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RevBates.tv Global - The Way to a Wonderful Life Message, April 15, 2012 

          "The number of disbelievers is growing, but they remain America's least trusted minority. Why? ... How many atheists are there?
It depends on your definition of the term. Only between 1.5 and 4 percent of Americans admit to so-called "hard atheism," the conviction that no higher power exists. But a much larger share of the American public (19 percent) spurns organized religion in favor of a non-defined skepticism about faith. This group, sometimes collectively labeled the "Nones," is growing faster than any religious faith in the U.S. About two thirds of Nones say they are former believers; 24 percent are lapsed Catholics and 29 percent once identified with other Christian denominations. David Silverman, president of American Atheists, claims these Nones as members of his tribe. "If you don't have a belief in God, you're an atheist," he said. "It doesn't matter what you call yourself.
" - THE WEEK, The rise of atheism in America, by The Week's Editorial Staff

      
Be honest now, when you read the title to this message did you think that perhaps I had misspelled the word "nuns" ... that is, of the Catholic variety?  That's okay, a little humor is good for the soul ... but I would never make fun of the Sisters.  I was a devout Catholic for many years and I always admired and respected the Sisters; it was the Priests and Bishops that were difficult for me to understand.  As an American Catholic I cherry-picked Catholicism taking what I liked and ignored the rest.  This wasn't difficult to do since I was raised in the Baptist religion I had become accustomed to "tuning out" the majority of what the preachers were "preaching" that I came into contact with.  But, I will always remember the good Father at Saint Philip Neri Parish in Portland, Oregon who gave me great counsel on sin and forgiveness.  He tried his best to talk me into remaining a Catholic, but I couldn't ... I was being called to something new.  But, my not remaining a Catholic or a Baptist, had nothing to do with a lack of faith in G-d or the teachings of Jesus, Isaiah, Job, Jeremiah, etc.  In fact, I had a deep love for G-d and the spiritual truths found in the Holy Bible, The Torah, the sacred texts of Buddhism, and the Bhagavad-Gita, and a burning desire to increase my faith and understanding.  I experienced the realization that faith in G-d was not dependent on being a part of religion or adhering to religious dogma.  And in this, I have found that the Jesus I have come to understand, would agree, as I am certain he too, studied the mysticism found in the Bhagavad-Gita and other philosophies that pre-date Judaism.

      In the article about the "Nones" we can read, "
a much larger share of the American public (19 percent) spurns organized religion in favor of a non-defined skepticism about faith" ... and I believe this is what happens to many people when they transition from organized religion and acceptance of religious dogma, to a faith that finds all that unnecessary.  Far too many of us have experienced the abusiveness of religion organizations whether in regards to race, gender, nationality or sexual orientation.  In the Easter story played out in churches each year based on tradition, we find that women were a very important part of Jesus' experience.  Yet, the fundamentalists continue to teach that women are to be subservient to men and some even claim women have no Biblical authority to lead a church at all.  And the Catholic Church refuses to allow women in the role of clergy and continues to be dominant the Media with their rejection of birth control and other issues regarding women's health.  And as for race, churches are still the most "segregated" part of society on Sunday mornings.  Most of us live in a world integrated by race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation and religious and non-religious friends, co-workers and acquaintances, and so a church environment that does not hold this same diversity takes on the personality of an "exclusive club" rather than a place where we all come together to get to know G-d in a greater way.  People like Franklin Graham, Rick Warren, fundamentalist evangelicals, perpetuate the "country club church" or "tribal" atmosphere, while it appears that Joel Osteen becomes more spiritual and less religious as time goes by.  

     Krishnamurti stated that "religion is the frozen thought of man out of which they build temples."  And too often this "frozen thought" is one of fear and morbidity.  And this is why I believe that the "Nones" are leaving religion, not due to a lack of faith in a Higher Power.  The Kirk Cameron "Left Behind" religious cult movies may be fascinating for people to watch, but just like "horror" movies, at some point we realize that they are not real and so they are no longer scary to us.  Those who teach that we are to "fear G-d" have a much more morbid view of G-d than Jesus did who called us to "love G-d with all your heart, your mind, and your soul" ... and I think perhaps guilt has more to do with this than faith.

     "Many people are full of guilt because they accept as right that which is actually wrong.  God condemns no one.  God has already forgiven you.  Forgive yourself.  Change your thought and keep it changed.  Think on whatsoever things are true, just, noble, and of good report.  Think from the standpoint of the Golden Rule and the Law of Love.  Would you think of disobeying the principles of chemistry, physics, mathematics, and engineering?  Would you build a wheel off center?  Are you believing in antiquated, dead, grotesque, superstitions and prejudices in the name of religious beliefs, or have you made a serious inquiry into the workings of your subconscious and conscious mind?  The modern scientist has to conform to natural law; he cannot change it.  Your religion must also conform to natural law.  The result is con-science, with knowing.  The Law of Life is the law of health, happiness, peace, order, beauty, right action, and abundance." - Dr. Joseph Murphy, Essay - God Condemns No One

      
David Silverman, president of American Atheists, claims these "Nones" as members of his tribe.  I don't think he could be more wrong about this.  I think the "Nones" like so many of us, are finished with the "frozen thought of man" and the "tribe"  state of mind that goes with it.  Jesus taught that G-d was personal to each of us and all we must do is consider our "fingerprints" and we can realize this is so.  Our Creator has given us our own unique "stamp of approval" ... even in our world of billions of people, there are no two fingerprints alike.  This is the work of Intelligence and this is evidence of our being very personal to G-d.  As the ancient prophet Jeremiah revealed, "I have an ever-lasting love for you" ... and in this we can know that G-d responds to us, by corresponding to our faith and love for G-d.  It is a principle that is universal, yet always personal to each of us ... whether we are religious, spiritual, atheist, or agnostic, in G-d, we are never "left-behind."

AND SO IT IS!

Keep the faith!
Rev. Dr. Henry Lee Bates


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   "spiritual ... not religious"