It’s really not very tough to figure out the commonalities of all the religions, at least as espoused. That’s because they are the province of humanity, not religion. This is my belief. I’m not unique in holding it, but like most who do, I’ve come to it in a unique way. My own way.
Amazing, really, the way the three “major” religions share so many precepts and laws. More amazing is that all cultures seem to adopt similar belief systems, when given the time it takes to codify them as a society. When you look at Native American religious traditions, which were bred in complete isolation from Western or Eastern established traditions, you see the same beliefs: Honor your family; respect your parents; love your brother or sister; and of course, pay tribute to the one who made you.
This last is where the divisions lie. Who is your maker? The Sioux tribes had a name for the Creator that was loosely translated by the white men as “The Great Spirit.” This is amusing to Western sensibilities because we can easily view it as a kind of “childish” appellation for a capital-g God. A roughly hewn, prairie-bred, hunter-gatherer monotheism. But recently the term has been clarified to a more distinct meaning: Great Mystery.
Bingo! It is the very act of personifying God, to people like me, that creates the distance between reality and spirituality. That is, to tell me there is an old white man, a “father” figure, with white hair sitting on a cloud up there ready to judge me – that is where you lose me. My mind won’t let me accept the idea with no facts to substantiate it. Rather than the personification making it “easier” for me to have a “relationship” with God, it simply strikes me as made up.
This has a lot of ramifications, I know. They shoot out in all directions. Once a person concludes that the only way to wrap his mind around the concept of the creator is to acknowledge that there is no single, unassailable concept of a creator, the rest follows in a pretty straightforward manner. To wit, I don’t know that the power that created the universe(s) wants me to worship it; nor do I feel it will be appeased if I chant repetitive phrases at it once a week. Nor should I necessarily eat its flesh and drink its blood, even symbolically. No, I must figure out for myself the proper way to honor the creator, or the creative force, or the Great Mystery.
And I’m working on it.