write about a Buddhist Temple. Unfortunately by the time this class started I had found a full-time job and along with family responsibilities I did not find the time to complete the visit requirement. I discussed this issue with the class facilitator (that is how they described the professors because the classes were mostly on-line) and it was strongly hinted that I could make mention of an appearance regardless of whether a visit was made. Something along the lines of proof of a visit probably wouldn’t be possible. Now she didn’t come right out and say if you don’t go, lie about it but I did get that suggestion from the dialogue. Well my parents had a hand in installing a conscience in their son’s brain although I have been known to have ignored it on occasion. This conscience said repeatedly, you know that if you lie you will be bothered by this situation later on and probably end up thinking the degree isn’t as much of an accomplishment as it should be. Well, I wrote my final paper and earned a B- grade for my efforts and no visit was mentioned.  For the class I received an F which ended my funding and stopped my college education in its tracks. Oh well I can proudly say I gained valuable knowledge from the classes I did complete and a life lesson as well. While I chose not to go back for the credits I needed to earn that degree, I have not regretted the decision to further my education or  the decision not to cheat. It is what it is.

As always feedback and comments are welcome……….

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