Now, if you have been paying attention, you will be expecting a blog about reincarnation, right about now. Sometimes the Universe throws us a “curve ball” and that has happened this week. Reincarnation is coming, when it sees fit, but for today please settle back and consider this minor question – what do YOU believe in?
As human beings, we have always had this innate need to believe that we are more than just a flesh and blood accident – that we are something meaningful in this Universe of ours and that we do indeed have some unique gifts to express, and purpose to fulfil. That desire to believe in something greater than ourselves; to find something tangible on which to hang our existence is totally understandable. Nobody wants to feel that their life has no meaning – no purpose.
Over the millennium, men and women have looked to the heavens for purpose and meaning in life and from the moment the earliest hominids stood up and walked, humanity has been obsessed in creating its various stories about its existence, its meaning, and its purpose. Religion, Faith, Belief; whatever it is you wish to call it, is a concept expressed through Creation myths throughout the ages.
Karl Marx once famously wrote; “Religion… it is the opium of the people.” Many would take this to suggest that religion is a prop for the weak-minded; that it provides people with an artificial, illusory happiness and thus removes those, who believe, from the need to participate in creating a better society. I would disagree with those that propound this argument that religion is nothing more than an emotional crutch for feeble-minded people. Religion, it seems to me, is the natural outpouring of humanity’s need to explain the clear existence of a “God” or a “Creator” of our Universe and to feel connected.
That religion has been used throughout history and sadly still is today, to justify barbaric and inhumane acts against our fellow travelers on this planet, does not in of itself make religion a bad thing. I believe that religion, of whatever flavor, actually teaches us vitally important doctrines to live by. It seems to me that many, if not all of the mainstream religions actually have very similar core beliefs, that are both beneficial and advantageous to the individual and society as a whole. If we ignore the distortion of religious doctrine to justify the actions of misguided and negative people, then we can find some truths about life that are common across all the varying flavors and colors of religious philosophy.
In fact, according to recent research all societies play by the rules: 7 to be precise.
All societies are held together by seven universal moral rules, researchers at the University of Oxford have recently concluded. Although many Western cultures are moving towards more liberal less hierarchical organizations, the basic values of charity and fraternity are the cornerstones of successful societies. [We touched upon this is an earlier blog about HAPPINESS and why Scandinavian countries top the ranking tables.] The huge study of 60 cultures around the world found that all communities operated under seven basic moral codes. Universal rules are: 1) help your family 2) help your group 3) return favors 4) be brave 5) defer to superiors 6) divide resources fairly and 7) respect the property of others. Ideas encompassed within the code, include caring for frail relatives, passing on property to offspring, going to war if needed, and respecting elders. These traits held true for every kind of community, from traditional hunter-gatherers, to advanced Western civilizations and work in order to uphold civilized society and foster social cooperation. Everyone, everywhere shares common moral codes, according to Dr Oliver Scott Curry, the lead author and senior researcher at the Institute for Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford.
These rules appear to be universal across cultures because people face the same social problems. The study published in Current Anthropology, is the largest most comprehensive and widespread survey of morals conducted and aimed to find out if different societies have different versions of morality. The team analysed ethnographic accounts from more than 600 sources, in 60 societies. They found that the seven rules were considered morally good in all societies and, despite appearing like Western Christian principles, they were in fact observed across all continents, religions and politics. However, some communities valued certain rules more highly than others: for example – the Maasai of Kenya, the uncompromising ideal of supreme warrior-hood involves commitment to self-sacrifice and a supreme display of courageous loyalty. Meanwhile, the Bemba in Zambia exhibit deep sense of respect for elders’ authority, and among the Tarahumara of Mexico respect for the property of others is key.
- Help your family, be a loving and protective parent. Pass on property.
- Help your group, join communal activities. Promote unity and solidarity.
- Return favors, repay a debt and fulfil a contract.
- Be brave put yourself at risk for others.
- Defer to superiors. Be deferential, respectful, loyal, and obedient.
- Divide resources, share the spoils, and be willing to compromise.
- Respect other’s property, no stealing, trespassing or vandalism.
Moreover most, if not all mainstream religions actually promote and encourage, “The Golden Rule”; “Do unto others, as you would have others do unto you.” If we respect and value each other, with the same respect and value we should be giving ourselves, then incredible things would happen. The problem, as I see it, is that far too often we not only disrespect and belittle our fellow human beings; we don’t even value and respect ourselves. Once we learn to love ourselves and accept our own wonderful uniqueness and inherent beauty we can then respect and value everyone else’s. The key to implementing the “Golden Rule” is to first and foremost “Love yourself as you are, in all your unique glory.”
Further most, if not all mainstream religions promote and encourage the protection and preservation of our glorious and beautiful planet Earth; its creatures and its environment. We are mere custodians of this planet and yet we continue to pillage and plunder the resources, at immense cost to our environment and more importantly those who will come after us; our children, our grandchildren and the generations yet to be born. We are placed here as stewards of this planet and we need to rally to the call for pro-conservation change.
Perhaps the most important tenet of most, if not all mainstream religions is the overarching belief in the redemptive power of “LOVE”. Love is the key to success as individuals and success as a society. When we approach the world, each other, and ourselves with the motivation of love, amazing things begin to happen in all of our lives. Love is the most powerful force in the Universe; everything bad in the world results from “fear, a constricted heart, and ultimately a lack of love” and if we can tip the balance of the world into love, we can see great change.
I want to introduce you to the word “Omnism”, if you haven’t yet come across it. If you look that up in an online dictionary the definition is given as: “The belief in all religions”. I chose this word because although it doesn’t quite express what I truly believe, it comes as close as anything I can think of. As individuals I believe we create our own reality; and religion, (in whatever form that may take). Whatever you may believe is your reality – your belief, I respect and will always champion your right to believe whatever you choose to believe; whatever reality you choose to create for yourself. It is only when people try to force their beliefs on other people that I would feel compelled to take a stand.
Beliefs change over time; that’s important to understand. What we believed as a child is clearly different to what we believe as an adult. We are programmed, conditioned creatures and until we can break that programming and begin to think for ourselves, our beliefs are those imparted by our parents, our families, our friends, our teachers, and society as a whole.
I can sum up my own personal beliefs (as they are today) in a few succinct paragraphs:
I believe in a power greater than me: Call it God, the Universe, the Creator, The Great Spirit, Yahweh, Allah. Whatever your construct of this higher power is called, one thing I am certain of is that there is a greater power than us.
I believe we are an integral part of our Universe; that we, like everything else in the Universe are created solely from energy, and as such we have no beginning and we have no end – we just always are. Energy cannot be destroyed; it can only be converted into something else. We are immortal spirits experiencing a human journey. I can’t tell you for certain what happens when our physical bodies die, but I do know that we will go on and I look forward to that discovery one day.
I believe in the power of ME and in the power of YOU – The power of the INDIVIDUAL. I believe that the world around us is created by each and every one of us. Our reality is what we create it to be. The power has always been ours – we either surrendered it to others or we never even knew we had it. It’s time to reclaim it! We can save the planet one habit at a time.
I believe in the power of love. This is not just the “romantic” notion of love, it is so much more. This is the love that is the all-powerful, all-pervasive love that drives the Universe. We must love life and embrace it in all its joys and its sorrows. The power of love has the ability to change everything for the better and once we discover that, then our lives will change forever.
I believe my purpose in life is – “To be heart centered, open and to be happy.” Life is a journey and we are all entitled to have wonderful lives, full of happiness and joy, if we chose to. To find that happiness we first need to discover what it is that gives us joy. For me, it is my writing, among other things. If what I write entertains, assists or informs and connects with others, then I have utilized my unique talent for the good.
Finally, I believe that every day should be utilized to LEARN something new about ourselves, our family, our friends and our world. We are on a journey of discovery and the day that we think we know it all, or that we know all we need to know, is the day we have given up and shut down; spiritually, emotionally and probably even physically.
If you would like to check up on some of our earlier bogs, you can find the last five here:
A Philosophical Colossus – Gautama Buddha
Celebrating Women’s History Month
Happiness: That Elusive Dream – Part 2
Happiness: That Elusive Dream – Part 1
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Do pop on over to my Books By JJ Hughes page on this website and take a look at my novel, Spirit of Prophecy which incorporates many of the concepts I talk about on my blogs, along with a thrilling “whodunit” mystery. Just click on the photo below and you’re there: