In 2008, personal development expert Steve Pavlina wrote a deeply thought provoking and emotion invoking article about religion. The article, entitled 10 Reasons You should Never Have a Religion stirred the comfort zone for a lot of people and shook the foundation of their beliefs. I highly recommend this read for whatever response it evokes in you, it is sure to push your personal growth and evolution.
If you are ‘tied’ to a religion – I would invite you to read it consciously and not allow reactive emotions like anger to overtake you. Understand that everybody out there is entitled to their opinion just like you are to yours. Try, and I do mean try to read it without forming a bias toward this person or their ideas.
If you are not tied to a religion – you will probably enjoy this article as it mentions a lot of really, really good points, especially if you used to be tied to a religion. You may find yourself nodding your head a lot and even laughing out loud.
Steve’s article is LOADED with a lot of thought and emotion provoking words and ideas. It will definitely make you respond – positively or negatively, but you can be sure that it will make you react.
So here are a few points I just had to write in terms of my own personal take on this article. You can read my notes first to have a preview of the article or jump to read the article first and then read my points after for some additional closure.
I will lay out my article according to his reasons and give a brief overview to each one of my own. Note, however that the “reason sub headings” I will use will be summaries of Steve’s for 2 reasons: a) I don not want to give away his entire article if you decide you read my piece first and b) I do not want to incorporate some of the emotion that he does using his wording (you’ll know what I mean when you read his article).
1. Regarding Spirituality
My favorite line from this reason is when Steve writes:
“For reasonably intelligent people who aren’t suffering from major issues with low self-esteem, religion is ridiculously consciousness-lowering.”
Remember that I told you the article is loaded with a lot of words and ideas that will invoke some sort of emotion. For me this reason and line made a lot of sense and really resonated with my spirit.
The big idea is that in spiritual evolution of the self, one MUST think for themselves and this is something that no one can argue. If you think you are going to spiritually evolve and you look for a group or a person to follow, you have already hindered your evolution. You have to be able to rely on your own thoughts and develop your own system of “being” not adopt someone else’s.
2. Regarding Depth Perception
Ah, yes his first paragraph here speaks volumes to me, as I have and continue to try to get away from labeling myself as this or that. That is why I do not even like to use the phrase “I am a vegetarian” as even that puts false assumptions and stereotypes into people’s heads, but even worse off – it LIMITS me!
Hence on Evolving Beings as you may have already seen, we really try to move past the labeling, identifying and the judging. Are we always 100% successful – heck no! But remember it is an ongoing journey, and even though I know I have not yet attained living without labeling and identification with stuff (ideas, thoughts, actions, etc.) 100%, what I do know for sure is that I do get better at detachment from them each day. And obviously the number one reason why this is hard is because…MOST of the world lives by judging, identifying and labeling. So it is sort of like paddling against the current.
Anyhow, this reason also makes me think of some of the writings of enlightened masters of our times, such as Neale Donald Walsch or Eckhart Tolle, when they talk about our fixation with identifying ourselves with this or that label and how it literally stunts a person’s spiritual growth.
Favorite line from this section:
“Religious “truths” are inherently rooted in a fixed perspective, but real truth is perspective-independent.”
3. Regarding Obedience
Let us start this one with Steve’s first line:
“Religions are authoritarian hierarchies designed to dominate your free will.”
It reminds me of when I could not make out the logic in the fact that if God gave us free will, then why the push on “but this is what you are SUPPOSED to do”. Either I have a free will or not. And by being “made” to do something “or else”, it just did not seem to make logical sense to me that we actually did have a free will.
I agree strongly here with Steve’s ideas of “social conditioning” and I would be surprised by anyone who would argue that – religious or not. I do not want to say much more about the rest of the this reason, besides the point that it is exceptionally well written.
In this reason, Steve makes us focus on a truth that many people are not comfortable hearing – and naturally so. By seeing the depth in the ideas of obedience and conditioning it makes us feel uncomfortable if we are part of a religion to be made feel like pawns in a chess game. But you have to be honest with yourself – if you are truly part of “a” religion then you DO believe what it teaches and not formulate your own ideas. Because if you do formulate your own ideas and they are not in line with your religion then it really brings us to reason number 7 on hypocrisy.
The closing paragraph is also filled with a powerful message and that is the idea of directly talking to God versus talking to God through a third party. I know and had known many Christians who struggled with that when it came for example to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Many people no matter what religion struggle with the idea that religious authorities are somehow closer to God than the average lay person, and it makes them feel like those individuals are somehow “preferred” by God. The question begs itself, how could God, of unconditional love have favorites?
4. Regarding Time Management
In this reason Steve examines how worthwhile the time spent on religion based activities actually is. If we address the fact that there is no 1 right religion, then we have to be honest about why we do the things we do when it comes to our religions. If it is because it makes you feel good then so be it. But if it is as an accumulation of hours for getting closer in line on your way to Heaven, then perhaps you should revisit your belief system.
I know that many times in the past I thought about exchanging the hour or whatever it may be of public worship to go serve food at a food bank, or spend time in a nursing home, etc. As it really seemed like the more fulfilling task, and so I tried it and it was amazing! The energy and upliftment that I walked out and away with was definitely an amazing feeling and experience! And I felt like I was able to put spiritual practices into action. Some may say why not do both, but for me it was about how my spirit was feeling in each of these places that guided my decision.
5. Regarding Financial Contribution
Okay so we knew the money part was coming sooner or later. I have once heard someone say that contributing at local places of worship was like maintaining your membership. And I do not feel there is anything wrong with that view, because if we are honest, religions are institutions and most of it is going to fund the building itself and the people who work there. Some places do occasional collections for the needy in the area, charities, missionaries, etc. So I do agree with Steve when he talks about the fact that if we really want to help others the money has to be given in a way that makes it go directly to them.
Now, I have to say this is the part of the article where I have to admit I did start to cringe a little at Steve’s abruptness and harshness – I mean the title of this reason (his version) says it all. I understand what point he is trying to make but I am all about truly not putting the other down whether I agree with their views or not. So I found this section much harsher than it needed to be. And there are definitely a few lines in there that Steve could do without, in my opinion. But we all have to practice the art of allowing – to each his own.
Again, one has to give him credit for his bravery to speak out so openly on something that a lot of people are thinking but afraid to say out loud, let alone to so many!
6. Regarding Loyalty
The line that defines this reason for me is the following:
“This us-vs-them prejudice is totally incongruent with conscious living.”
In the past few years I have started to become really sensitive to the whole idea of separation of the human race. I have started to see so clearly through the boundaries that we put up between each other in terms of religions, ethnicities, educational backgrounds, social statuses, and the list goes on. And I have had someone once say to me, “but you can’t do without these, this is how society operates”. And my answer of course is “no – this is how we made and make society operate”. It is time to awaken and see beyond that there is no one right race, ethnicity, religion or whatever to be, that makes you right or better or preferred in any way.
And so this too is a great reason that Steve uses to back up his case, again a little on the harsh side, but the point is clear.
When you do what the others do everything is great, but when you step outside of your “group’s” allowed conduct, even if they do too, you will still be looked upon poorly as you somehow broke the “code of conduct”.
7. Regarding Hypocrisy
Hmmm….where do I start with this one. When I read Steve’s article, this reason I have to say made me laugh the most. Steve claims that by being part of a religion you are either an idiot or a hypocrite…ouch! Yeah, that one is going to sting the wrong person reading this big time.
But when I reflected on what he was talking about I realized fully where he was coming from and then crystal clear thoughts formed as I thought about the people around me and even of myself in the past and that is where I started to laugh a little at first and then a lot.
This thought was so in line with how I saw and see so many people who say they belong to a religion live:
“On earth you’ll basically live as a non-practitioner (or a very sloppy and inconsistent practitioner), but when you eventually die, you’ve still got the membership card to show God.”
I know and have heard people struggle with various aspects, okay let’s be honest “rules” of their religion and try to follow them even though their core essence was screaming against it and then some of these people wake up and realize “I just can’t do it”, but I still want to “belong” and so from following a rule, a belief or an idea blindly they stop following it but still claim that they are part of that religion. So I do not know about you but that does seem pretty hypocritical. And I will be the first to admit, that in the past I would rationalize my decisions left, right and center for why “God would understand”, but the truth is if we belong either we belong fully or what the heck are we doing fooling ourselves?
To finish, I also appreciated this line when Steve says:
“Free yourself from the mental baggage, stop looking to others for permission to live, and start thinking on your own. If your God exists, he’s smart enough to see through your fake ID.”
I had to highlight the one section there because as I look around that is what I see so much of, people not knowing how to live and hence losing their identity and reaching out for something solid to grab onto as they lose their foothold on this thing called life. And the whole time the truth is – it does not have to be that way, it could be so much easier if we just be true to ourselves and recognize the essence of the spirit that speaks to us the truth from within.
8. Regarding Inheritance
Well here is how this one goes, you are born and your parents have full reign over initiating you into whatever religion they are. And in most cases from the time you are an infant, so you have no say in the matter. And then you grow up into a young adult and heaven forbid you go against your parent’s tradition. Then you really grow up, sometimes break free and get disowned. No just kidding, although it does happen more often than one may think.
That is why as I grew into adulthood and started pondering on this myself I really respected more, the religions who at least waited till the child was of age to decide what religious or spiritual path they wanted to take themselves.
As Steve says, heaven forbid we stray from our inherited religion, but if you were born into another one, you would just as much accept that one to be the right one, as you do your own now. So doesn’t that leave one a little suspicious of whether one was “born into” the “right” one? Naturally of course, where the “right one” does not exist.
And I know for many people the main and biggest reason for not changing their religious affiliation whether to change to another or drop it entirely is solely based on the reason of “what will my family think” or to put it another way “I do not want to disappoint my parents”.
It is true, until we really allow ourselves to open our eyes and minds and make our own decision truly, one that makes complete and utter sense to us; we are not living our own life but the life of others and for others.
9. Regarding Compassion
“Religious rules and laws invariably hamper the development of conscience.”
Reading the title of the reason and the first few lines, at first I did not know what Steve meant here. Religious people have less compassion? That is not what we are used to thinking!
But then as I read on, my head started to nod up and down as I quickly realized what he was talking about. I do not want to use blatant examples here, for the risk of offending anyone, but I cannot tell you how many times I have heard near and far family and friends say “Oh those people (you fill in another religion) are so (you fill in the blank)”. You know when we are in that group of others who are “common” to that belief system; we often accept comments like that, especially at social gatherings, etc.
But my goodness, what the heck are people thinking, to call yourself religious, holy or whatever and put others down because they do not share your views, beliefs or opinions? There is no way to me that, that is what God is about. But as you raise your consciousness and radiate out spiritually, you start identifying all others as one and hence you will not judge anyone else, as that would be like judging yourself. If we are teaching the idea of unconditional love, then one would hope we are actually living it.
And so I close with this thought from him:
“Compassion can only result from conscious choice, and this requires the freedom to choose without the threat of punishment or the promise of reward.”
10. Regarding Faith and Fear
This is another loaded section with lots of good and at the same time lots of “harsh” insight. The idea that I understand well is that faith cannot be based on fear. You cannot attend regularly a place of worship because you “fear” God will get mad at you and perhaps you will have a bad week or because you “fear” of what your family, friends or local religious leaders will think of you.
If you are part of a religion, believe what you believe and perform the acts you perform out of passion and love not fear. As there is no point to the latter. Fear paralyzes, love frees us.
“When you practice faith instead of conscious living, you live under a cloak of fear.”
So I hope that whatever life you are living and in whatever way you are choosing that to be, you are doing it solely out of your own free will, not out of any other obligation or fear.
So what did you think? Like I said earlier, the article is loaded with lots of ideas and arguments, that some will find very true and inspiring while others will find very and I mean very offensive. My stand on it is that I like to learn and inquire wisdom from various sources and I would be lying if I said that Steve does not have many good and valid points.
Could it have been said in a more elegant way – for sure! But that is how he chose to do it and I completely allow him to have his experience. I am stressing a few points, perhaps even judgments about it, but please understand I am doing so by looking at it from a general public stance and as an observation.
However you feel about his article, just try to remember that many people have various reasons for belonging to a religion OR not belonging to any religion. And there is no need to knock down one or the other. Diversity after all is what makes this world such a beautifully unique place – if only more of us chose to see that!