I remember years ago, I found myself sitting in the polished wooden pews of Saint Thomas Catholic Church listening to a sermon. My wife is a devout catholic, and on occasion I would accompany her and my daughter on their weekly pilgrimage. The priest stood in the crossing in front of the alter delivering a zealous sermon. Messages of brotherly love and forgiveness floated through the air, but as always I left the Mass with a hollow feeling. I walked out of the church into the morning sunshine deep in thought. My wife asked if I enjoyed the Mass. I answered “yes” and gave her a reassuring smile, but I couldn’t discount all of the blank faces and fidgeting bodies I saw inside.
I wondered how many other people were out there searching for that intangible something that promises liberation, heaven, nirvana, or any of the other myriad names for the state of being that will end all of the unhappiness and suffering that we experience. I believe this is why people subject themselves to the hollow dogma of organized religion. The “search” for something more. The quest to fill the emptiness inside.
There are TV evangelists promising heaven for one small donation, and many devotees give their last dollar for that valuable merchandise. Men, women, and children pack themselves into churches like hungry cattle because that is what “God wants”, and of course salvation awaits the faithful. The donation basket passes around. The clanging of coins breaks the silence. In the past, and in the present, wars were fought and rivers of blood stained the land in the name of “God”, and I’m sure the future may still hold a few bloody Sundays. Members of older pagan religions were burned at the stake because it was what “God” demanded of his faithful servants.
What can this mean? Perhaps god is not omnipotent. Perhaps God is incapable of endless love and compassion. Perhaps he is a more primal being then we humans would like to believe, and in our blind hope and ignorance we have been portraying him for what he is not for thousands of years.
As we drove home I began paying closer attention to everything around me. I saw trees reaching for the heavens, embracing the solar energy that gave them life. I did not see them hurrying off to a church tin an attempt to appease the desires of a deity. I saw birds soar in lazy circles oblivious to human concerns. I saw God…
In the search for the meaning of life we have lost our way. We have failed to see that God is in everything. God is the energy that burns in the heart of a candle flame, the sound that issues from a newborn child’s mouth, and the earth that a farmer scoops into the palm of his hand. Heaven or hell is in the here and now, and it’s up to us to decide what our world is going to be like.
Organized religion is making us dependent on man-made bureaucracies that are turning our eyes from the God that exists all around us to the superficial and artificial. It’s time that we start looking within ourselves and around us to nature for spiritual fulfillment because dogma and doctrine are getting us nowhere fast. After all, talk is cheap and history is a marvelous teacher. I only hope more of become apt pupils.
Writtten in 1997