Unified in Faith

With so many religions vying for supremacy in our increasingly unified global community, the fact that tens of millions of people cannot decide which spiritual tradition, if any, they should affiliate with is perfectly understandable. Which doctrine is correct? Does God even exist? These are reasonable questions and there is no way to determine the answers with any semblance of certainty. The question is, are such answers even required?

As a society we are far too concerned with labels. We academically compartmentalize our beliefs and coldly dissect every possible philosophical position until the spiritual foundation of our faith is essentially lost. In fact, faith does not require certainty nor does it demand religious belief. Whether one is an atheist, any brand of theist, spiritual but not religious or even a committed agnostic is utterly irrelevant.

Humanity tends to differentiate between our diverse religious beliefs in the same manner we segregate ourselves into specific races by the color of our skin or cultures by geography. We lose sight of the singular truth that every human being is a member of the same species. Individually we are not defined by our religion, our culture or by the color of our skin but rather by our capacity to feel compassion toward our brothers and sisters. Faith is what guides us, whether toward understanding the Great Mystery or simply understanding ourselves.

The process of segregation, in any form, is extremely detrimental to our personal growth and on a societal level prevents the natural evolution of human understanding from following its proper trajectory. We are all equal members of one global family; this is an incontrovertible fact. Religion, skin color, gender, orientation, culture, in the final analysis these differences are immaterial.

Those who live their lives surrounded by hatred walk a very narrow path indeed, smothered by a desperate fear that blinds them to the truth, but their influence is waning; they no longer control the world. Our journey has been a long one and though we yet have far to travel, I remain encouraged by our continued progress toward respectful co-existence, unified in our faith and committed to positive change. Hope lives on.

About William Knox

Rev. William Knox is the founder and current Chancellor of the Contemporary Pagan Alliance. Ordained in 1995 as an interfaith minister, he serves as senior priest at the Sanctuary of Light in Ravenswood,WV. and is an invested brother in the Shanddite Order of Pagan Secular Monks.
This entry was posted in Equality, Faith, Hatred, Inspiration, Peace, Religion, Spirituality and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Unified in Faith

  1. refreshing perspective. shared on FB

  2. Russell Bradley says:

    God only exists in ones Heart, not until you find it there will you see it in everyone else. Because you have faith in that realisation you will no longer seek approval.

  3. I share your perspective about faith and our religious beliefs. What does it matter how we call our god? We are all one in nature.

    • William Knox says:

      One hundred percent correct. One must always be mindful that the window dressing can block one’s ability to actually see through the window. There is no immediate need to change the beautiful curtains however; it’s far easier to simply pull the drapes aside.

  4. (e)m says:

    These are reasonable questions and there is no way to determine the answers with any semblance of certainty.

    Yes there is. While we cannot prove with certainty that something does not exist, we can evaluate specific claims and doctrines. We can, and have, proven many doctrines false.

    The question is, are such answers even required?

    Only if you care if your beliefs are correct. I care because belief informs action, and incorrect beliefs can lead to harm. If you want me to, I can link you to stories of children dying because their parents believed that faith healing alone would help their children, and trusting in modern medicine was denying the power of their god.

    We academically compartmentalize our beliefs and coldly dissect every possible philosophical position until the spiritual foundation of our faith is essentially lost. In fact, faith does not require certainty nor does it demand religious belief. Whether one is an atheist, any brand of theist, spiritual but not religious or even a committed agnostic is utterly irrelevant.

    I’m going to need a few clarifications here.
    1. How do you define faith?
    2. Define spiritual.
    3. What does the spiritual foundation of faith mean?
    4. Are you saying that we should not examine our beliefs to see if they are accurate?

    Individually we are not defined by our religion, our culture or by the color of our skin but rather by our capacity to feel compassion toward our brothers and sisters.

    I agree with the caveat that we shouldn’t forget that we are not all equal in today’s society, and that we shouldn’t fall into the trap of color-blind racism or similar concepts with regard to social justice. Not that I’m suggesting that this was your intent, I’m just clarifying my own position.

    Faith is what guides us, whether toward understanding the Great Mystery or simply understanding ourselves.

    Pending your definition of faith, this may be accurate, but taken on the typical meanings of faith that I have heard, I completely disagree. Understanding any mystery requires investigation, evidence, logic, and reasoning. Otherwise, you are just stating an idea that someone has created as if it were reality.

    Those who live their lives surrounded by hatred walk a very narrow path indeed, controlled by a desperate fear blinding them to the truth, but their influence is waning; they no longer control the world.

    I completely disagree that they no longer control the world, or that their influence is necessarily waning in all areas. We are seeing laws in Uganda go from homosexuality being illegal, to being punishable by death as just one of many examples. We are seeing Israel get increasingly violent and oppressive towards Palestine. Most of the states in the U.S. have homophobic and transphobic laws in place. Most of the people in power, (much more than their demographic proportion), whether in the corporate world, or the government are white heterosexual cisgender christian men. And the most important thing to consider is that things can sometimes get worse. Fundamentalist evangelical socially regressive christianity has gotten stronger since the 80s. Oppositional sexism has gotten stronger since the 80s. Not all change over time is good. We still have a lot of work ahead.

    • (e)m says:

      clarification: we can prove that some specific claims do not exist. And we can ask people to provide evidence that their claims are true.

    • William Knox says:

      Emily, I love you dearly but there are times when I truly believe Gandhi himself (were he still alive) would like nothing better than to bonk you over the head with a coconut. I acknowledge the common atheist position that we essentially live in a hopeless, godless world and that motivated self-interest is the only impetus for change; while I do not suggest that you share such a position, I disagree with such sentiment nonetheless and vehemently so. To anyone who enjoys her writing, I also believe Ayn Rand was an ignorant hack, but I digress.

      I appreciate erudite discussion; in this instance however I am not going to break down my reply into multiple sections as this post was not designed to be a comprehensive philosophical discourse. It is rather a simple oratory message on the importance of faith and hope which also serves as a call for unity among those of different faith systems who are amenable to such suggestions. That said, I am more than willing to enter a debate when necessary; regarding the definition of faith and spirituality, such terms are entirely subject to personal interpretation and cannot be sufficiently defined by any one person as their nature changes depending on individual perspective.

      As to how one comes to understand the Great Mystery, this phrase is a panentheist term synonymous with the general concept of God and is therefore not answerable to evidence, logic or reasoning. You may find it amusing, however, that we Pagans generally believe that we create our own reality and therefore the acceptance of a created idea as truth is not entirely absurd, from our perspective at any rate.

      Fundamentalist Christianity may appear to have become stronger over the last twenty or so years but I contend this is an illusion perpetrated by an aging and increasingly paranoid segment of our population. They hear the death knell of their brand of Christianity and they fight for their survival as loudly and forcefully as possible – it is a losing battle. Progressive liberalism has the clear upper hand.

      Most college age people do not hold such extreme beliefs and are in fact more likely to agree with your side of the theological fence than mine. They also tend to be much more socially liberal than their parents. It is certainly true that many states in this country have prejudicial laws but I think you will see this change as well over the next generation. The time of the true Christian zealot is finally winding down.

      In reference to Israel’s persecution of Palestinians, the Zionists haven’t really changed their approach toward Palestine. They simply can’t deny their heinous actions like they have in the past, nor can they hide their viciously aggressive attempts at exterminating the Palestinians in this modern era of instant communication and digital video; thank goodness for twenty-first century technology. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Jewish people but I freely admit that I wholly despise heavy-handed Israeli politics. Palestine will be recognized as an independent, sovereign state eventually, of this I’m certain.

      I agree completely that our society has a tremendous amount of work to accomplish in the next few years if we expect to achieve true equality but I do not think it will take nearly as long as many people seem to anticipate. The social revolution that began in the sixties continues and although there was a lull for a while the revolution is regaining its momentum. I firmly believe that within two generations our world will be a radically different place. The clarion call of the social progressive will never be silenced again.

      • paulbrodie says:

        I enjoy this discussion. I think I agree more with Emily, however. I do agree, William, that segregation of any kind does prevent united progression. It is the labels that separate peopel into in-groups and out-groups, the “us” and “them” approach that lead to so many of the problems we see today and in the past. I also believe that all people are of the same family; if this is the case, wouldn’t it make sense that we have one shared origin of greater power? I can only offer subjective evidence for my beliefs, but as you said with Paganism, we all have our own constructs of reality. It is a good discussion overall.
        I am concerned about how you warn against walking in hate, but then go on to label fundamental Christians as increasingly paranoid. The pendulum swings both ways. We are each free to believe and worship as we wish, but frustrated or not with the decisions of others, should we really be belittling anyone’s beliefs?

      • William Knox says:

        Paul – Have you taken the time to actually read my blog, Sir? I advocate panentheism. If you do not know what that means, please allow me to explain – from my perspective, the Goddess interpenetrates the physical universe and consciously exists outside its limit simultaneously. In short, I firmly believe in the first source and the concept that all Gods are one. Additionally, I do not use the term paranoid in a derogatory manner but rather as an academic description for one who exhibits undue suspicion. The specific Christians that I refer to in my response to Emily believe that we Pagans are attempting to take over the country and enforce our Pagan beliefs on everyone. Such belief is not only ridiculous it is, by definition, paranoid.

        I appreciate your concern but you clearly are not familiar with my writing if you interpret my words as contemptuous toward Christian belief. I have no issue with Christ, and you will never hear me say that Christians are wrong to worship in whatever manner they choose. I will, however, speak out against the aggressive actions taken by the evangelical arm of the Christian church, actions designed to persecute my Pagan brethren and strip us all of our right to worship as we choose simply because we do not recognize their scripture as the sole and infallible word of God.

        The concept of the freedom of religion extends to all religions, including Paganism. There is no caveat, there are no conditions. My issue, Sir, lies with fundamentalist conservative Christians who support the freedom of religion yes, but only for Christians. I will speak out against the actions of any individual who advocates legislation enshrining Christian beliefs, despite the fact that there are tens of millions of Americans who do not share those beliefs.

        I will not back down from the rabid fundamentalists who publically extend the hand of Christian forgiveness while using the other in secret to throw eggs at my car because I am openly Pagan. I will not remain idle while such zealots paper the front window of our Pagan Sanctuary with Christian handouts proclaiming we must repent now for our souls are in danger of hellfire and damnation. I will not be silent when individuals claiming to be Christian use their faith to justify spitting on me when I walk past and scream ‘satan worshipper’ at my back when I refuse to return their aggression so they can have the pleasure of legally engaging in a physical confrontation.

        I do not belittle anyone’s beliefs, Sir. I never have and I never will. I will however continue to condemn hateful actions of persecution with my last breath. If I find myself strapped to a burning stake or facing down a bullet someday then so be it. Christ was quite clear that his followers should love their enemies and refrain from passing judgment. My problem is not with true Christians, Sir, but rather lies with those people who claim to be Christian while using the gospel to justify beating up a gay man because the bible says that gays must be stoned to death. The same people who persecute me and my brethren because the bible says ‘thou shalt not suffer a witch to live’.

        You imply that I am frustrated with the fundamentalists because of their Christian beliefs, which is incorrect. The New Testament provides an excellent moral compass for the followers of Christ when interpreted from the modern perspective. I respect the teachings of Christ for they provide wisdom and advocate love. I do not act from hate, Sir, nor will I walk in fear. Blessed Be.

      • (e)m says:

        @Paul Brodie
        If someone believes that it is O.K. to put me to death because I’m bisexual, or transgender, Yes, I will be intolerant of their beliefs.
        Also, people deserve respect if they earn it, and should be treated with respect until they prove that they don’t. I will defend both your right and the right of the fundamentalist christian to worship as you choose, but I do not respect your beliefs. I do not respect any beliefs, including my own. All beliefs should be questioned. I respect truth.
        @William, I was going to refrain from commenting further because I know that I’m trying your patience, and I want to respect your space. However, when someone says that they agree with me and then makes a point that I completely disagree with, I feel I must clarify

      • William Knox says:

        My dear girl, you are in no way trying my patience although I reserve the right to keep a coconut handy just in case 🙂 Comments that provide clarity and add depth to the discussion are always acceptable to me as long as they remain civil. I do not allow cursing on my blog and I generally do not appreciate excessive hostility but I will always respect your right to speak your mind.

      • paulbrodie says:

        Thank you for the response William. I have only read a few of your posts so far, so I do not have a firm understanding of where you are coming from. I’m sorry for misinterpreting and appreciate your clarification. I guess I just didn’t do a very comprehensive read of your original post or of Emily’s comment. My apologies. In response to the people who are attacking or threatening each of you for your beliefs I can only say they aren’t true Christians. There are a lot of people who claim Christ as their Lord but behave in ways directly contradictory to his doctrine. Of course, we all do to some degree, none of us being perfect.
        I’ll read more carefully next time, and catch up on some more of your posts before I join in the conversation again. I am simply interested in learning and don’t seek contention. I know from past experience that I can come across that way at times when I am speaking about things I feel strongly about. I am working on it.

      • William Knox says:

        I accept your apology and please allow me to offer my own in return. It is entirely human to respond forcefully when we discuss issues that mean a great deal to us personally and I am certainly not exempt from such behavior as my somewhat curt response to you proves. I assure you, I am well aware that the individuals who continue to persecute Pagans in the name of Christ do not represent the majority of Christians. It is also true that many Pagans respond negatively at the very mention of Jesus Christ, or the bible. While I am not inclined to react in such a way and do not condone such behavior, I can understand why my brethren often respond so. It can be difficult to focus on diplomacy when one’s opponent is intent on destruction rather than cooperation and understanding.

        This may surprise you but I generally get along extremely well with most Christians. I find them to be, as a general rule, a compassionate and forgiving group of people who seek to promote what they believe to be the correct spiritual path as given to them through the grace of God. They do this out of love while also developing a personal relationship with their God because that is what the New Testament instructs them to do. I have no problem with this, particularly as the New Testament also says that should anyone refuse to listen or accept Christ as truth, the Christian should then simply walk away peacefully and without regret. (Matthew 10:14). May peace be with you and I wish you a very happy New Year.

      • paulbrodie says:

        Thank you. As you said, when talking about ideas and values that are deeply held and so much an integral part of individual socialization and everything that makes each of us who we are, it is easy to get emotional. I didn’t think your response was curt, not anymore than was warranted by my comment. Your topics are very personal and trigger real responses in people. Your blog is heavy, and I mean that in a good way. It is a great forum for discussion.
        I wish you a happy new year as well.

  5. erranthippo says:

    I like your use of the term “Great Mystery.” I’m quite partial to it, myself. I think it was Sallustius who posited that the gods are not nor can they be separate from the First Cause or each other, since they all exist because of and within their source. In that sense, every religion takes you exactly where you need to be, which is pretty much where you end up even if you have no religion. We are children of the First Cause too, and so our segregation is little more than illusion.

    • William Knox says:

      Indeed, but it is a persistent illusion. By the way, your summary from ‘On the Gods and the World’ is correct, you didn’t forget 🙂 It’s very rare to meet a serious student of advanced Pagan philosophy. Hail and well met!

  6. davidtenn says:

    Thank you William, I wholeheartedly agree. Indeed hope lives on and may you live on through the coming year with more of your oratory messages. Blessed be, David/Hanukah

  7. sofiasiberia says:

    Just started reading your post, it looks very interesting! I’ll continue with it after the new year dinner party now 😉
    Happy N.Y. all! Will be back:)

    • William Knox says:

      Best wishes for your party. Apparently my post and subsequent replies strike some of my readers as overly contentious although I admit that was not my intent. I look forward to your comments. Bright blessings.

  8. sofiasiberia says:

    I enjoyed the post tremendously! This is exactly what I always say and believe myself – we care for labels and differences, and overlook the Core. And the core is – One truth, One earth, One humankind.
    Thank You soo much for writing about it and bringing people’s attention to this fact!
    All the luck and support to you!

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