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What I Believe

Every once in a while it is good to sit down and clarify what you believe. I did this recently and came up with the following:

1. Everything is a manifestation of the one thing I call God.

2. God is not good; good and bad are human categories about which God cares not one bit.

3. Life is not controllable, but you can learn to navigate it, and do some good in the process.

4. Prayer cannot change God’s mind, but it might change your attitude.

5. Religion is a human invention designed to give us the illusion of control from which we can then create a sense of meaning without admitting we are creating it. In truth, we have no control, we invent what meaning there is.

6. Sacred texts always reflect the bias of their intended audience. Don’t be surprised that the Torah’s Jews are God’s Chosen; that the Gospels make Jesus the Christ; that the Bhagavad Gita sees Krishna as God; that the Qur’an holds Mohammad as the final Prophet; or that the Harry Potter series makes Harry rather than Hermione the hero.

7. Priests, rabbis, pastors, imams, swamis, lamas, and gurus sometimes have your best interest in mind, and always have their best interests at heart. Learn from them, but never turn your life over to them.

8. At its best religion is about personal freedom, social justice, compassion for all living things, and realizing your connection with God. At its worst it is about power and control. Religion is rarely at its best.

9. Human beings can learn to see through propaganda—religious, political, commercial, etc.—overcome its divisiveness, create loving communities, and glimpse the truth through science, art, music, literature, and spiritual practice. We just don’t want to.

10. Spiritual practice cuts through self and selfishness, reduces conflict, increases compassion, and reveals the nonduality of God in, with, and as all reality.

Now it’s your turn. What do you believe?

Rabbi Rami Shipiro

Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and teacher. In the print version of our magazine, he has an advice column, “Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler,” addressing reader questions pertaining to religion, spirituality, faith, family, God, social issues, and more. His latest book is Surrendered—The Sacred Art. Rabbi Rami hosts our podcast, “Essential Conversations.”

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