I am a pretty spiritual person. I choose to believe in God. At the same time, I have listened to some very convincing arguments that God is something we made up; that religion is a fantasy. And, we have all witnessed, through all of history, horrific acts of violence against others in the name of religion. We have also seen some extreme behaviors of people who think they are “holier than thou.” Quite honestly, some religious beliefs are hard to believe when it comes to applying logic.
I just got back from Israel, the Holy Land, and Italy, a Catholic heaven. I experienced a fascinating show of religious beliefs: Islamic chanting over the loudspeakers at the crack of dawn so the entire community knew it was time to pray; Orthodox Hasidic Jews wearing the same black “uniform” making them stand out as they try to blend in; devout Christians visiting the place where Jesus lived and died; and church bells reverberating through the hills every hour, on the hour. In their own ways, all loudly calling for prayer and devotion to their God. At the heart of their behavior, all are seeking a connection to Divine Spirit—whatever the name and form shall be.
The only problem is, of course, that they don’t all get along.
The issues of the Middle East are well known, but if one were just to take the way the people in Italy treat other drivers as a demonstration of their spiritual practice, Italy is equally challenged. Don’t get me wrong; America is no better.
So, how do we work all this out? It all comes down to our behavior in relationships—with ourselves, each other and Spirit (regardless of whether there is one). As far as I can tell, we have to step on some Holy toes.
It doesn’t matter whether God is real or not. It ultimately doesn’t matter whether there is a God, multiple Gods, “my God” or “your God.” What matters is how we behave on account of that belief. If believing in God results in you being a happier, kinder, more loving, compassionate, forgiving, caring person, believe in God!
If what you believe makes you fearful, angry, violent, unforgiving, mean, scary, controlling, guilty, ashamed, sad, and judgmental, then either stop believing in God, or start believing in a different representation and teaching of God.
If there is a God, He/She is not yours or mine, we are His/Hers. God is not here to answer our prayers, we are here to answer God’s calling. And, as far as I can tell, all we have ever been asked to do is to be kind, conscious, caring, serving and appreciative. This is the target. The rest is in God’s hands.
Walk your talk. Spiritual life is about your behavior every day. It is not just about your behavior on the Sabbath or on Sunday or on Lent or five times a day in prayer. There is a saying, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” Apply this to your spiritual life and daily life and simply notice how well they are lining up. How do you treat others when you drive, when you speak, when you order food at a restaurant? How do you treat yourself? How do you approach life—are you more likely to complain or give thanks? How do you speak to others? How does your self-talk speak to you? Aim to align your spiritual values with your daily behavior. And, if your beliefs cause a daily behavior that is harmful and judgmental to others, go back to the first step of finding a different belief system. What we believe is a choice, but an even more important choice is how we behave on account of those beliefs. Both are within our control. However, our rights to religious freedom end where someone else’s toes begin.
We are “sinners” when we forget that we are Divine. The root meaning of the word “sin” is “to miss your mark.” We wreck havoc in our relationships when we forget to treat each other as divine. To place your feet firmly on the path, identify the target, point your toes in that direction and align your words, thoughts and actions carefully toward it, all of the time.