CHANGING ONE’S RELIGIOUS AND OTHER BELIEFS
by Lawrence Wilson, MD
© September 2010, The Center For Development
Some people around the world feel stuck with their religion, their spiritual beliefs or even with political thinking that does not feel quite correct. This does not mean their ideas are incorrect. However, they feel uncomfortable, incomplete or outdated, perhaps. This article discusses this important phenomenon and offers a few safe ways to help overcome it.
THE FORCES AT WORK IN THIS DILEMMA
The immediate causes for the desire to change or at least question one’s religious or spiritual beliefs can be any of the following, or a combination:
Š A very personal or moral dilemma, such as the desire to divorce or have an abortion when one’s religion does not accept this.
Š An intellectual or emotional feeling that one enjoys some of one’s old or current religious beliefs, rituals, traditions or teachings, but a discomfort or even revulsion against other aspects, beliefs or rituals that are also part of the religion.
Š Feeling socially left out or even ostracized by friends or by the media because one seems to be holding on to a belief or way of living that is no longer popular or in fashion.
Š A desire to escape from following rules, which just seem to “limit one’s life”. Such rules may relate to one’s lifestyle, food, hygiene, attendance at worship services, or rules related to any other aspects of one’s life.
WHAT TO DO?
Most people end up like a pendulum, swinging back and forth to some degree between the extremes of embracing their old religion or spiritual group, mixed with rejecting it with anger and resentment. This often leads to other extremes, and often into unhealthy situations, relationships and behaviors.
Here are some suggestions that may help to avoid this trap and assist one to move forward with caution and confidence:
Š Question, but try to avoid becoming angry and resentful. If you become too angry, you are likely to swing the other way and this is not freedom, but simply reaction.
Š Always seek for the truth. This means do not seek for a particular system, group or a simple answer. It also means one must read books, and consult many sources, both religious and non-religious.
Š Be open to new ideas and new understanding. This is obvious. However, I find that many who say they are open to new ways of thinking or living are, in fact, quite closed-minded. It is actually difficult to really be open-minded. One must have the confidence that one’s world will not fall apart if one challenges the status quo or tries out some new way of thinking about things. So it is helpful to attend other types of worship services, read books that one might find strange, and so on. Be willing to question everything, even this article.
of extremes. It is often too
easy to just reject the past completely, thinking that this will solve
everything. It rarely does. Instead, it usually just leads one into
another extreme position. Much
better to move slowly, and feel your way forward on a day-by-day basis. This is also more difficult for most
people as it actually takes far more work and concentration, but it is much
For example, many people in Europe, particularly, are rejecting Christianity, even protesting the visit of the pope because he opposes gay marriage, for example. However, what is occurring there is a secular socialism that is failing miserably because society cannot operate without rules. If the rules are not appropriate, perhaps they can be changed. But thowing off all the old biblical rules is not working well at all, either in Europe or America where the same thing has happened, though to a lesser degree.
Š Try to see the good in your old way of thinking or acting, even if you decide to move on. Usually, the old ways had some merit, and finding this is a good starting point to seek for what you are looking for.
Š Allow a certain amount of ambiguity and confusion in your life on this issue. This is important because some confusion and ambiguity is normal when making any important life changes. If you cannot tolerate any ambiguity, your search will usually not go very far.
Š Work on your health. This can have wonderful benefits such as clearer thinking, a better memory, more energy with which to seek and find, and many others. This is most important for anyone who is tired, somewhat depressed, anxious or having other physical or emotional difficulties.
Š Realize that all religions have some truth. This is hard to see, at times, especially if you in a rebellious condition, as are millions today. However, it is the truth. For much more information about religions, in particular, read The Origins, Necessity and Purpose of Religion on this website.
Š Read about the founder of your old religion or beliefs and try to go back to the roots of it. This is often extremely helpful because in many cases, the founder had the right ideas, but those who came afterwards added to, altered, or even forgot basic teachings for practical, political or other reasons. Of course, in some cases you may learn that the founder was not a good person and you are just waking up to this fact.
that all teachings, belief systems, religions and groups exist within a
historical, cultural and even spiritual context. In other words, realize that many religions or other
teachings on earth are several thousand years old and may need ‘updating’, so
to speak. Done properly, this will
revive and rejuvenate them, and probably is what the founder would have wanted.
This is a difficult task, however, as updating does not mean to make the teaching more fashionable necessarily, or even more “moderate” or “liberal”. It simply means that world conditions and the minds of mankind have changed to a degree and the traditions, rituals and teachings must remain appropriate for modern mankind.
Š Eventually, decide to take the best from your current or old religion, or teaching, and just leave the rest. In other words, take what you need from whatever background you have, and then move on. This is the creative way to proceed, and usually a safer way than just embracing an altogether new teaching and dropping the old one completely. At times, however, this is best, too.
try to have fun with the entire topic of religion and spirituality. This does not mean to be superficial or
uncommitted in your pursuit of the truth.
However, it means to avoid becoming too serious and too caught up with
any teaching or idea that you either embrace or reject. Mankind is complex and our world is often
more complex than it seems.
Change is occurring very rapidly on planet earth, so it is important to stay relaxed and, if possible, tune in to yourself and feel the direction in which you and others are going. This takes some maturity, by the way, and is very difficult for many people. However, it is a key for some people to release them from bondage to the past and extreme reactions and anger that can lead to unhealthy behaviors.
for cults. I want to define a
cult very specifically, since the word is used loosely today. I will define a cult as a
group or situation in which the minds of people are insidiously manipulated or
swayed to do things that are hurtful, that they would ordinarily not do.
Often, unusual sex and even some violence are involved, and often
Please read the above definition carefully. For example, it is not the same as the way many religions use the word cult. They often accuse anyone who does not share their belief system as being a cult. I feel this is incorrect, and is simply a form of name-calling and a way to discredit those with whom you do not agree.
As an extreme example, some people believe that holistic healing of the type discussed on this website is a cult. I would say nothing is further from the truth. Beliefs in astrology, mediumship, space aliens, life after death, or numerology are not cults. They may be silly or incorrect, but unless they are designed to manipulate and destroy people, they are not cults. They are simply fields of human endeavor that, in time, will be either proven to be real or to be false.
Changing one’s beliefs may be a lot more difficult than one might think. This is one reason that older religions and belief systems persist. They become entrenched in the minds of the people, who instill the ideas in their children in a way that is difficult to break free.
This is also one reason why anything new is usually persecuted severely before it is adopted, even if it makes sense. Many readers, for example, know that pioneers like Galileo, Jesus, Moses, Ghandi, Martin Luther King and so many others have been persecuted and often killed for thinking differently than others.
Let us hope that as time passes, more people will realize that killing those you disagree with, providing they mean you no harm, is not the only way to handle them. In fact, the pioneers may have much to offer as we move quickly into the new millennium.