Witnessing the birth of a new religion
Regarding religions we always look back into historical times where no one has any direct connection. There is no father or grandpa you can ask how it was when the founder of a new religion or tradition made his first steps. And in fact no one even thinks about such very special times. We take it all as it is given but we do not question it for negative aspects or for positive overwhelming aspects. But we should and I describe here two examples to let you experience what people experienced during such times where a new religion or spiritual tradition was born.
Imagine that you are living somewhere in ancient times. You are a farmer, you have a wife and five children and you are working hard. But you are grateful for what you have. You have learned everything from your father and you know how to grow the plants, how to reap the fruits and how to care about your goats. Your wife helps you to make goat cheese which she sells on the market. Life is simple but natural and good. And like everyone in your village, you follow the old traditions. You pray to the gods of nature to bless your fields for a good harvest. You pray to the mother goddess to bless your wife and to the father god to give you strength and protection. You do this like your forefathers haven been doing it over many generations.
Everything is quite normal. As usual there a good people and bad guys, spiritual people and materialists but everything is okay. The priests care about the small village, about justice, a wise way of living and the right divine service.
Among all these normal people there is one who is a little bit strange, somehow extreme, maybe dangerous. No one knows if he has a kind of disorder, disease. Some say he is in contact with the gods. Others say that he is insane. From time to time he talks as someone else is speaking through him. Then he collapses with strange movements. He likes asceticism and he says that ascetic practice lets him experience visions and he hears voices talking with him. They are telling him about higher realms and wonders.
So far everyone in the village ignores him as he is so strange. But one day he returns from a long ascetic practice and he looks not good, probably he has eaten not enough. He has become really thin. His eyes seem to see a different world and he is smiling. He goes to the village square and starts to speak to the people:
“People of this village, listen to me! I went into a dark cave for a whole month, not eating and not drinking. And there a light appeared and talked to me. The light said that we all worship the wrong gods, that there is only one god we should serve. This god has revealed himself to me and with a powerful voice he spoke to me and said that I am meant to be his servant, his representative, his priest and his voice among the people. He said that all the people have to follow my commands to save them from darkness and eternal damnation. For all those who follow his divine will and my command heaven is waiting with countless gifts and treasures. There all your wishes will be fulfilled immediately. Our new god gave me new laws for life and worshipping….”
He talked on and on and it seemed that he wouldn´t stop at all. He was totally enthusiastic and this enthusiasm has infected a few people, his first followers. All others thought that he has lost his mind now completely because of his extreme ascetic practice. The priests ignored him and thought that he has become completely insane. But his enthusiasm was unstoppable and he believed everything he said. Somehow he has developed a special kind of charisma as more and more people were fascinated by him and his teachings.
Now imagine what you would think when you experience this as a normal farmer. Probably you are quite perturbed about this strange guy and his strange proclamations. Is he insane or is he real? And how it is possible that he spits on the tradition, on the religion of our forefathers? That he goes against the gods?
As he does not stop with his inflammatory behavior, the priests come and threaten him with punishment if he is not willing to cease from his blasphemous speech. But he is not willing and in contrary he starts to blame the priests to worship wrong gods. With brute force the priests carry him away. His followers take part in the violence. Other people join and after some time peace returns. The people of the small village are upset and confused. Who is right, who is wrong, what shall one believe?
Days go by. The leader of the new religion is healing his wounds and talking to his followers. “God has chosen me to establish the new and only true religion. If people do not listen to me, to the voice of our god, then we have to proselytize them and if necessary with violence, with the sword. All those who do not believe in our god are meant for eternal damnation. They are lost souls and when you kill a lost soul then you do no harm as you cannot kill the dead. And all those who are willing to follow me are meant for heaven and all the wonderful treasures which are waiting there in plentitude. And certainly we have to overturn the evil priests and we have to destroy all monuments of the old and false gods.”
Meanwhile nothing new has happened and everyone follows his normal duties. You are working on your farm as suddenly the followers of the new god are coming. “Hey, farmer, you have heard the revelations of the new god. Are you willing to follow us? You know that your belief is wrong, that you pray to the wrong gods and that your soul is lost if you do not convert now.”
And you response “Look, my father and his father have worshipped the old gods of nature. It is our tradition. Everything is good, right and fine. Why should I leave my old, good belief to follow you?”
“Farmer, this was the wrong answer. We give you time until tomorrow. If you are then not willing to follow us, we will show you the power of our god.”
The next day they have returned. But you, the farmer are still not willing at all to change your belief, to leave your precious tradition, your gods. And what happens? You experience the power of the new god, – you experience his sword and his power of destruction. The followers of the new god destroy your altar at home, they destroy the statues of the god and the goddess on your field and they threaten you if you are not willing to convert right now, they will kill your whole family and take your farm.
So what would you say? Are you enthusiastic about the new religion? Are you happy about the demonstration of divine power?
In fact such things have happened, not only one time in history but many times and quite often people were not really happy with a change of religion and of gods. It is quite useful to think about this and to imagine how you would have felt if you have had to make these experiences.
Most of the missionaries in history haven´t brought love, wisdom and blessings but in contrary violence, destruction, suffering and death.
Today no one really thinks about this and also not about their permission to proselytize someone, to “convince” someone.
Let´s take a look at a different example:
The same situation – you are a normal farmer, living your normal life and everything is good. One day a stranger comes to your village. He looks a little bit poor, a wanderer from far away. He goes to the center of the village and starts to talk:
“Dear people of this village, I am coming from far away to tell you about special events which have happened. I have met a charismatic man, a wise man who shares his enlightenment with others. He is talking about compassion and love to overcome the suffering in the world. His words are full of wisdom and he is a great teacher. Soon he will arrive here and I beg everyone to listen to him.”
And the other day, the teacher came, a very charismatic man, with light in his eyes and a heartwarming smile, very kind, with a refined character and as he started to speak, the people of the small village were fascinated and open to receive his words of true wisdom and love. They started to understand the new ideas of compassion and wisdom and they were longing for more, more enlightenment.
Now imagine that you are this farmer, sitting with others around the teacher and listening to him. What do you think? Is this a positive experience? Would you be open? Would you feel inspired?
You see the difference? No force, no pain, no conversion, just information, just inspiration and all further steps are up to you. So it is your decision if and how you integrate these new ideas in your life, if you want to change something in your spiritual/religious practice. And maybe, if you are completely convinced about the new teachings, you choose to follow this teacher. And if not, it is also okay and good.
In fact this way of “missionary work” has been used also many times in history and it was up to the people to follow just because they felt that it was the truth.
And certainly it is up to you, what you believe and what not. Belief and spirituality should always be a matter of free choice and real conviction.