I am going to make an effort to point out in a realistic, compassionate way one of the major issues with this particular fundamentalist religious belief:
“There is but one, sole correct religious path: (insert Fundamentalist Belief System here). All other religions, all other denominations within my religion, and all other spiritual paths are wrong.”
Proof supporting fundamentalist religious belief is nonexistent. It cannot be found; not yet, anyway – and probably not ever. After all, a true creative force – Mother Nature, God, Yahweh, Jesus, Allah, universal intelligence, etc. (whatever you choose to call it) – remains well beyond present science and is not yet decisively subject to logical or intellectual proof.
The single greatest convincer that one’s own religious fundamentalist beliefs are true and right seems to be the mystical, intuitive reinforcement of esoteric knowledge that settles upon a believer during worship, meditation, or similar deep insight or spiritual practices.
For example, many fundamentalist Christians receive comfort in their reflective practices in the form of joyful feelings or spiritual experiences that are beyond description. There seem to be no adequate words to describe this ecstasy; the related flood of feel-good chemicals in the brain is often translated as religious correctness. In Christian mystical practices, the meditator simply “knows” their own ideas of Jesus and God are correct and real and true because, at the height of the meditative state, the holy Trinity itself seems to be whispering ultimate truth directly into the ear!
Likewise, in the Muslim mystical practices of Sufism, the practitioner “knows” that Mohammad and Allah are, in fact, part of the one true path. Once certain meditative states are reached, Mohammad and Allah themselves seem to directly communicate with the believer in a manner beyond mere words.
In the Jewish mystical practice of Kabbalah, the mystical spiritual experiences are equally powerful; however, in this case, the ultimate truth of Jewish religious belief is mystically conveyed. The Jewish practitioner is thus personally assured of being an adherent of the “one true religion.”
Amazingly, the truths communicated to the Buddhist meditator always seem to confirm Buddhist teachings.
In all of these cases, the ecstasy resulting from meditative states encourages the belief that the truth is being revealed in a personal way. It can hardly be put into words and must be experienced to be understood.
Need I say it? They cannot all be correct.
Or can they?
I have come to believe that all these views are “correct” at a certain, very superficial, non-literal level. Perhaps these wonderful intuitive experiences indicate that all honest, serious, open-minded, genuine spiritual seekers are on the right path. (In a sense this is true since the path itself is the goal: an important oxymoron.)
The true value of spiritual experience hides within the journey itself.
Perhaps each of these apparently conflicting and seemingly irreconcilable views – as beautiful as they are to the individual practitioner – relates only to the surface, a thin veil draped over truth. Like camouflage on a uniform, paint on a house, or the cover of a book, these conflicting experiences are not fully representative of the deeper truth.
Another possibility: These experiences mean nothing, objectively speaking; all of these experiences are purely subjective.
Or, maybe such spiritual adventures consist only of biochemicals and the reactions they cause in our brains.
Perhaps those religious experiences are just like the statement, “The ocean is a never-ending series of waves”: a seemingly true statement – but only when applied to the surface. The uncut onion appears to have but one layer.
When one perseveres, displaying the willingness to continue the spiritual quest by venturing ever deeper, the previous belief that the superficial waves actually represent the entire ocean can then be seen as the shallow, immature view it was. From this more enlightened perspective, it’s elementary and immature to believe the onion has only a single layer.
As new, previously unimagined depths are discovered beneath those now insignificant waves, the validity of the previous perspective simply evaporates in the face of the amazing new insight. This the progression of spiritual experience.
When less experienced practitioners describe the ocean as a series of waves, you’ll just nod and encourage continued practice.
Sadly, the near-literal interpretation taught and encouraged within religious fundamentalist worldviews usually prevents this deeper exploration.
Isn’t it possible that ultimate truth, or a portion thereof, can be found in that special, beautiful place where all major religions and spiritual paths intersect – where they are congruent and in agreement, just like the common space shared by all the circles in a Venn diagram?
Ultimately, religion and spirituality are intensely personal, non-congruent experiences and are largely dependent upon the content and strength of existing beliefs and knowledge, as shown by each group’s heartfelt belief that their own views are correct – and by further reinforcement of those beliefs through mystical experiences. When continued, hopefully, the eventual result will be enlightenment, the blissful realization of oneness, unity, and non-duality. The practitioner finally understands the ultimate silliness, futility, and impossibility of fundamentalist belief systems; that rigid minds cannot lead to enlightenment is finally understood and appreciated.
As I do not claim to possess any special, unique knowledge, I intend to remain teachable and open-minded as I trudge along the path as long as I may live. May my clay remain pliable, always!
I have the same hope for all the other truth seekers out there. Please share your experiences.
Older notes, set aside for now
By sharing these experiences with others, we are doing the world, ourselves, and spiritual seekers and students some good by joining in spiritual unity and oneness with others seeking enlightenment.
If you are a deeply religious person who once embraced fundamentalism and has since transcended it, I applaud and admire you. We hope you’ll share your thoughts with those who still believe that only one narrow, rigid worldview is correct and that all others are wrong, or even evil. When old rigid schools of religious thought are finally transcended as a result of persistent spiritual practice, the world seems brighter.
(However, I will allow for a sub-minuscule chance that science will eventually encompass what is presently considered to be supernatural. If it is real, then science will probably get around to measuring it at some point – if man is around long enough to discover how to do it.)