A New Perspective On Faith by Jeff Glassie

Thank you for having me back here at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fredericksburg. It's a pleasure and an honor. Last time, I talked about the basic concepts in my book, Peace and Forgiveness. Simply said, I think that we and this earth are perfect; that heaven is literally everywhere; and that we are the energy of the universe. That energy is love. Love is oneness. Therefore, we are love and we are all one. We are interconnected and our separateness is only an illusion. The perception of separateness is fear. Fear divides us, and all war, anger, attack, rape, discrimination, injustice, judgment, and hate are based on fear; essentially, they are fear. Our human family is diseased by fear, and in the 20th century alone over one hundred million people were killed by other people. Why? I think it's just fear of one another. We can let go of fear. Forgiveness is letting go of fear. When you let go of fear, you have peace. Just like we no longer believe the world is flat, and just like the Berlin Wall came crashing down, the human addiction to fear can dissolve. When humans finally let go of fear, we will have peace. Now, I've started work on a new book. I've continued studying and learning since we last met, and still I believe we can bring peace to the world. The title of the book is the same as this talk: "A New Perspective On Faith." I think it's about time for all humans to have a better perspective on life, to see the perfection all around them, and not to be blinded by myths and fears. Our perception of life as love or fear only depends on how we look at it. But let me tell you a little of my own story and how I came to these beliefs.

I was born and raised a Catholic. In fact, when my mother married my father, who had been divorced, she was excommunicated by the Church. As I grew up, I remember thinking, "My mother got excommunicated for marrying my father." Something didn't seem right about that. I went to Blessed Sacrament School and was taught by nuns. I remember studying the Baltimore Catechism. The key concepts of Catholicism were to love one another, forgive, don't judge; good stuff. But here are some other things we were taught to believe: If you weren't baptized or didn't believe in Jesus, you were going to hell. Babies who died before they were baptized didn't go to hell, because God wasn't that mean. Those babies went to limbo. We were taught that humans were inherently bad because Eve ate an apple God told her not to eat, and then Adam ate some, too. That was original sin; the idea that you were born and, right from the git-go, you were sinful and separate from God. For a long time, the Jews (who, according to the Bible, were God's chosen people) waited for a messiah to save them. Finally, he came. Jesus. He was born of a virgin in a manger. He grew up and did miracles, turned water into wine, walked on the water, and brought the dead back to life. He told us all to love one another, even your enemies. But the Jews had him killed, by crucifying him. He rose from the dead after three days and came back to life. Then, he ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the father. Nowadays, Catholics go to mass, as I did for thirty or forty years, where the priest changes bread and water literally into the body and blood of Jesus, and then they eat it. Many Catholics, and Christians generally, accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior and believe he will come back and judge everyone. But the big question for me is, "savior from what?" If someone needs a savior, they obviously believe they'd be lost without one. For Christians, I think that means they'd be afraid of going to hell. So, although most of the religions of the world, like Catholicism, preach love, it seems to me that fear underlies their message. I think many aspects of these religions are actually fear-based, being afraid of not being worthy or not having God's love.

All these Christian teachings come from the Bible. I've tried to read the Bible before, but it's just not easy. Some nice love-based concepts, but many more inconsistent and incomprehensible passages, and an awful lot about an angry and wrathful god, particularly in the Old Testament. Many people think the Bible is the inerrant word of God. Sam Harris, author of the incisive book, The End of Faith, posits that most human beings actually think the creator of the universe wrote a book. People become literalists, believing the Bible or other holy book is the literal word of God, because of their fear of the unknown, and the desire to believe in something concrete they can rely on, no matter how inane it may be. But the Bible as a source of faith doesn't work for me. It was written almost two thousand years ago by people who didn't know the world was round, and didn't know about germs, or evolution. And the New Testament wasn't written til more than a hundred years after the purported death of Jesus. The Nicene Creed, which Catholics still recite today at mass, was developed in the third century AD at a conference called by the Roman emperor Constantine. And from that time on, in the Mediterranean area, if you didn't believe, you may have been ostracized, discriminated against, or even killed. Later, as part of the Inquisition, Christians in Europe killed, tortured, burned, and drowned people thought to be witches or other non-believers. And as to the Bible being the inerrant word of God, let me read you one passage, from the first letter of Paul to Timothy, chapter 6: "All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God's name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them." In other words, the Bible actually countenances slavery. So much for the Bible being the inerrant word of God, as far as I'm concerned.

The lyrics of the song I sang today were from the Revelation in the New Testament. The voice which speaks, the seven seals, all that. I don't blame Joe Lee for a minute for believing those things. But how would you feel if the Bible told you slavery was OK with God? You're only hope would be to wait for the hereafter, when you could shine like a star in the morning. I don't mean to judge anyone, or condemn them for holding certain beliefs. There's no right or wrong ultimately in the Universe. I just think we need to have a more advanced perspective to achieve peace. And part of that perspective is understanding religion. Based on the research I've done, I have serious doubts about the basis of the Catholicism I learned as a child. Specifically, I don't think there ever was a Jesus. Not only was he not God, not resurrected, never performed miracles, but he never even was. In fact, there is no historical reference to a Jesus other than in the Bible. But there are many reported stories of mythical god-men, including Osiris and Horus in Egypt, Dionysus in Greece, Attis in Asia, Adonis in Syria, Bacchus in Italy, Krishna in India, Mithras in Persia, and even Buddha. They had many similar characteristics, which are astoundingly similar to the Jesus of the Christian faiths. For example, most of them were born of a virgin on December 25, turned water into wine and performed other miracles, were crucified or killed, descended into hell, rose from the dead, etc., etc. If you'd like to learn more about this, I've provided at the back of the room, along with my books and CDs, a bibliography prepared by my friend, the Reverend Peter Ainslie, which lists many books explaining that the story of Jesus Christ was simply one of many pagan myths. What really floored me, though, is the understanding that the pagan religions and the origins of Christianity were based on astrology. The ancients watched the skies and were deeply influenced by the sun, moon, and stars. God was the sun; that makes sense, because the sun is the most obvious giver of life that we can observe. In the Bible, stars are called sons of god, thus, "the son of god is really the sun of god." The sun of God. As the source of the resurrection story, the ancients knew the sun annually goes southward until December 21, the winter solstice, when it "dies," and seems not to move for three days, and then "rises again" and comes back to bring life. This event was generally celebrated on the day equivalent to December 25th. Coincidence? I don't think so. Here are some other interesting perspectives on the astrological origins of the Christian faith:

The sun of god was born of a virgin, which refers to the new or virgin moon;
The sun is at its zenith at noon, and then is "most high;"
The sun's birth is attended by three kings, the three stars on Orion's belt;
The sun enters each sign of the zodiac at 30 degrees, i.e, at the "age" of 30;
The sun's followers are the 12 signs of the zodiac, the 12 "disciples;"
The sun "changes water into wine," by creating rain, which grows the grapes for wine;

The sun "walks on water," referring to its reflection;
The sun wears a corona, "crown of thorns," or halo;
and The sun is the "light of the world." Humans have believed these sorts of myths for eons. That's OK, because there is spiritual value in the stories. Peter Ainslie says that the mythological Christ represents the new life - the new understanding - that we can achieve when we understand love. But when beliefs in mythical figures affect the way humans interact, and lead to killing and war as they have over the centuries, then I believe it's finally time to say that the emperor has no clothes and time to find a new faith. It's time for the "primitive" fear-based thought pervasive among humans to be washed away. Now is the moment in history when we collectively need to say, "Yikes, how could we have been so silly?" But it's not enough just to say there's no God. Certainly, there's no man up there in a flowing white beard demanding worship and getting angry if we humans don't obey him. I think that's just absurd. But for Catholics, what would they believe if there was no Jesus? Or, what would the Jews believe if they weren't the chosen people? What would Hindus believe if there was no Arjuna or Krishna, or Buddhists if there was no Buddha, Muslims if Mohammed was not God's prophet, or even atheists if there actually is a supreme being?

So, let's try that. What would everyone believe if their historical core beliefs weren't correct? I've always wondered, shouldn't just the fact that we're here at all be enough to appreciate - truly appreciate - this earth? What would that god image of the religions really want? Wouldn't it really want all living things to love one another? Wouldn't it want us to absolutely enjoy each moment of the brief light of our existence on this planet, rather than fear hell? Wouldn't that hypothetical God want us to rejoice in its handiwork, rather than be worshipped? Wouldn't it want us to believe that our earth home is a perfect place for us, that heaven is right here, right now? My answer to all these questions is yes. And we can change the perspective of the human race to understand; we can achieve a paradigm shift to continue on the path of life here on this planet. And it's really all very simple in my mind; we just need to understand love. Understanding the oneness of everything is what I call "evolutionary thought." Evolutionary thought lets us see the interconnectedness of humans and animals, plants and fish; living containers of divinity. All creatures have an understanding or consciousness of some sort, and many are probably more in tune with creation than we are. I recently was reading The Secret Life of Plants. You know, they move and dance like crazy, just slowly, and they feel and are aware, too. We humans think we're so special, but we're all just passengers on this trip. Did you know that every square inch of your body has about 32 million bacteria on it? I think our earth is a living, knowing organism, and we're just like some of the bacteria on its skin. It's all about perspective. A born-again cousin of mine described a spider as a "soulless" creature. And I think, don't you understand? They are just the same miracle of life as us. Didn't you see, dear cousin, the Planet Earth series on the Discovery channel? Didn't you see the movie Winged Migration? We live in the most amazing, jaw dropping, gorgeous place in the universe; right here, heaven is right here. It's all in understanding The Power of Now, as described by Eckart Tolle, and that this instant, the holy instant of A Course in Miracle, is perfection. All the teachings of love and understanding and perspective are right here for us to have, but we lack the perspective to see because we're clouded by fear.

So, the new perspective on faith that I see understands but does not accept the primitive thought of my early Catholicism, or any other fear-based beliefs. The new perspective on faith celebrates our unity with everything, and believes that our world will change. And the new perspective on faith that I believe will eventually prevail is consistent with the fundamental principles of the Unitarian Universalist church. You are a wonderful, kind, understanding, and evolutionary people. While others may place their faith in myths, false gods, or some sort of prophesied life after death, my ultimate faith is in love, here and now, and that we will come to understand it. My faith is in you and me, and all of us on this planet. My faith is that all human beings will learn about fear and about true love. My faith is that wars will end, hate will be a thing of the past, and discrimination will be no more. My faith is that we can have peace on this planet and that it can happen in a holy instant. How could we think anything less if we really want to achieve it?

And what do we need to do to spread loved-based evolutionary thought? Well, the current climate crisis is a great teacher. Everything we do has an impact. We learn though watching An Inconvenient Truth, and from reading the newspaper and watching TV, that we all contribute to global warming. But we also learn that each one of us can make a difference to help solve the problem. If we're going to have a chance, we all have to do a little. Replacing light bulbs, recycling, buying hybrids, you know the things everyone's saying we need to do. It's like we finally got it, finally understand the oneness perspective we need to have to save the planet for our children. But the crisis of primitive thought is arguably even more severe than the climate crisis; we may save the planet only to have our species wiped out because of the insane beliefs of a few people trying to get to heaven. And we live in a world that still doesn't seem to understand forgiveness. Gandi said an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. It's time to really open our eyes, all together, and to remove the blinders of fear and myth. My spiritual teacher Avery Kanfer, the Dalia Lama from Brooklyn, says that life is a do-it-yourself job, and we're the only one who can do it. So, here are some simple steps we can take to bring about the necessary paradigm shift toward evolutionary thought and peace in our world. Each of us can do these things, and they will make a difference, and we will achieve peace in our time: Say hello. Say please and thank you. Smile to strangers. Hold the door open for others. Sing. Dance. Write. Drive gently. Let the other guy in front of you. Volunteer. Tell the truth. Love your enemy. Forgive. Don't get angry. Don't get even. Turn the other cheek. Mend fences. Look past national boundaries to see the human faces on the other side. Meditate. Pray however you want. Don't fear. Don't believe in war or separation from one another. Believe in oneness. Teach peace. And above all, love. Thank you.