Sunday, December 9, 2007

All Trails Converge

Religious Tolerance

I was raised Jewish and attended Sunday School until I was 16. From the beginning, I was never comfortable with organized religion. I believed that I should be free to find my own path using religion, philosophy, history and science as a foundation for the development of my own spiritual beliefs. I was not convinced that any one religion had all the answers to the questions about life, death, ethics and morality. Instead, I believed that all religions offered valuable insights about spirituality.

During my early years, I lived in an anti-Semitic area and I was one of only two Jewish people in my class. On the way to school, people would pitch pennies at me and call me a Jew. I was laughed at and ridiculed for being different. At a fifth grade party, they played a song that ended with the words, “Protestants hate the Catholics but everybody hates the Jews,” and the entire class pointed at me and laughed. I quickly ran outside, hid behind a tree and cried. I couldn’t understand why anyone would hate me simply because I was Jewish.

The primary reason that I never understood anti-Semitism was based on the fact that Jesus was born Jewish. If Jesus chose Judaism, why would Christians judge the religion harshly? The most articulate representation of the concept of unification was on September 16, 1938 by Pope Pius XI when he received a Belgium refugee at the Vatican. During a time of unprecedented anti-Semitism in Europe and after Jews had been sent to Polish ghettos and German concentration camps, Pope Pius XI stated, “Be careful, Abraham really is our patriarch, our ancestor. Anti-Semitism is not compatible with the sublime reality alluded to in this text. Anti-Semitism is an odious movement that we Christians must have nothing to do with. Anti-Semitism is intolerable. All of us are spiritually Semites.” Pope Pius XI died in February 1939, so even though he requested three Jesuits to draft an encyclical that was hostile to Fascism and Anti-Semitism, it was never written. His successor, Pope Pius XII was silent on the issue and to this day, the encyclical has never been published by the Vatican.

It’s hard for me to believe that God or a higher power in the universe would choose one religion over another. If there is one God and if this same God loves and is a part of every human being, then wouldn’t God be represented by all belief systems? Wouldn’t God love practitioners of all religions? In the book, The 72 Names of God, Yehuda Berg says, “God never created religion. Humans did. And this human-made invention has done nothing but create separation between people. Tragically, more blood has been spilled on behalf of religion than from all other diseases and crimes combined. Religion fosters hatred. It gives rise to war and genocide – all in the name of God. The fact of the matter is that divine wisdom, by its very nature, can evoke only harmony between people. The arousal of love and peace is an intrinsic effect of a genuine spiritual wisdom. It naturally builds bridges between people of opposite faiths. It inherently embraces and empowers people.”

In the late 1980’s, I tried to create a unique religion that focused on the similarities among religions, instead of the differences. I called the religion “Pluritarianism” and decided that the religion would contain only the principles that were common to existing organized religions. I initially thought there would be a number of similarities; but since most religions are based on ritual, culture and heritage, the expression of love, compassion, patience, forgiveness, and responsibility for actions (or karma) appeared to be the only true similarities. I also found that the majority of religions believe that there is a greater power in the Universe (whether it is God(s), Allah or Nirvana) and most believe in the immortality of the soul.

Furthermore, two-thirds of the world’s population believes in reincarnation. According to Charles Breax, the concept of reincarnation has been prevalent in a large number of religions and ancient cultures including: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, the American Indians, Pre-Columbian cultures, the Polynesian Kahunas, the Gauls, the Druids, the Orphics, the Pythagoreans, the Platonists, the Essenes, the Pharisees, the Karaites, and the Kabbalists in the Jewish religion. Reincarnation was also originally part of the Christian religion until 553 A.D. when it was deemed heretical by the Second Council of Constantinople. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle also believed in reincarnation.

The Dalai Lama has often talked about the similarities among religions. In An Open Heart, he says, “I believe that the methods by which we increase our altruism, our sense of caring for others and developing the attitude that our own individual concerns are less important than those of others, are common to all major religious traditions. Though we may find differences in philosophical views and rites, the essential message of all religions is very much the same.”

The desire to develop my own system of beliefs led to intense criticism from religious practitioners. “You can’t just believe what you want to believe,” argued a previous colleague. “Religion is not like a cafeteria plan. If there isn’t a sacred book that states your belief systems, they cannot be valid.” According to my colleague, the freedom of speech and belief systems did not grant me the right to believe in different principles from a variety of religions. Either I had to accept a religion intact, or I had no religion at all.

If my previous colleague is right, then it is true; I have no religion. Yet, I am not an atheist or agnostic. If I don’t have a religion, what do I have? I thought I could learn more by studying the role of religion throughout history. During the period of Henry VIII, at different times, Protestants were persecuted for questioning Catholicism and Catholics were executed if they showed allegiance to the Pope. Leaders believed that peace could be maintained only if everyone believed the same thing (which led to the creation of the Church of England).

Throughout the ages, religious wars were fought in “the name of God” to convert people to a similar belief system. Even though the 10 commandments state, “Thou shalt not kill,” it appears that there was an exception if one religion heard God’s words more “correctly” than another religion. According to Dostoyevsky, “The craving for community of worship is the chief misery of every man individually and of all humanity from the beginning of time. For the sake of common worship they’ve slain each other with the sword. They have set up gods and challenged one another, by saying: put away your gods and come and worship ours, or we will kill you and your gods.”

The power of the church over citizen’s affairs also changed dramatically though time. In ancient Greece, the State ruled. Over time, in many countries, the Church gained more power than the State (e.g., during the Inquisition). In England, under the Act of Supremacy, the State became the Church. When the US was formed, the separation of Church and State was one of its founding principles. In Nazi Germany, the State once again became the Church. Article XXX of the German Church Regulations stated, “The Christian cross is to be removed from all churches and cathedrals and is to be replaced by the immortal symbol of Germany, the swastika.” Joseph Goebbels, the head of German propaganda stated, “Our Fuhrer is the intermediary between his people in the form of God. Everything the Fuhrer utters is religion in the highest sense.” Every day in German schools, the children sung, “Adolf Hitler is our savior, our hero. He is the noblest being in the whole wide world. For Hitler, we live. For Hitler, we die. Our Hitler is our Lord, who rules a brave new world.” The German government convinced its citizens that the State is the only church and the head of the State is the voice of God.

Lately, I have questioned the difference between religion and spirituality. Am I spiritual instead of religious? Using history as a guide, organized religion in Europe was used as a political tool or as a way of controlling behavior, rather than as a route toward spirituality. On the other hand, Eastern religions (and religious mysticism) appear to be more spiritual. They seem to be more accepting of different paths toward the same goal. When I studied Hinduism, I found a philosophy that summarized this tolerance. In Huston Smith’s, The World’s Religions, he states that the Hindu religion believes that “various major religions are alternate paths to the same goal. To claim salvation as the monopoly of any one religion is like claiming that God can be found in this room and not the next… those who circle the mountain trying to bring others around to their paths are not climbing.” From the beginning, the Hindu Vedas announced, “the various religions are but different languages through which God speaks to the human heart. Truth is one; sages call it by different names.” The Hindus further believe that “it is possible to climb life’s mountain from any side but when the top is reached, the trails converge. At the base, in the foothills of theology, ritual, and organizational structure the religions are distinct. Differences in culture, history, geography and collective temperament all make for diverse starting points. Far from being deplorable, this is good; it adds richness to the totality of the human venture.” In Ramakrishna’s words, “God has made different religions to suit different aspirations, times and countries. All doctrines are only so many paths; but a path is by no means God himself. Indeed one can reach God if one follows any of the paths with whole-hearted devotion. One may eat a cake with icing either straight or sidewise. It will taste sweet either way.” Gandhi concurred by saying, “Religions are different roads converging upon the same point. What does it matter that we take different roads as long as we reach the same goal?”

The tolerance of all religions is also expressed in Buddhism. The Dalai Lama says, “My meetings with many different sorts of people the world over have, however, helped me realized that there are other faiths, and other cultures, no less capable than mine of enabling individuals to lead constructive and satisfying lives. What is more, I have come to the conclusion that whether or not a person is a religious believer does not matter much. Far more important is that they be a good human being.” He goes on to say; “Those who are dedicated practitioners meanwhile follow a multiplicity of religions paths. From this, it becomes clear that given our diversity, no single religion satisfies all humanity… Actually, I believe that if we consider the world’s major religions from the widest perspective, we find that they are all – Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, and the others – directed toward helping human beings achieve lasting happiness. And each of them is, in my opinion, capable of facilitating this. Under such circumstances, a variety of religions (each of which promotes the same basic values after all) is both desirable and useful.”

Muhammad also believed in religious tolerance. He decreed that the Jews and Christians should have an equal right to practice their religion as freely as the Muslims. Even conquered nations were permitted freedom of worship and interference with their liberty of conscience was regarded as a direct contravention of Islamic law. Once when a deputy of Christians visited him, Muhammad invited them to conduct their service in his mosque, adding, “It is a place consecrated to God.”

In The History of God, Karen Armstrong summarizes the beliefs of an Islam mystic. She says, “Ibn al-Arabi could not accept the idea that one single human being, however holy, could express the infinite reality of God. Instead he believed that each human person was a unique avatar of the divine…Since each man and woman had had a unique experience of God, it followed that no one religion could express the whole of the divine mystery. There was no objective truth about God to which all must subscribe; since this God transcended the category of personality, predictions about his behavior and inclinations were impossible. Any consequent chauvinism about one’s faith at the expense of other people’s was obviously unacceptable, since no one religion had the whole truth about God…The man of God was equally at home in synagogue, temple, church and mosque, since all provided a valid apprehension of God. Ibn al-Arabi often used the phrase ‘the God created by the faiths’…Ibn al-Arabi gave this advice: Do not attach yourself to any particular creed exclusively, so that you may disbelieve all the rest; otherwise you will lose much good, nay, you will fail to recognize the real truth of the matter. God, the omnipresent and omnipotent, is not limited by any one creed.”

The Word of God

Research of history, religion, philosophy, and mysticism has made me realize that I am not seeking religion, I am seeking spirituality and I have the freedom and right to believe anything I want to believe. I don’t need a sacred book to tell me what is right and wrong or what I can eat, drink or perform sexually. My own answers are derived by listening to my head, heart and conscience. Isn’t a sacred book based on words that are inspired by God? Aren’t we all inspired by God? Why would one person hear the words more clearly than another? Don’t we all have our own perceptions that bias any information that we hear? Even if we hear the exact same words, isn’t it possible that we might interpret them differently?

While God (or a higher power) is the foundation for most religions, religion is very different from God. The concept of “a creator” may be consistent but the “word of God” is interpreted very differently. In fact, the “word of God” is strongly influenced by translation and interpretation. The Islam religion does not allow translations of the Koran from Arabic to minimize misinterpretations. The Bible, on the other hand, varies tremendously. In searching for the quote on love from St. Paul, every interpretation I found was worded differently. Some religious leaders have also changed the wording of “thou shalt not kill” to “thou shalt not murder.” One word clearly changes the intent of the “word of God.”

Correspondingly, several scholars spent seven years translating only one passage in the Bible. It was initially translated as “Thou shalt choose good over evil” or “Thou must choose good over evil.” After rigorously translating the passage in the original language of the scriptures, the scholars finally realized that the correct translation was “Thou mayest choose good over evil.” The translation of this one word in the Bible completely changes God’s message because it emphasizes the gift of free will instead of reflecting a “paternal” command for obedience. Humanity was given the gift of being able to choose good or evil and spiritually, we are not told that we have to be good (in fact, good and evil cannot exist without the freedom to disobey). This interpretation of the Biblical passage shows the beauty of the gift of free will and tells us that in the “eyes” of the creator, this gift was more important than the possibility that humankind might choose evil over good.

Scott Peck also cites a similar example. He says that one of the tests of the translation of the Bible was to take the Greek version of a phrase and translate it back to the original language of the Bible, which was Aramaic. In doing so, several scholars found that the phrase “The Kingdom is within you” is more accurately translated as “The Kingdom is among you.” One word changes the belief that God manifests Himself in each person individually to the theory that God manifests Himself in all persons collectively.

I usually avoid having religious discussions with my friends. Over time, I have realized that religious opinions are not the same as other opinions. They are treated like facts. A fact has a right or wrong answer, whereas an opinion is subject to interpretation. Intellectually, people can tolerate two different opinions when it is clear there is no right answer at the time. For instance, if two people are trying to predict tomorrow’s weather, one person may predict rain and another person may predict sun. Twenty-four hours later, there will be a right answer when the weather becomes a fact. It will either rain or be sunny. However, since that answer is not known at the time, both opinions are accepted.

Yet, when opinions are religious, many people treat their opinions as though they are facts by believing that some opinions are right and other opinions are wrong. For example, in the 21st century, there is no scientific proof that heaven exists. Therefore, the existence of heaven is not a fact, and there is no right or wrong answer. Objectively, there either is a heaven or there is not a heaven, but we may not know this answer while we are alive on earth. In theory, any opinion is valid, and if there is a disagreement, two people should be able to agree to disagree. Religious discussions, however, usually end up in heated arguments about which “opinion” is right or wrong. Unfortunately, if people believe that their religious opinions are facts, we will never be able to accept differences in people’s belief systems.

It is also possible that any opinion is right. Consciousness is extremely powerful and thus, we may find exactly what we think we will find. If some people believe that heaven is sunny with mountains, they may find that image at death. If other people believe that heaven is an island in the middle of the ocean, they may find a heaven that looks like Tahiti. It is possible that reality in another dimension may be influenced by each person’s belief systems. If someone believes that Jesus is the Son of God, he or she may meet Jesus. If someone does not, Jesus may not appear. It doesn’t mean that either opinion is right or wrong; it only means that people may find exactly what they believe.

The Evolution of Religion

Religion in ancient times had to accomplish many objectives: 1) It served as the basis for ritual, culture and tradition, 2) It established a code of behavior that served as the legal system for the times, and 3) It provided humankind with answers to questions that had no answers. Religion removed the uncertainty of the universe and made people feel that even during the worst periods of life, there was a greater power that offered love, compassion and justice. In many ways, religion served to perpetuate the species by giving purpose to life and death. In modern times, the legal system has replaced religion as the governing authority for guiding behavior. If people steal, they end up in jail, regardless of their religious orientation. On the other hand, religion still offers guidance for ethical behavior. It is illegal to ignore a red light, but it may not be unethical. It is legal to avoid paying your debts through bankruptcy, but the action is not necessarily ethical.

I’ve always wondered why religions don’t evolve over time. If religion continues to focus on the origin of the universe or the transcendence of the soul, it seems that science may eventually turn many religious opinions into fact. Galileo was imprisoned for heresy for publishing the Copernicus theory that the sun was the center of the universe. According to religious belief, the earth was the center of the universe, not the sun. In 1633, Galileo was summoned before the Inquisition and was forced to recant his belief in the Copernican theory. Since he refused to change his beliefs, he remained under house arrest for the rest of his life. After his death, scientific proof of the galaxy required a different interpretation of the “word of God” when it was proven that the earth revolves around the sun. Yet, it wasn’t until November of 1992 that the Church finally exonerated Galileo of his accused heresy.

Eventually, science may actually be able to measure the presence and journey of a soul. If a soul is energy, perhaps we just don’t have the right tools to measure that type of energy. Molecules existed long before there were microscopes to view them. Our inability to study molecules did not mean that molecules didn’t exist; it just meant that we hadn’t yet figured out how to measure them.

The 10 Commandments

In the Western World, the most sacred universal code of behavior appears to be presented in the Ten Commandments. Yet, if God handed Moses only 10 rules that were intended to serve as the ultimate guide for all human behavior, then why were they specific to the times?

Why is the 10th commandment worded, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.” In the 21st century most people don’t even have a manservant, maidservant, ox or ass, and most property laws already cover the illegal possession of another person’s property. In addition, why is the word “wife” included in a list of possessions and why does the commandment assume that the neighbor is a man? The use of the word “covet” is also interesting, since it means that a person only desires these things. Coveting something is defined as wanting something that does not belong to you. Therefore, this commandment does not specifically say that someone shouldn’t steal or commit adultery (which are stated in other commandments). Instead, the 10th commandment is a broad statement that someone should not desire the “possessions” of another person. In general, I don’t understand why there is anything wrong with coveting a possession that belongs to someone else because one person can always offer to buy the possession at a very high price. For example, if one neighbor desires another neighbor’s house, he can offer to buy it for double its value. Many people would be extremely happy that their houses were “coveted” by their neighbors because they could receive a much higher price than the market would bear. Some people define coveting as greed but greed has a different definition. Greed is the “excessive desire for getting or having wealth; desire for more than one needs or deserves.” In my opinion, greed is more “sinful” than coveting.

There are other commandments that appear to be too specific. Why is the fourth commandment, “Honor thy mother and father,” instead of proclaiming that we should honor all human beings (which would also cover the mother and father)? This commandment is also questionable based on the definition of the word “honor.” If honoring someone is a general respect for the person, then it is fair that we should “honor” people, regardless of their actions. However, according to Webster’s Dictionary, honor means “high regard, adherence to principles considered right, and integrity.” Based on this definition, should we “honor” our father if he sexually abuses us? Should we “honor” our mother if she abandons us? Should Sybil (the patient with 13 multiple personalities) have honored her mother after she was beaten, locked in a crate, hung by a hook, forced to have daily enemas, sexually molested, and verbally abused for years? Honor appears to be earned, rather than granted unconditionally. Someone who has been abused by a parent should not be required to “honor” that parent. Even more questionable is the passage that follows the 2nd commandment, where the Bible says, “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation…” Does this mean that Sybil is not only required to honor her mother but that she will also be punished for her mother’s sins?

I am also confused about the first commandment, which is worded, “I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have no other Gods before me.” God should represent all religions. Thus, it is difficult to believe that God would judge Buddhism harshly because they do not profess the existence of one superior God that rules the universe or that Hinduism, Indian and tribal religions would be judged negatively merely because they believe in multiple Gods (which could just be separate aspects of the “one” God principle). Even Christians, who believe in this commandment, worship Jesus as God (and many people believe Jesus is God). Although the Christian religion officially states that Jesus is an aspect of God (or the son of God), in essence, they treat him the same way as others treat God. They pray to him, they ask him for salvation, and they call him The Lord. Even if Jesus is only an aspect of God, how is this concept different from other religions that believe in multiple Gods?

The Bible may be well written, but it seems that some of these 10 commandments are redundant. If someone does not covet a neighbor’s possessions, then surely this person would not want to steal them. Yet, there is a separate commandment that says “thou shalt not steal.” Furthermore, why is the 6th commandment “thou shalt not commit adultery” if there is already a commandment that says “thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife?”

I also don’t understand the commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” Does God favor one holy day over another? Even the one commandment that most people agree with, “Thou shalt not kill,” is subject to interpretation under most legal systems. Killing is not illegal; murdering is illegal. Killing in the name of war or self-defense is not even considered a crime. Furthermore, if killing is wrong, how do we justify killing animals or other living things?

It seems that God, with all of his wisdom, would have developed a code that applied to all human beings, regardless of specific religious orientation, culture or historical era. In general, if there were only one commandment that said “thou shalt not cause pain to any human being (including yourself),” seven of the 10 commandments would be covered.

If there were a spiritual 10 commandments (separate from the rules of the legal system), it seems that they would be extremely general and would apply to people of all faiths and cultures. In my opinion, if a supreme being had only ten things to say, “He” might say something similar to the following:

  1. Love and respect humankind unconditionally, including yourself.
  1. Do not judge other people simply because their beliefs and behavior are different, unusual or unexpected; avoid all forms of prejudice.
  2. Show compassion and empathy for each person’s suffering.
  3. Be patient and kind -- help make life a little easier for everyone.
  4. Do not intentionally cause pain for any human being.
  5. Forgive all who have wronged you and forgive yourself by feeling remorse. Do not commit revenge upon another human being.
  6. Give others the same love that you desire yourself and treat others the same way that you would want to be treated.
  7. Trust there is true justice and balance in the universe; murder, stealing, lying, or treating others with cruelty will eventually harm you because you are ultimately held accountable for all your actions; at some point, the pain you cause others will someday be inflicted upon you.
  8. Treat everyone equally; don’t try to make yourself feel superior by degrading others.
  9. Understand that universal harmony can be achieved through the acceptance and unity of humankind, the universe and nature; connect with all emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

It seems that most infractions are covered under those ten guidelines. While adultery is not mentioned, it is a violation only if it imposes pain upon another human being. An open marriage where both parties agreed to see other people would not violate the guidelines because the actions would not cause pain to either person. The obedience to God or holy days is also not mentioned because it is assumed to be a private matter that is resolved between the individual and his or her definition of the supreme energy force of the universe.

The Convergence of Religion

In the future, all trails may converge as religions evolve toward a focus on spirituality and love for humankind and the universe. Instead of focusing on what happened before we arrived or what will happen after we leave, the emphasis may be on how we conduct our lives while we are here. Similar to the Dalai Lama’s observations, religion may offer guidelines on how to attain personal enlightenment and lasting happiness every moment that we are alive. Culture, ritual and tradition may be specific to each religion but the basic tenets for achieving love, kindness, compassion, and happiness could be shared.

This may be a utopian view of world religions because it assumes that differences can be put aside for the greater benefit of humankind. Yet, if religions do not evolve, we may find that many people will seek their own path in life without the benefit of the rich cultural traditions and rituals that religions can offer. I don’t remember much about my religious education but I remember that we always danced and sang. I remember that my teachers told me stories about the religion’s history. I know I was given a foundation for ethics and morality, but it focused on the process for determining how to tell the difference between right and wrong without providing a detailed list of rules and regulations. Religion can never have the answers for every situation that we face in life. In general, any educational program should teach us how to think about problems without giving us an answer for every possible question.

Spiritual ritual is good for the soul. The Essenes, the Mayans and the Indians understood this intimately. According to Tamar Frankiel, “Rituals are often rooted in ancient spiritual practices and are maintained simply as traditions… Humans need to connect with natural rhythms, with a sense of heritage, and with their own bodies in a sacred way. Rituals enable us to do this. There is an even deeper dimension to ritual. Rituals give patterns or templates of a tradition physical, bodily form. They are the architecture of energy. They are rich in metaphor, symbol, and allusion because metaphor is the link between ideas in the mind and the physical and emotional in the body… Every ritual has its repertoire of metaphors that connect us to untold depths within ourselves, enabling us to embrace the collective reality of humanity… Many traditions include rhythm, chant, melody, and dance as part of ritual and liturgy. Music not only expresses heights of spiritual experience for some people, but also can aid in healing and in expanding consciousness, which can then lead people further on their search for connection with God. The vibrations of music enter the body in a different way than intellectual insights.” Correspondingly, Joseph Campbell says, “A ritual can be defined as an enactment of a myth. By participating in a ritual, you are actually experiencing a mythological life. And it’s out of that participation that one can learn to live spiritually.”

Religious and spiritual rituals do not have to be at opposite ends of the spectrum; they could be combined as one. A Jewish person should be able to attend a Christian service without feeling alienated. If God were there wouldn’t He want to be shared with everyone? And why would God confine Himself to a building? In mythology, they describe God as a sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere. God, or a universal power, is a part of every human being, whether they are in a church or a garden. Individuals need to free to express spirituality through any religion, in any place and at any time.

Most of my friends call themselves spiritual instead of religious. They have rejected organized religion because it was too confining. If they want to pray in God’s creation (nature) instead of man’s creation (church or temple), they think they are not religious. If they want to pray on Tuesday instead of Sunday, they think they are not religious. I think it is interesting that when I ask people if they are religious, their first response is “No, I am not religious. I don’t go to church.” Or the reverse, “Yes I am religious. I go to church every Sunday.” Is it the act of going to church that makes us religious? If someone is unethical, the attendance at a religious service will never solve the problem and confession is meaningless if the person doesn’t feel remorse. Instead, the confession is a statement of memorized words that aren’t even true. There are no “loopholes” in becoming spiritual and there are no short cuts to heaven. Right and wrong evolve all the time and the gray line between good and evil gets larger every day. For example, when the Bible was written, our sacred religious leaders could never have considered the ethics of cloning a human being.

According to the Bible, we were all created in God’s image. If we all share His image, then God could never be exclusive or judgmental. He is like a parent who loves all of his children equally. If God refuses to judge, then why should we? If God is willing to accept everyone, then why can’t all religions be tolerant of each other? Shouldn’t we be striving to reach the top of the mountain where all trails converge instead of focusing on where we started? As the Dalai Lama so beautifully stated, shouldn’t we just be striving to be good human beings?

Religion may provide a path to God but the path will be traveled only if we have a strong commitment to reach its pinnacle. God doesn’t sit at the end of the path waiting for our arrival. He is there every step of the way -- helping us stand up when we fall down and helping us to appreciate the incredible beauty of the journey along the way.

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