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Religion is Hazardous to Your Child’s Moral Health

Posted by Roberta Grimes • November 27, 2015 • 17 Comments
Human Nature, Jesus, The Teachings of Jesus, Understanding Reality

A recent study of more than a thousand children in six countries shows a

Preschool friends laughing

strong negative correlation between religious practice and altruism. The study found that family religious identification decreased children’s altruistic behaviors and reduced their empathy and their sensitivity to perceived injustices. Children from religious households also tended to be more judgmental, and harsher in their punitive tendencies.

Many Christians are shocked by these results. But are they so surprising? When we teach our children that their own family is “saved” while other people are not, that their particular denomination is the one God loves, and that people who engage in behaviors the Old Testament condemns are going to be damned by God, then they are learning from the cradle to disdain most of the human race. Christianity as it is practiced today teaches the opposite of altruism. It teaches self-satisfied superiority. And if there is any flavor of moral poison the world needs to be rid of now, it’s that one!

Of course, it isn’t only Christian children who are being harmed by their religion. Seeing how Islam can turn even young Westerners into killers presents a cautionary tale for us all. Not only is it no longer possible to argue that religion is a force Boy With Flowersfor good, but the argument certainly can be made that religion as it is practiced today is something that we might be better off without. How much of the callousness of modern society comes not in spite of religious practice, but in part because of it? I never have given that question much thought, but now I wonder. I really wonder.

Christian practice in western countries is falling off dramatically. Young adults are leaving the faith in droves. Modern Christianity comes in an estimated forty thousand different flavors, all competing for a declining worshipper pool, so one result of the decline of American Christianity is a tendency toward war among the various sects.  The linked article is from a religious-right author. I’ve chosen it because he both states the problem and gives us half of the solution: he quotes from the Gospel words of Jesus, but he cannot step outside the first-century Jewish sect that Christianity still remains and propose to his readers that the solution might be that they begin at last to concentrate their religious practice in the teachings of Jesus alone.

Many Christians talk about the Bible and the Gospels as almost interchangeable. They are not. The Gospels are four books out of the sixty-six books in the Christian Bible (or the seventy-three books, if you are a Catholic). Matthew,Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00067] Mark, Luke, and John are the only books of the Bible where the words of Jesus are reported, and they are so different in tone and meaning from the whole rest of the Christian Bible that Thomas Jefferson said they were as distinguishable in the Bible as “diamonds in a dunghill.” And an eighteenth-century gentleman farmer knew about dunghills! If modern Christians would begin right now to follow the Gospel teachings of Jesus, then a future survey like the one above should show Christian children to be less judgmental and a lot more loving and altruistic. Having professed the religion for two thousand years, isn’t it time for us to start to practice it?

My new book, Liberating Jesus, begins to appear in stores this weekend. Astonishingly, rush orders have been placed by distributors in places as disparate as China and the United Arab Emirates. None of this has anything to do with me! It has everything to do with a desperate spiritual hunger that is overspreading the world. And Jesus can feed that hunger. The teachings of Jesus have the power to set every problem of the world to right, if only we will give Him the chance to try!

Mahatma GandhiReportedly Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” As the survey above demonstrates, sadly, Gandhi was making a telling point. But we have the power to transform ourselves spiritually if we will take the teachings of Jesus seriously. After all that He has done for us, is that so much for Him to ask in return?

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17 thoughts on “Religion is Hazardous to Your Child’s Moral Health

  1. Dear Roberta, As a retired fully ordained Methodist pastor your blog today makes me cringe. Not because you speak words of heresy and disdain for the Christian religion, but because it is so hard to hear the truth about our faith.
    During my 11 years pastoring in two southern churches as a second career pastor I managed to be a moderating factor in turning many people away from the exclusive righteousness of conservative Christianity. I taught by example and a consistent message embracing the love, tolerance, non-judgement, and absolute forgiveness given to all who can allow themselves to forgive and be forgiven.
    However it was almost impossible to escape the broken sacrificial theology emphasised at Easter and the exclusive “Son of God” message at Christmas. I just wanted to tell the truth that had evolved within me over the years as I sought and asked the “Source of All that Is” for revelation. To speak what I really believed would have destroyed my place and relationship with many people I cared about.

    I know that many people wanted a more enlightened theology, but I did not have the courage or willingness to come out and proclaim that the entire foundation of the church, sacrificial theology involving Jesus as blood sacrifice, was a fatally flawed concept. I was not willing to break the old wineskins to hold the new wine. I did not have the faith to believe that if I tore down the temple that Jesus would rebuild in three days. I did not have the courage to bear the cross of truth to my death as a pastor in the church. Roberta I applaud your courage, perhaps the true “second coming” of the real Jesus has begun.

    1. Oh my darling Michael, you’ve brought tears to my eyes. I am coming to see that Jesus has been trying to do this for a long time! He has been speaking more and more loudly in so many hearts of good and pure people who love Him – like you, dear. And we know that at least once, 200 years ago, He tried to give us in writing His “new revelation.”

      That is what He actually called Liberating Jesus as we were writing it. I was chicken enough that I kind of buried it in Appendix V, when I should have shouted it on the cover!

      We know that Jesus tried to break free of Christianity in a book that Thomas Jefferson wrote, but the poor man was old then, the time wasn’t right, and as my spirit guide, Thomas has said to me pretty much exactly what you say: he lost his nerve when he realized that publishing that book would likely destroy him in people’s eyes. He tells us now that in publishing Liberating Jesus, we have at last completed the most important task of his whole Jefferson lifetime; and when you consider all the other things he did as Thomas Jefferson, that is a pretty major statement!

      Please don’t feel bad that you have stayed within the first-century religion for your career, dear beautiful friend. You have helped to soften it for people, and now you are beginning to break free. You can be a leader for the Lord! The time is now. It is not too late.

      More and more, people are asking me what to call this new movement that follows only Jesus. I tell them that apparently He called it “the Way.” But won’t calling it anything at all begin to ossify it into another human-made religion? I don’t know where we go from here, but you and I and so many others have the opportunity now to at last make real the line in the Lord’s Prayer where we say, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” Perhaps it isn’t really up to us to worry about where this all is heading. In the words of what may be our greatest hymn, “‘Tis Grace that brought us safe thus far, and Grace will lead us home.”

      1. Thanks for your very kind and encouraging reply. I retired early with tears and a breaking heart as I left the people whom i loved and who loved my wife and I with dividends. I just did not want to stand in the pulpit and say things that I deconstructed in my mind and tried to reconstruct without breaking the eggs of the doctrine.
        My concern was that I would be pulling the foundation down that was serving the spiritual needs of a needy people. Yes imperfectly, and with serious faults, but still a place that allowed us to focus on our spirit journey and find comfort and solace in times of need and fear.
        I see today that the spiritual presence and guidance of a “church”
        is not being replaced by anything beyond a benign secularism or more confusing, a militant atheism.
        Yet at the same time I still know that what is happening is necessary in order to break the yoke of conservative religions on the neck of humanity. I understand what Thomas means about not fulfilling his role in his lifetime. I feel incomplete as a person and “not finished yet” because I have set aside an active involvement in the evolution of spiritual awakening. I am a bit lost and not sure that I am needed and if so how to go about it. I seem to be in a holding pattern, but perhaps it is just age and laziness.
        Yes, to “name” a new movement is to risk a new dogma, but this has always been the risk. It reminds me of the Zen masters who would talk about Zen and then realize that they “stank” of Zen.
        Also reminds me of Lao Tzu from the Tao who said
        “those who say, don’t know and those who know, don’t say”. Then he proceeded to write a book that says a lot.
        I think it is very important to learn “how” to say as long as we are manifested in the appearance of physical individuals. I think this is the rule of playing here until we reach the next level of life when once again we simply know. By the way, “The Way” was one of my favorites to use in sermons and teaching. The Way is an action, a journey, a happening, a direction and most of all a continuous experience. I look forward to reading “Liberating Jesus”. By the way John “Newton” wrote Amazing Grace. 🙂

        1. Oh my dear, you have such an important role still to fulfill! Your knowledge of the Gospels and your beautiful instincts and insights will enable you to be a teacher of the Lord’s perfect philosophy of love and forgiveness, and joyously so! I once thought, too, that the structure of the church was necessary, but apparently Jesus didn’t consider it to be necessary even 2000 years ago; He certainly doesn’t consider it to be important now. He is calling everyone who loves Him to put sandals on our feet and take up our staffs and begin to share His ultimate Good News with all the world! And I can’t think of a better way for us to spend the rest of our lives. Can you?

    2. Thank you Michael for writing this. You and Roberta struck a BILLION cords in me. Way to long to document my own journey ‘out’ of what has become a harlot in my estimation, but suffice it to say I was deeply embedded in the church and also a ‘pastors daughter’. I have experienced most all denoms. I had an awakening which helped me walk out. I agree, with what you wrote so profoundly “it was almost impossible to escape the broken sacrificial theology emphasised at Easter and the exclusive “Son of God” message at Christmas. I just wanted to tell the truth that had evolved within me over the years as I sought and asked the “Source of All that Is” for revelation. To speak what I really believed would have destroyed my place and relationship with many people I cared about.” I have seen that when I reveal some of my metamorphsis of what my awakening has revealed, most all consider me a heretic, and that includes my family. And then when you add ‘necromancy’ (forbidden in the bible according to most mainstream christianity) into the equation, they are certain I’m letting the devil in. I’ve been blessed to find others on this sojourn out that think as we here do. Roberta’s work has been fantastic to find. If I might plug a pastor I found many years ago online who has been courageous in broadcasting this awakening of truth, his name is Lynn Hayes of Clear River Teaching Center in Clinton, TN. I’m so grateful for those pioneers out there. Thank you !

      1. This is beautifully said, dear Britta! I am so sorry for the distress that you’ve been through in your life, but please know that the superstition is ending now and it is Jesus Himself Who is ending it. As he chased the money-changers from the temple, so now at last He is chasing what is false from Christianity and freshly proclaiming what is true. There are some who are asking what took Him so long, but I prefer to think that God has a time and a purpose that is not ours to judge. I am only glad that it is happening now!

  2. It’s all about choosing love over not-love, which as far as I have figured out is fear. Our physical bodies have a powerful need for physical security. Having a defensive posture towards life is a survival mechanism. Jesus is teaching us to open our hearts and love our enemies. This flies in the face of everything we hear when we turn on a television or listen to the perverse message that people we have never met are out to kill us, maim us or somehow, inexplicably force us to believe in their version of God, or (pun intended) some other fate worse than death. We are taught by Christianity as it is practiced by most christians, that it is OK, even righteous, to surrender to fear, and build up our defenses by closing our hearts. Jesus is teaching just the opposite. In my life, at least for the past 35 years or so, I have “noticed” and been somehow secretly delighted when I have encountered followers of the teachings of Jesus who actually lived by those teachings, yet identified as Christians. I always called them “real” Christians to differentiate them from christians, whose fear had caused them to buy into the salvation myth, but whose lives did not reflect the teachings of Jesus. The myth is unforgiving, as it claims to be the only way to avoid unearned, catastrophic punishment. I was not raised with this false dogma, so it never made sense. But for those who were, it must take tremendous courage to throw off the chains imposed by a closed heart, and the to love, LOVE the next person they meet as they would love Jesus himself. Our primitive bodies tell us that this level of risk is the equivalent of planned suicide. All religions teach the golden rule. Then they give lip service to it. Then they undermine it with false dogmas tailored to our fears like a bespoke suit. It’s not hard to understand why so many humans buy into fear mongering. We have brain stems that launch us into patterns of both behavior and thinking that are based on our level of fear. It takes tremendous courage and effort to break out of this animalistic response… to get ahead of it, and “lead with love” as it were. If you could craft magic glasses that filtered out everything except love, it would be easy. But if it was easy, we wouldn’t be here, now would we? I think that the frequency gradations of heaven are so close, that they’re a mere thought apart. Choose love, make spiritual progress. Choose fear, delay spiritual progress. I choose to try to be brave today by loving and forgiving as best I can.

    1. Beautifully said, dear Tim! And yes, it is very difficult indeed for someone who has been so steeped in Christianity to throw off those fears. I was able to do it, late in life, only because I became so convinced that the afterlife evidence and the Gospel teachings of Jesus were right. No one who seriously reads and takes literally the Gospel teachings of the Master on love and forgiveness can possibly reconcile them with traditional Christianity; eventually, you have to choose. It’s so much better for you that you never had to go through this, as we must!

  3. Dear Britta, I pray now and send you love and power to continue your journey without fear. You are now seeing the true meaning of the Jesus saying “the Truth shall set you free”. The judgement of others is hard to overcome but remember that their judgement only reveals their ignorance (not a negative term but just a level of awareness). Our ability to accept others as they are, even if it feels hurtful to us, is the true measure of love. You are so on target by choosing Love over fear. Ask for help from the ever present Source of All, and you shall find a way to forgiveness for others and yourself. Roberta is a special conduit that not only shares wonderful revelations and assurances, but allows lonely souls to see they are not so alone after all.
    Peace and Blessings, Michael

  4. Another powerful and insightful blog, Roberta! The comments posted by Michael Newton, Britta Marrinan and Tim O’Laughin were all excellent and moving. I agree with all that was said and only have a thought or two to add at this time.

    I don’t see anything negative in enjoying fellowship in a group with kindred spirits. Naturally, this could entail a meeting hall or building of some kind. The problem is, as pointed out, that not only dogmas and hard doctrines can develop over time and that needs to be watched out for. Plus, personality conflicts can and often do come about and splinter groups spin off and once again we have competition and division on our hands. This needs to be carefully monitored, also.

    Thanks for posting, Roberta, and Blessings to all that commented!

    1. Ah, dear Michael, you have put your finger on the problem that we will need to solve, but I can’t as yet begin to know how. Our human need for community, and the powerful way in which community has from antiquity been central to our relationship with Spirit, seem inevitably to require that we come up with a way for people who are trying earnestly to follow the Master’s instruction that we relate to God individually might also be able to commune together without falling back into (gasp!) religious practice.

      I have just interviewed TJ Woodward for the Seek Reality podcast to be posted the week of 12/14. TJ is extraordinary. He writes beautifully, and after a ten-year voyage of seeking he was able to use eastern religious teachings to arrive at precisely the same place spiritually where following the Gospel teachings will take you. Reading his book, Conscious Being – Awakening to Your True Nature, was astonishing validation for my suspicion that in fact all spiritual teaching might in essence be just one teaching.

      So, TJ tells us that he began a kind of spiritual movement in San Francisco (sorry – can’t recall its name). It was meant just as a support group for people who were learning and growing spiritually. Highly secular. No worship. And he says that before long, he found some people asking him for a list of the things they were supposed to believe. Oy.

      This movement to rediscover the Gospel teachings and the teachings of the great eastern religions and use them to elevate the planet’s consciousness is not ours. It is being engineered at the very highest levels of reality. And I have to believe that since they have seen all these same teachings turned into ossified religions in the past, they must be working on a way to keep that from happening again! So my posture for now is that we should be putting our sandals on our feet and taking up our staffs and venturing out to share the teachings with all who will listen, as Jesus sent His disciples out to do the first time. For now, we do no more than that. And we wait for further instruction!

  5. First of all thanks to each of you who are so capably and caringly sharing. You all have probably heard of the Hindu practice of satsang which simply means sitting in the company of those seeking truth and goodness. Everyone who desires has a voice and ideally no judgement is passed. In a way we do satsang here in this discussion. Satsang is made of small groups usually in homes or common spaces. In our world today our computers and internet have become common spaces.
    As for my time meeting and sharing in churches or with small groups, the benefits have been fellowship, relationship growth and the exchange of viewpoints and ideas. This is a stimulus, but I must say all of the significant spiritual growth for me has been self work involving the presence and help of higher beings. I then would excitedly take my learning and change of consciousness to those near me who were interested. To be honest folks the majority are not really all that interested unless they are at a crisis point of some sort.

    Roberta I too came to a conclusion several years ago (after much study and comparison) that there is a universal central truth and element in all religions. At the core we all have it right! But… what evolves as “religion” often has no resemblance to the core principles that it springs from. Highly enlightened beings do not intend to start religions. The religions spring up around the person as corrupted interpretations and worship of the enlightened beings personhood. A good metaphor of this is that the originator of the religion is like a brilliant road sign showing us the way, and instead of following along the way we stop and worship the sign. In time we start making up traditions, dogmas and doctrines about how to worship the sign. These must then be codified, protected, and defended.
    The “pearl of great price” is still there but buried and hidden away.

    1. All of what you say is wisdom, dear Michael. And what may be worst of all is that those who come up with dogmas for worshiping the sign will then encrust them in cultural rules and traditions that won’t let their mode of worship evolve at all. The teachings encrusted in dogmas thus remain encased in that cultural shell that is impervious to change or enlightenment. In the case of Christianity, for two thousand years!

      How could we ever have thought that made sense, dear? Yet I did, for decades. Isn’t God’s truth eternal? Well, yes, indeed it is, but the dogmas encrusted in cultural traditions are not. And so it is that now we can chip off the crust, peel away the dogmas, and find the perfect eternal teachings of Jesus still there in the Gospels, right where they have been all along!

      I love your Satsang idea, dear – let’s set up an online Satsang system!

  6. Roberta, I’m interested in your coming interview with TJ Woodward. I, too, was into the Eastern religions, Buddhism and Hinduism, for a great many years. But, I left them, as they seemed lacking in certain areas. I’ll be interested to hear what aspects he found beneficial.

    In regards to Buddhism, it must be stated that there are numerous sects in it, probably more than there are denominations in Protestantism! All these sects are a mainly a result that the Buddha did not write down any if his teachings, as far is known, so it was an oral tradition for 400 years before any texts were written.(Similar to Jesus and Christianity) Therefore, many interpretations resulted.

    One thing most have in common is they don’t acknowledge or believe in an individualized soul. Also, they don’t acknowledge any eternal transcendent realms, except in the Pure Land Buddhism sect. And in some extreme Zen sects, they’re practically indistinguishable from Atheist/Materialism or Nihilism.

    Certainly, the love and compassion aspect of most Buddhism dovetails with the true teachings of Jesus. And, parts of Hinduism seem a good fit with the Gospels, as your Gandhi, who was a Hindu, quote points out.

    I’m all for finding similarities among the various world religious and spiritual traditions and paths, but there are differences there, also, which should be recognized.

    Roberta, your June 29th Podcast interview with Dr. Stafford Betty, Professor of Religious Studies at California University at Bakersfield, http://webtalkradio.net/internet-talk-radio/2015/06/29/seek-reality-heaven-and-hell-unveiled-with-dr-stafford-betty/ comes to mind. In it, Dr. Betty points out he was raised traditional Christian, went over to the Eastern Religions for some time, but then became dissatisfied with their approach to the what happens after the body dies, the afterlife. He found his answers in the verified afterlife communications as put out mostly through the Spiritualist literature of over a century.

    That was really a rock solid interview and I hope you have the good Professor Betty on again in the not too distant future.

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