The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God
 

Confusing Religion with Spirituality

Dennis Diehl

     

There is a vast difference between a religious experience and a spiritual one. Being religious, as we often see in the Western mode of thinking may no longer be very close to the spirituality that all humans instinctively seek.  Organized religion is on the verge of killing itself off with ignorance and a stubborn refusal to understand the Fourth Century was not the high water mark of spiritual understanding.   It is no coincidence that the dark ages came on the heels of the organization of the Christian church.  Perhaps it is time to explain the difference. These are not original thoughts.  What follows is what one can learn, if you allow it to be so, from an experience with an abusive, literalist religious experience and organization of any persuasion.

 

  In our culture all spirituality is expected to come from the Bible and expressed through an Organized Christian Church all holding similar yet different perspectives.  But an experience such as we have had with the Worldwide Church of God and the one others still are experiencing with splinter COG’s, compel me to explain the difference between genuine spirituality and a mere religious experience that can change direction with the wind….and often does.  A mere religious experience gone wrong will leave one feeling defeated, angry, fearful and bitter. Being told that “well it is YOUR fault you did not have a deeply spiritual experience, not the Church’s” is not the answer.  It is however, an attempt to blame the person for not being able to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.   Spirituality born from this adversity is such that no one can ever again take it from you.  True spirituality comes from the inside out and does not depend one wit on externals.

 

          The more fundamentally literal and organized the group is, the less one will experience a genuine inner and calmly confident spirituality.  There are only two genuine emotions from which all others flow…Love and Fear. That’s why perfect, unconditional love can cast out fear, it’s opposite.  Of course, fear can totally trash any prospect of being loved as well.   Notice Love does not cast out hate, as hate is the result of some fear.  The opposite of Love is Fear.   Genuine Love produces genuine spirituality while Fear produces mere religion and its associated atrocities and control.  Christian soldiers are fear-based zealots and true believers in THEIR religion, not your spirituality, and are the most destructive of all.

 

          These observations are those of individuals who have experienced being religious, perhaps for most of their lives, until the genuine shallowness of the experience simply overwhelmed them and the truth of spirituality came home.  It is common to become stuck in the experience of religion gone wrong and not to move on through the lessons and then grasp the meaning of a genuine inner spirituality.  Organized religion cannot abide deeply internal and individual spirituality as it cannot be controlled, has no allegiance to the dictates of the group and is not anxious to be relieved of it’s money to perpetuate the group think of the organization. Perhaps this can help.

 

Spirituality

Spirituality is not the exclusive domain of Fundamentalist Christianity.

 

Religion

Christianity is the ONLY true spirituality and all others are of a Devil.

Spirituality

God resides within us, where most would never think to look, and we do not need THEM to make the connection for us.  We are all ONE and of the ONE.  Spirituality is from the inside out.

 

Religion

  Religion requires us to join them and for them to make the spiritual connection for us through intermediaries.  We are separate and it is “us vs. them”, “called vs. uncalled” and “Chosen vs. Unchosen.”  Religion is from the outside in.

 

Spirituality

Teaches us to make our own decisions and accept responsibility for those decisions.

 

Religion

Religion teaches us to accept the decisions of others and to forfeit our own perspectives, experience and understanding for the benefit of the group.

 

Spirituality

The theme is unconditional love and respect for all life, human and otherwise.

 

Religion

The theme is conditional love based on obedience to the system, fear, guilt and shame.  Respect for life depends on it not getting in your way or thwarting your agenda.

 

Spirituality

Spirituality doesn’t require massive donations to the organization as proof of one’s understanding, faith or loyalty.

Religion

Requires donations to keep the business of religion alive.

Spirituality

Unites and brings people together in mutual respect

Religion

Thrives on divisiveness, specialness and We only vs. Not You mentality.

Spirituality

Has no need for jealous, angry, or judgmental gods that condemns those not loved unconditionally to hell.  Has no need of a god that destroys those who don’t understand, never knew or were never told this or that “truth”  The God we think we know is not the God that is.

 

Religion

Requires an angry, jealous, just and judgmental god to reward the true believers and destroy those that cannot understand the “one true perspective” Requires conditional love inspite of statements to the contrary. The God WE reveal to you is the only God there is.

 

Spirituality

Allows for following one’s own perceived path and understanding without passing judgement on the paths of others and their current understanding and perspectives. 

 

Religion

Demands adherence to the straight and narrow as defined by an organization and others appointed to teach their perspectives as the one true perspective.  Any insights you gain from personal study or experience must yield to groupthink.

 

Spirituality

Encourages going to God to lighten life’s burdens

 

Religion

Adds a few burdens of it’s own to make the trip more miserable.

Spirituality

Sexuality is a gift to be appreciated and cultivated

 

Religion

Sex is acceptable as long as accompanied by the appropriate amount of shame, guilt and misinformation.  Sexuality adheres to the rules set down by a cultic god who appeared to an obscure people, in an obscure part of the world, on an obscure mountain, speaking in an obscure language over 4000 years ago.  When the group did not wait long enough for the spokesman to return and, the spokesman, bearing the rule not to kill, had 3000 of them slaughtered for their impatience in the desert sun.

 

Spirituality

Teaches absolute respect for the planet and her resources

 

Religion

Wears out and subdues the earth since God gave it to THEM to dominate and exploit for the benefit of the few.

Spirituality

Teaches we are born a clean slate, innocent, pure and without pre-loaded sins and universal guilt. 

Religion

Teaches we are tainted with Original Sin committed by mythological characters from the distant past, for which we are also under an eternal death sentence until washed in blood sacrifice and accept atonement by execution.

Spirituality

Teaches that we are each on a long spiritual journey that will unite us with the source of all love and knowledge in due time.

Religion

Teaches us that we have one shot, in a very narrow slice of time to learn all that there is to know and make the RIGHT, ONE TIME choice.  Mistakes in this one time of choosing are eternally fatal.  Because God is just.

 

Spirituality

Allows for the free exchange of ideas and perspectives

 

Religion

Gave us the Inquisition, the Holocaust and thousands of “One True Churches” all competing for each other’s members and money. 

Spiritually

Teaches peace and harmony between all people

Religion

Is responsible for more human misery and death--past, present and future than any other cause.

Spirituality

Teaches to have faith in oneself and that answers are found by going within.

Religion

Teaches faith in the organization and the group where answers will be given whether requested, understood or agreed with.  Teaches that answers must come from external sources even when not perceivable.

 

These are but a few of the actual differences between a genuine human spirituality and a mere religious belief or form.   Some will say that this describes a very self centered perspective but I would remind you that self is who you are and you are in the center of that.   Paul said “let everyone esteem others better than themselves.” and with this I have always disagreed. Paul is the author of religious division and rancorous Christianity.  Paul hated and beat himself to keep himself in line with his religion.  So do fundamentalist Islamics.  Paul cursed those who disagreed with him. So do Evangelical Christians.  Paul prided himself on his being called from birth to reveal the one true Jesus, who he had never personally met or thought to quote in his example, teachings or experiences.   Paul never could quite make up his mind about law and grace, or law or grace, or grace or law…depending. Paul was as religious a Christian as Athenians were with their “unknown god.”

 

  Paul saw the conflict in himself that mere religion can bring to the soul and complained about doing what he shouldn’t and not doing what he should concluding he was a “wretched man.”  His self-flagellation was to insure he did not fall away himself.  Religious people beat themselves into submission so their angry God won’t have to. Paul was a religious person before he found his truth, and a religious person after he found it.  His love was not unconditional and enemies, spies, false brethren and those who did not agree with HIM were everywhere and thwarting his religion.  Never married, condemning of sex and advising others to be as single as he was when Jesus clearly contradicted that, Paul was a conflicted mess.  I Corinthians 13 is as close to a genuine spirituality that one can come to, and if Paul wrote it, his religion often kept him from practicing it. It’s a great idea whose time has yet to come for most in daily religious practice.  Loving yourself first and others unconditionally is a deeply spiritual practice that few in religion ever come close to practicing.   Paul was deeply religious and he was often harsh, condemning and judgmental of others who did not see Jesus through his eyes.  And so it still is.     

 

Our experience in the WCG may have had it’s spiritual moments but organizationally, it was and still is, as are most COG splinter groups, a merely religious experience based on the above criteria.  Hand waving, praising the messenger in leu of the message and putting on a show of emotion is a religious experience.  I am reminded of a more spiritual perspective that says, “He who knows, does not say; He who says, does not know.” 

 

What I believe and the conclusions I have drawn on my religious experiences are mine.  Yours are yours.  Spirituality seems to indicate we just might be spirits having a human experience, rather than humans having a religious experience.  We can hope. All too often, that human experience of the spiritual is lost in the pronouncements, actions and demands of religion. Experience is indeed a harsh teacher, and while expensive, perhaps the only way to learn what an abiding and deeply satisfying inner spirituality has to offer if we make the leap of faith  from mere religion to the implications and harmony that a genuine inner spirituality has to offer.  God is One and in time perhaps we all will understand that so are we.

 

 

  

10/26/2006


If you have anything you would like to
submit to this site, or any comments,
email me at:

Email The Painful Truth

Copyright
The content of this site, including but not limited to the text and images herein and their arrangement, are copyright © 1997-2004 by The Painful Truth. All rights reserved.

Do not duplicate, copy or redistribute in any form without prior written consent.

Disclaimer