My opinions are permanently on offer for exchange with better ones
I was brought up in one of the global traditions of religious dogma which was driven by fear. At school from when I was very small, I was made to repeat over and over again that ‘sin was any thought, word, deed or omission against the word of God’.
Needless to say, this had me worried. Given I didn’t know what sin was, I pretty much stopped thinking, or talking or doing much, and buried myself in books, mostly about heroines.
What was really tricky was the ‘omission’ bit. I never knew if I was omitting something of which I wasn’t aware, which meant if I died, I would go to hell. And there were many lurid descriptions as to what happened to you if you ended up there.
While growing up, there was a picture in my bedroom of St Maria Goretti, who as an adolescent was stabbed to death while defending her purity. I can clearly remember wishing I too could be a martyr like her. It did mean a painful death, but I’d go straight to heaven, because my soul would be washed clean of my unknown sins, by my blood. The life I imagined ahead of me was too hard, long and treacherous. I wasn’t sure I could manage it.
I was indeed fortunate to survive this craziness. Some of the young people I knew at the time, were less fortunate.
I had many ecstatic experiences as a child and mistakenly identified them with the religion I was brought up in. When I was twenty two, in an instant of seeing through the dogma and mind/heart control, I walked out of the church and have never been back. Despite being absolutely clear as to why I left, such was the depth of the brainwashing I had experienced that for roughly the next ten years, I had ongoing dreams of being pushed down a long, red hot slippery dip into the fiery furnace of hell.
Some religious traditions have moved far from the original teachings and have turned them into dogma for both political power and financial gain.
So I find it very sad that the original loving and empowering teachings have been translated in many instances into the major power games of right/wrong, good/bad and dominance/submission. In these calcified dogmatic organisations both children and adults are expected to conform, and are discouraged from questioning the ‘teachings’.
I’m with Buddha when he says ‘believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who has said it, including myself, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.’
I think that keeping our hearts and minds open to new experiences and learnings and always being prepared to question old beliefs is a powerful antidote to the destructiveness of all dogma, religious or otherwise.
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