One of the aspects of this column that I enjoy the most is the study of various religions and how they are interrelated. It is my supposition that most religions, at their core, are very much alike. Superficially this may not appear to be true. For example, when most people think about Quakers, we see the Ben Franklin looking person who appears on the Quaker Oats Box. One would, without further investigation deem Quakers to be an old conservative religion whose time has probably passed. Well upon further investigation it is surprising to discover that the Quaker religion has always been quite progressive. If I were to describe some of the tenants of the Quakers and reveal the manner in which they conduct their services and the organization, one would swear I was describing a New Age religion. You cannot away tell the proverbial book by its cover.

Quakers believe that all people are loved and guided by God. They believe that everyone can have a direct relationship with God. Their names for God include, the Light Within, Christ, Spirit and Seed. They don’t consider themselves limited to Christianity. Quakers can seek spiritual guidance from religions as broad as Hinduism, Judaism Buddhism and Islam. Like Hinduism, it appears that Quakers feel free to find God in whatever resonates within their soul. They don’t share the syncretism prohibition inherent within most Abrahamic religions.
I truly love that during Quaker worship, any member, adult or child may share their thoughts and have those thoughts be the basis of discussion. They don’t believe in a pastor or a leader of their worship. Their worship is mostly silent as they are seeking to commune with God directly through the silence. (Sounds a lot like eastern meditation)

The New Age method is very similar to the Quakers. As survey show that more Americans identify as spiritual and not religious, I think our emphasis has shifted. We are seeking direct contact with God without the help of an intermediary. We are not drawn as much to the old paradigm where a learned Pastor, Priest or Minister tells us about God. We now seek guides who will help us contact the God within us directly. We are striving for a more personal relationship with God. We no longer seek advice about avoiding hell and entering heaven. We seek advice on how to hone our personal relationship with God based upon love and without judgment.

We are realizing that any path that resonates within us is a good path. In the past we were told that if we studied Buddhism we were risking going to hell because Buddhist don’t believe in God. We were told that Hindus believed in way too many Gods, so they were heathens. A closer examination of those religions manifests that while Buddhist don’t believe in the concept of a God, they believe in a universal life force that animates all that exists. What Hindus call Gods are very similar to what Christians call Saints.
Don’t let the semantics of various religions obfuscate their true purpose. We are all eternal spirits living in a material world. Many of us are seeking answers as to our true nature. We seekers have much more in common than we have differences. Let us be hip like the old school Quakers and silently listen for the God within to speak to us and to guide us home.

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