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Category: Non-Religion

The Tooth Fairy

The Tooth Fairy

I see beauty and wisdom in the world’s religions, but I have no interest in believing that the parables and myths of the ancient religious stories are the truth in any real, historical sense. I recognize that stories of immaculate conception, resurrection, omniscience, eternal life, eternal damnation, and miracles each serve a purpose – mainly to inspire people, to serve as warnings against harmful behavior, and to serve as metaphors for aspects of relationships, seasons, and cultural values – but it would be just as absurd for me to believe those stories to be historical or even mystical truth as it would for me to believe in the actual existence of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy. I understand that historically, people the world over have created fantastical stories, and then believed in them wholeheartedly, but I recognize that a growing population of human beings on earth no longer has the tendency nor the need to engage in those fantasies. Just as art, music, technology, and cultural behaviors are in a constant state of evolutionary change, so too is human consciousness, and as a rational, self-aware person, I do not have the disposition to believe the old fantastical stories of the animistic, monotheistic, and polytheistic religions.

I harbor no sense of superiority toward the billions of human beings who still believe in the old stories. Rather, I lovingly recognize and appreciate the benefit that such belief systems provide. They give people a sense of purpose, hope, solace, comfort, guidance, and support. They serve as the cultural framework for many beautiful human societies, and without them, those societies would be chaotic and much more self-destructive. I do not blame the old religious stories for the constantly waged religious wars, acts of genocide, and ethnocide – war for one reason or another has always been an aspect of human behavior. I am not on a crusade to eliminate religion, or to convince those who believe in the old stories that those stories are not true. Rather, I am simply honoring my own perspective, and recognizing that millions of other people naturally hold similar perspectives.

I am neither atheistic nor agnostic. I am gnostic, though I have never known a god-being, and I have a hunch I never will. My own experience leads me to appreciate the notion of god-ness because I have always had a sense of all-encompassing wholeness, goodness, purity, and intelligence in the world. When I am aware of that all-encompassing wholeness, goodness, purity, and intelligence, I think to myself, “This is what they must be calling God.” The old stories that anthropomorphize, masculinize, or feminize god-ness seem to do so only because all-encompassing things are difficult to describe. Nor I am a cold-hearted empiricist who only recognizes that which can be apprehended by my senses or by machines. I revel in my capacity to cognize, meta-cognize, interpret, synthesize, and even create newness in the world. Through meta-cognition of my own experience, I have come to understand that the universe that I have known my whole life has been infinite – there has never been a moment like this, and each preceding moment will be new again. Thus, I cannot say what wasn’t, what isn’t or what won’t be – I can only appreciate what I have happened to notice and think, and that is a small infinity.

We Can Find Our Own Way

We Can Find Our Own Way

“Buddhism is not a religion, but a science of mind.”

– His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

These days, a growing number of us are strongly motivated to discover the deeper truths about ourselves and the universe on our own. We would rather achieve our highest potential through our own efforts than by participating in religious rituals and believing supernatural stories.

Buddhism, even when it is tangled up in the religious rituals and languages of unfamiliar cultures, provides a useful framework for self-initiated investigation into the true nature of being. But we don’t have to participate in a religion to practice Buddhism.

Those of us who are genuinely interested in profound insight now have non-religious access to the practices, resources and discoveries of thousands of years of Buddhist exploration. Liberated from its old cultural traditions but still intact in essence, Buddhism is available as a truly impressive non-religious support for all of us as we find our own way through the human experience.

The characteristic of Buddhism that helps us with our exploration of basic truth is its emphasis on personal investigation into our own experience, without relying on any externally imposed belief system. For nearly 2500 years curious people in the world’s Buddhist traditions have been carefully examining their own experiences, discovering fundamental truths on their own, and building upon the discoveries of those who’ve come before.

Looking at Buddhism world-wide, we can see that it adopts forms that are appropriate to the cultures that become interested in it. Japanese Buddhism looks and acts very Japanese, whereas Thai and Tibetan Buddhism have taken on forms and rituals compatible with their respective societies. Until recently, those of us from places without an endemic Buddhist tradition who’ve taken an interest in Buddhism have had to navigate through the cultural and religious trappings of the existent Buddhist traditions. But now, after several generations of Western students have had the opportunity to study and practice the Eastern traditions, we are able to distinguish the essence of Buddhism from the religious trappings of its various adoptive cultures.

Buddhism didn’t begin as a religion. It was merely the product of one person’s introspective investigation of his own personal experience of life and consciousness. Later, Buddhism did become a multi-faceted religion with many cultural expressions. But the heart of Buddhism has always been free from its religious and cultural associations, and now that heart is open to us. We can learn from Buddhist practice without having to adopt the rituals and belief systems of the cultures that have supported and developed it over the millennia.

This new chapter in the long story of Buddhism is not a negation of the value of the cultural traditions that have developed around it, but rather the result of the natural evolution of human behavior, and a reflection of Buddhism’s tendency to take on forms appropriate to the cultures that are interested in it.