This morning I saw a vision of a line as it joined ends to form a circle. At each end was the extreme of a continuum, such as the left and the right.
As they joined to form one circle, I could see the same descriptors for what had been both ends of the line. That is, the extremes produced, or could be defined by, the same words: hatred of those who disagree, hubris, lack of critical thinking, a true believer emotionality, harshness, lack of compassion, lack of love for the other even to violence against the other.
As my eye moved away from the joining point of the circle, I saw that all the way to the 180' point on the circle on both sides the words matched until they merged into a wholly new place. At this opposite side of the circle there were opposite descriptors: interest in understanding others and finding common ground, humility, active critical thinking, self control with wisdom reigning, kindness, compassion, love even to those still at the extremes.
It seems today many are at the extremes or close to them in politics and religion particularly. Because of modern technology, this could be dangerous at many levels. The obvious danger, of course, is nuclear and biological war which has the potential of wiping out most of life, or maybe all, on this planet.
But there is another kind of danger that could also be devastating. That is religious extremism, whether it is violent to others, as the terrorists, or violent to our sensibilities, as medieval and earlier understandings that defy 21st century knowledge.
Much historical study has placed spiritual stories in the context in which they were born. Bronze age people (and really anyone up until the birth of modern science) cannot be expected to know modern science. People didn't know about mental illness, so they spoke of demons. They didn't know about various skin problems, so they called them all leprosy. They didn't know astronomy or weather science or gynocology. The obvious explanation to them was God did it, whatever it was.
Without historical, anthropological, scientific and philosophic scrutiny, much of what fundamentalist points of view include are looked upon as ridiculous. So we see people leaving "organized" religions. They often say something like "I'm spiritual but not religious."
I think we need to seek deeper meaning and experience in our traditions and update them so they no longer insult our intelligence.
It has been said that the word "God" for most people has no content because their religion is secondhand. They take what others say, but they don't put in the effort to meditate, study, and come to know firsthand. I think that is the place to start.
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