Freedom from religion? Social media, and often times, our press is rife with posts clamouring for so-called “religious rights” — often a thinly veiled justification for a group’s desire to discriminate against others. And while the false claim that this country was founded upon the idea of freedom of religion continues to be embraced by the superstitious, the uneducated and the fundamentalist alike; history reveals that the real bedrock of a progressive society remains those who recognise the importance of freedom from religion.
I have recently come under renewed attack by those who feel that I have somehow betrayed my vocation, by formally renouncing all forms of organised religion. I’ve been called heretic, despicable, evil and my personal favourite, the antichrist by some, and an embarrassment, bad example, and disgrace by others. Most recently, a man who pretends to be a “Catholic priest” (despite having had no proper formation, and highly irregular “holy orders” at best), admonished me that I should “prayerfully consider” the vows I took, fourteen years ago today, when I was consecrated as an archbishop, and sworn to live a life exemplary of our roles as “priest, prophet and king”.
Why is it that my insistence that freedom from religion is an evolutionary leap forward represents such a threat to those who cling to their superstitions, dogma and beliefs so tightly that anyone whose path differs threatens them?
As we begin a new year, we’ve begun to contemplate once more what it is that our community strives to bring to the world.
A recent discussion yielded some interesting insights. Before we were able to really unpack our purpose, most of us were very clear in our minds about what we did not wish to represent, and who we were not:
Our purpose is not to represent religion or other forms of superstition, no matter how popular and profitable those things might appear.
We are not interested in hierarchical structure or governance.
We do not seek to draw more lines in the sand.
We do not consider ourselves as belonging to any one country, state or nation.
We fundamentally believe that every moment can lead to value. And that the discovery of value within ourselves and others is one of the highest purposes to which we can subscribe as a society. We hold that each of us can transform society, by living in the world as peaceful revolutionaries — who serve the needs of those less fortunate, and who bring value to one another in every transactional encounter.
Our purpose, as secular humanists and New Thought practitioners, is to free ourselves from those things which divide us, and to embrace that which recognises our essential unity. For us, it’s not about freedom of religion, which we see as an important right for all persons… it’s about freedom from religion, that we devote our efforts and resources to creating.
We believe that a truly purpose-driven life is one that is informed by its past, not hostage to it. As Rick Warren puts it, “Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you. Don’t waste your pain; use it to help others.” (The Purpose Driven Life)
We do not need to pretend that we are healers, because no one has ever healed another, and no one ever will. Healing arises from within, and is an organic process of becoming more aware of the innate balance that is our True Nature (homeostasis). We do not need to be priests or prophets, for the world needs no more professional hypocrites, predators or charlatans. It’s had more than enough of those over the past several millennia. We do not need to be in the spotlight, because the most important work is always done in secret and quietude.
We choose to be decentralised… fluid… post-denominational… rebels and revolutionaries of Love Itself.
What effect does our perception and sense of separateness have upon our day-to-day experience of life? In this installment of Inner Alchemy, we’ll begin unpacking our entanglements, and look at how understanding the quantum and physical universe can have a dramatic impact on our lives.
When you’re building a camp fire, the first thing you do is to find a safe and suitable spot. You clear away any debris, and usually build a ring of stones or cinder blocks around the are to create your first pit.
Then you begin to gather the wood you’ll need to start and sustain that fire.
You search for “seasoned” wood. That is to say that you look for wood that is not too green… not wet… and suitable for a good long burn.
Somehow we don’t always approach our spirituality with that same diligence. We attend a few lectures or classes. We might be part of a denomination’s services for six or eight months. And then we set out to set the world on fire… in one mud-puddle after another.
It’s curious, really… In November of last year, I passed the 32 year mark of having been told that I was infected with what would later become known as AIDS. This morning, as I looked at the medical reports from the Emergency Room on Monday night, I realised that 26 years ago today, my partner Ronn was rushed to the hospital with what they originally suspected to be aspergillis (a fungal infection of the lungs), with the same symptoms I now have.
I’ve lived more than half my life — over 32 years — with full-blown AIDS, and have dealt with the emotional distress of profound grief for exactly half my life. On May 10th, 1983, I was savagely raped and beaten by four Haitian immigrants, in South Florida, where I’d gone to escape eight years of sexual abuse at the hands of four Roman Catholic clergy (including an archbishop). So I’ve lived for a little over 35 years as a sexual abuse survivor.