Yesterday a doctor giving me some medical tests at UCI asked me if I thought religion was made up by humans. I heard myself say that the Divine was not but the approaches to the Divine were made by humans.
This morning I awoke with thoughts along this string of thought. I was thinking of what we know of the life and teachings of Jesus. He once boiled down the whole thing to love, unconditional love - not erotic love or conditional love. It has come to be known as the great commandments. He taught and modeled love, forgiveness, compassion, sincerity for all. He spent a great deal of time with the lowest of society and treated them as children of God and he was impatient with the religious leaders and was suspect of the powers of the day, even having at least one zealot in his entourage.
He got bent out of shape by the money changers in the temple. Basically, as I understand it, the original idea of being thankful for all that God had given by giving a portion to God's work had morphed into buying exorbitantly priced supposedly pure animals to give to the priests to slaughter. They then cooked them and ate them. This and other hypocrisies upset Jesus.
All of this leads me to the thought that the original inspiration of at least some of which later gets incorporated into religions as "official" was once a brilliant flash of insight from God. Then later folks who do not have the direct understanding and flash of insight layer rules and gyrations upon the insight until it can barely peek out from under the pile.
Perhaps religion began its journey as direct revelation, but could not keep that status because few people understood from experience, so made stuff up.
So now, this great teacher of Love, love for self, for neighbor and for God, unconditional love - the key to it all - the fulfillment of the law and the prophet - has morphed into someone murdered by God and upon whose blood one must believe and glory in in order to be saved from that very God who wants to burn you forever in fire. Love has been betrayed. Jesus has been understood by a few mystics throughout history, but greatly misunderstood by the majority.
Think of Constantine who decided it would unite his empire to have one religion and he chose Christianity. His mother was a believer so probably swayed him, but it was a calculated decision. He skewed it to his ends in many ways including which leaders were invited to the Council of Nicea and by which of the current scriptures were okayed and which burned. He changed the course of the Jesus Movement away from love and into political manipulation. It is said he did not get baptised until his deathbed, just in case.
There was the Inquisition which was about as far away from love as one can get, witch hunts of frenzied superstition, and various extremes one way or the other, none of which had anything whatsoever to do with the original brilliant understanding and teaching.
How do we dig through the pile that has been created over the centuries that obscures what is true and holy to discern what is really the teaching of any great and inspired person?
In the case of Jesus, I start with love, unconditional, agape love. I measure myself and my actions against this encompassing yardstick. I look with horror and sometimes amusement at people teaching the opposite in His name. I look back to my life and my responsibility to show up as best I can as unconditional love.