My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness

A reader from South Africa writes: “I’m a Christian and the whole New Age belief has made me confused. Basically, the same principles are taught in both Christianity and New Age. What I’ve done is to apply principles of New Age, because it is so similar to Christianity, and still go to church. The problem is that I feel ‘two faced’ if I go to church as a New Age believer, for while the Pastor is preaching, I agree and disagree with him (in my mind) based on the New Age principles I know. And I don’t want to stop going to church, because I don’t want to abandon Christianity at all and I have a lot of good friends there.

“To make it worse, I attend a Bible study with fellow Christians and I feel I can’t give it my 100% because I don’t believe everything in the Bible anymore.”

ANSWER: Your doubts are understandable and nothing to be embarrassed about. After all, as the wise pharaoh Akhenaton (1380 ~ 1362 BC) taught more than 33 centuries ago, “True wisdom is less presuming than folly. The wise man doubts often, and changes his mind; the fool is obstinate, and doubts not; he knows all things other than his own ignorance.”

Why do the wise doubt? Because they realize that one’s religious convictions are not determined by truth, but by fate. The fervent Christians that plead to others to accept Christ would sing a very different song if they were born in Calcutta, Tehran, Bangkok, or Tel Aviv. For if they were, instead of praising Christ, they would be singing praises to Brahma, Allah, Buddha, or Jehovah.

Why is this simple fact ignored by so many? Well, they don’t want to feel the way you do. That is, they don’t want to feel uncomfortable. They hide from the truth because they prefer the security of believing they already have all the answers to life’s complex questions.

You are confused because you feel torn between recognizing the truth and remaining faithful to the religion that you were brought up with. You hate to turn away from your earlier beliefs because to do so seems like a betrayal. Yet, if you are not willing to respond to the tugging you feel in your heart, you will betray yourself.

Although the term “New Age” has yet to be clearly defined, it’s safe to say that it follows the path of spirituality while religions are linked to institutions. What is spirituality? It is the recognition that all paths lead to God. It is the understanding that no one institution has a monopoly on the truth. Rather, the truth is shared by all. Religious men and women follow the teachings of a church or institution. On the other hand, spiritual men and women follow the teachings of the FOUNDERS of religion.

Those who are spiritual are not closed like the church. Instead, they are open and willingly embrace the teachings of all the great masters, whether they be Christ, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Mohammed, Lao Tzu, or Socrates. You see, they are interested in wisdom, not indoctrination. They are interested in compassion and service, not in rituals and symbols. They live by a simple code and share the thoughts of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of the Tibetan people, who said, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”

There is nothing “new” about New Age or spiritual thinking. It is as old as religion itself. Side by side with religion, there have always been a small number of advanced thinkers, some within the church and some outside of the church. They are known as the mystics. They continue to exist until this day. Their message has always been the same. Mainly, all paths lead to God; the truth is shared by all; there is but one God, God is Love, all creation is good, and we are here to serve one another. Whenever mystics appear, they are usually condemned by the church. Yet, hundreds of years later, they become revered as saints by the very institutions that condemned them.

Now let’s get to your case. If your shoes are too tight, don’t force your feet into them with a shoe horn. Rather, get a new pair of shoes that fit you properly. Similarly, why force yourself to fit in a church that you have outgrown? The purpose of attending church is to feel inspired, not guilty and uncomfortable. Here are two options for you to consider.

First, you can change churches. You can join one that is more aligned with your way of thinking. Unity and Unitarianism immediately come to mind. Both make it possible for you to attend church without betraying your own beliefs and principles. Unity is an especially attractive possibility, as you will feel right at home as a Christian and “New Ager” at the same time. I realize that there aren’t many Unity churches in your country; nevertheless, more and more New-Age type churches are springing up everywhere, so you should be able to find a suitable fit with relative ease. True, if you change churches, you may lose some of your friends. But you will be making new ones, and they will share and support your spiritual views, so in the long run you may find yourself far happier.

Another thing you can do is take a hiatus from church. You can give yourself time to ‘find yourself’ and sort out your thinking. And even if you were to stop going to church for awhile, you don’t have to stop being religious, for as Albert Schweitzer (1875 ~1965) wrote, “There is no higher religion than human service. To work for the common good is the greatest creed.” He was a man who practiced his religion, not by going to church, but by helping those in need. This is in keeping with the original intentions of the founders of the various religions. For they weren’t here to preach dogma and theology. Rather, their aim was to transform humanity, to make men and women more God-like. That is, to make their followers compassionate enough to help those in need.

I encourage you on your quest. It takes courage to question. True, the path of spirituality leads to questions that may never be answered, but the road to religion leads to answers that may never be questioned. The path to spirituality is the road less traveled. Because it is less traveled it is covered with underbrush, brambles, thistles, and thorns. The way is painful and lonely. Yet, because it is less traveled, it is also the path that leads to discovery, adventure, and joy. It is the way of the warrior. It may very well be the path you were meant to follow.