Word of God, Word of Men

The Word of God, The Word of Men

Because of my involvement on Interfaith Dialogue (and many times also due to the mere fact of being a gay spiritual person) I often find myself in the middle of discussions about belief and religion. Most of those are with Christians – probably due to a simple matter of percentage. In this article I wanted to share a piece and some musings of that experience.

Several of the above-mentioned discussions end up covering trending social topics, and most of them (with this Christian flavour) seem to go hand-in-hand with the Bible.

I have read and studied the Bible in the past (although I have a terrible memory, so don’t expect me to start random-quoting), and i find that it could be a very inspiring book. And, in that sense, a now tons of other books which I consider as inspirational as that one.
Yes, this one is ‘inspired by God’, but still written by men.

The latter seems unsettle some people. On the one hand they don’t seem to understand how could someone question the word of God. On the other,  they don’t seem to understand how can I be both a spiritual and religious person, and ‘ignore’ the word of the Divine at the same time.

First of all, there seems to be sense of ‘possesion’, in which we would belong to God because we all come from ‘him’.
Well, let me tell you this: you do not own your children. Let alone your grand-children, grand-grand-children and so forth…

They are all individuals on their own. For a very limited amount of time, parents and tutors may look after them (limited by Society’s ethical standards and laws, of course). But they are still individuals with their own minds and rights (I talk more about this in my article Microagressions and the Youth).
We cannot expect to controls their lives, it doesn’t matter whether we created them. Those are thing that are give out of love, expecting nothing in return, let alone aiming to keep them under our control.

In that sense, I don’t feel obliged obey. It’s as simple as that.

The Word of (the) God(s)

Then how (many seem to wonder), how can you be a religious person? How can you ignore the word of the Divine?

Well, I don’t.

In my religion we have (and encourage) a direct contact with the Divine. We do not have intermediaries, or a ‘revealed word’. The ‘revelations’ are experienced by each of the practitioners throughout the rituals – this leads to a very personal experience of it.There’s something called UPG (Unverified Personal Gnosis) that may describe it.

The above means that the experience of each individual is going to differ from the experience of the person next to him/her.
It may sounds very convenient, but it isn’t. Such a personal approach to a mystical or religious experience requieres a lot of self-conciousness, self-criticism, and self-analysis.

Having a religious approach in which individuals can and do experience the Divine directly means that you can’t tell another person ‘You’re wrong’ or ‘That’s not what God thinks’.

What is the use of it then? Any use you take from it.

And this is like the difference of doing something, or doing something just to take a pic of it and post it on Instagram. Nobody is going to be there to pat you on the back and tell you that you are ‘right’, you have to do the job and get the best out of it.

So, yes I do believe in the Word of God (or the Goddess, the Gods, the Divine, the First Spark – sometimes the Big Bang). But it’s only the Word of God as long as I experience it, and take the best of it.
When I preach it to others, force it onto others, or discriminate against other based on my own experience, the Word of God becomes the Word of Men.

It doesn’t matter how well-meaning we are, once we take the word out, write it down, and label it as ‘God inspired’, it becomes the subject to misinterpretation and abuse. Sometimes we thing that sharing it with the world may inspire them! But, instead of giving them the tools to discover their own ‘truths’ we give them ours.

On Religion

As many of you may have guessed, this kind of discussion always ends up with someone questioning my religion as such.

‘How can it be a religion if each individual can interpret their own experience?’

Because we come together.

Religion from Lat. re-ligare (to bind).

How can a family be a single unit in certain levels, if it’s composed of different and diverse individuals?
Because there’s a bond between them.

Marx said that Religion is one of people’s opium. I don’t think so; I think that it’s very misused tool. If religion becomes a tool for power instead of a tool for personal experience and improvement, then it’s not a religion anymore.

Pride Minyan by נמר ערבות סיבירי

The Minority of the Minority: Religion and Homosexuality

We often see the topic of religion and homosexuality discussed together, most of the time as a form of criticism either from the former to the latter (oh ye, gay sinners!), or the other way around (oh ye, bigots!). Religion has become a forbidden fantasy limited for the traditional and conservative straight couple.

The more I think of it, the more I come to the conclusion that this is a big mistake, that we are depriving ourselves from something.

Is religion truly a straight thing?

At this point one could say ‘Well, I don’t want to be part of collective that discriminates me in such a way’. And rightly so! No only that, but probably religion has been one of the main roots of discrimination against gay people — or at least the ‘values’ that emanate from those religions.

However, we are making the first mistake here: relating religion automatically with big religions, and mostly, with Christianity. Yes, we do know that there are more religions out there…somwhere over the rainbow. But we don’t take those in mind when we are discussing these topics.

The truth is, religion (altogether) is not seen as something for gay people. There are some gay christians out there, a few Buddhist here and there two, but they are mostly seen (at least) as weird people losing their time. Because we, gay people, are supposed to be practical! To run away from religions and dogma, source of our discrimination in today’s society! And we all know that religion is the opium of the people, all of them involve some kind of dogma!

Wait, do they? Not really, no…

There are a myriad of religions and, more important, personal spiritual paths, not linked to any concrete institution.

Now, I am not trying to say that we should, therefore, pick one of those and go with it. This is not the point of the article, and I certainly dislike proselytism. But we should most definitely think about our attitude towards religion and spirituality as a whole, and specially about religious or spiritual gay people. It is easier to complain about the obvious discrimination that we experience, than seeing how we perpetuate the same discrimination on a lower scale. Even more difficult is to become aware of that behaviour and changing it.

I myself am a spiritual guy. I have been since I was eight (of course, the reasons for it at that time were not the same as today). I wasn’t born in a religious household, even though I did give a chance to Jehovah’s Witnesses for a while with my mom (yes, I know…as I said, I was eight).

Later on I started following my own path. I have also been involved in interfaith since I was eighteen. Apart from that, I volunteer in some NGO related (directly or indirectly) to my path.

Needless to say, it isn’t sometimes easy to be active on interfaith, and homosexuality seems to be still a taboo topic where big religions are involved. But not always, and I do meet wonderful people.

Nevertheless, I do believe in claiming our place there. We seem to have given up on that. Again, I am not saying that one should follow a specific religion or path — I like and respect those who find inspiration in other aspects of their lives (being it science, or art, or leisure!). But I do think that those who deprive themselves from it should have the chance to follow what they hold dear. Isn’t that what we all preach? ‘Be Yourself’

I can say that I have dated quite a few guys, and sooner or later this subject comes into the conversation. Mainly because of my active involvement as a volunteer — you know, they want to know why I volunteer, then they are curious about my personal views…and there we go, talking about religion in the first date!

There’s no actual discrimination, but I do get some weird stares, and very ‘curious’ answers; the most common being ‘I would not have expected that from you. You look like a very reasonable and smart guy.’ And there is where the micro-discrimination takes place.

Is religion something limited to fanatic, dumb, blind and unreasonable guys?

It gets funnier, though. It’s normally followed by interest and, after a while, by another ‘curious’ sentence: ‘Yes, it all makes sense, I would have never expected that, you explain it very well’.

Sure, after a couple of hours going around that topic I regret it and feel like if I was trying to ‘convert’ him to whatever.

However, the point is — it is seen as something out-of-place. And that we one becomes the minority inside a minority. The gay man, who is also young and follows a spiritual path. Not young nor gay people are supposed to do that!

Like I have said before in other articles, I am an idealist. I do believe in freedom. I agree that religion should not interfere with legal social matters (i.e. marriage) or even taught in school (unless from a historical perspective and including ALL religions). But I also believe that one should have the freedom to develop their spirituality without any gay peers looking down at him.

And this is something that has nothing to do with how religions have behaved during the past millennium. This is our own behaviour and responsibility — a behaviour that we ought to change if we want to talk about actual respect, and freedom.

Picture: Pride Minyan by נמר ערבות סיבירי