I’ve been doing some thinking lately about whether or not the movement I belong to, New Thought, is a religion or a philosophy. I know what my personal belief is: that this is a philosophy and a way of life that has nothing to do with religion.
But it’s been said before, we’re a weird bunch, and some of us think we are a religion. To muddy the waters a bit, there are some New Thought organizations, such as Unity, that do consider themselves religious. In fact, they go so far as to advertise themselves as practicing “practical Christianity.” And…I am in Holmes Institute, an accredited organization, going for a Masters degree in Consciousness Studies, but guess what my title will be when I graduate? Minister! I will be the Rev. Karen! What is up with that?!?!? If we aren’t a religion, then how on earth could I be a reverend? Why are the leaders of our Centers all over the world called reverends, and why do we have Sunday services (we call them celebrations) just like regular churches do? I’m so confused…not really, but those are legitimate questions that I do not have answers for, at this time.
I still prefer to stick with the philosophy and way of life description.
I’ve been visiting some churches in order to fulfill my requirement to visit ten churches during the course of my student career. Having never been to church before, really, except to photograph weddings, I’ve noticed a few things.
The most telling, for me, are the rules. Having come from a place where there are no rules to speak of, I think this is having the most impact on me. There are rules governing everything from what to wear to what to eat to who to date to what to do when you go on those dates to who to vote for to when to take a day off.
Our country is filled with people who have voluntarily elected to become members of organizations which have taken away all sense of personal freedom.
I happen to think that loss of personal freedom means lack of empowerment. I prefer to be able to feel empowered.
Yes, I have to make my own decisions. Yes, I have to take responsibility for my life. Yes, I have consequences for my behavior. But they are my decisions, my actions, and my results. It doesn’t come from someone else telling me what to do, or instilling a sense of shame in me for even considering doing something different than what they say is right. And I also have a strength and a wisdom and a sense of peace that comes from a direct connection with a Spirit of my own understanding. I have the ability to change my beliefs and my thoughts if they are leading me to things I would rather not have in my life. I am accepted for who and what I am, lovingly, no matter what I wear, no matter what I eat, no matter who I date, no matter what. I am empowered, I am loved, I am accepted.
I have learned some of the background of why there are all those rules. Way back when, there were no governments. The church was the government. They needed a way to control the populace. Enter the rules. They made up these rules, and wrote them down, and put them in books that they then called holy. They devised a system of duality where you go to hell if you don’t obey the the rules (and get ostracized by the members of the church while you’re at it) and go to heaven and get approval and acceptance if you do obey them. A pretty nifty way to control people, but geez…when a spouse does that kind of stuff they call it abuse and manipulation. Why is it ok for churches to do it, but not for spouses to do it?
Is it possible to have a religion without all the rules? I think so, because the spiritual stuff that is the essence of all religions, that stuff behind all the dogma and rules, is very cool stuff. Enter New Thought: a religion without all the rules.
A place where you can come to get spiritually fed. Where you can get support and unconditional love. Where you can learn cool stuff, and become empowered. Where you can learn a philosophy and a way of life that creates a world that works for everyone, where there is peace, strength, wisdom and power. Where we take the good stuff from ALL the world’s religions (because there is some good stuff there) and leave all the dogma and rules out of it, and learn to use that stuff to better our lives.
If you come to where we are (and chances are there is a Center for Spiritual Living wherever you are, you can find one here: http://www.unitedcentersforspiritualliving.org/Find_A_Community/index.php) you will get the peace that you expect to get from an organized religion. You will also get the support and love. What you won’t get is shame. You won’t have your personal freedom taken away. You will instead be taught ways to make better decisions for yourself, and ways to connect with Spirit for yourself, and ways to live a happier, more peaceful life.
I like it here, and I hope I see you here soon!