If you are like me, just the mention of religion might be enough to put a knot in your stomach. In the United States, most of us are brought up with some basic assumptions about religion. We are led to believe:
You may or may not consider yourself a religious person, but are there any of those statements that you tend to believe, even if it's an unconscious belief?
As a child, I went to a Catholic church with my family almost every Sunday. Then in my teenage years, we started going to a literalist Christian church. In both places I was trained to be afraid of God, that I was a sinner and that I had to do certain things to avoid burning in hell for eternity.
I even went to a Christian college, where we prayed often for our "unsaved" friends and family members, because we feared they would go to hell.
I was terrified. I lived in constant fear. How could God be good and still send people to hell? How could I live knowing that some of my friends and family members would surely be going to hell? And how could I even be sure that I wouldn't go to hell?
And then something amazing happened! I was feeling so conflicted about my religious beliefs that I began to pray for 2 hours every day, and within just a few days I was led to some astonishing information. I learned that almost everything I ever believed about God was wrong!
I learned that God is not some "old man in the sky," but that each one of us has the presence of God within us. I learned that we are not sinners, but innocent and Divine souls. I learned that hell doesn't exist, except as a state of mind. The only thing I had been taught through religion that was correct was this: God is Love.
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he said, "This is my commandment to you: Love one another."
Dr. Khalifa Abdul Hakim writes, "Love is the goal of all genuinely spiritual religions."
So why, then, are we taught to fear God, when fear is actually the complete opposite of love? Why does religion tend to divide and separate people, rather than uniting people in a spirit of love?
Think about it. Can you think of a good reason why this might be? Well, we believe that there is a perfectly logical explanation for all this. It wasn't just an accident; it was deliberately planned this way. Maybe there was some sinister motive... or maybe it was all part of the divine plan.