Jesus’ Goal: To Enable One to Become a Mountain That Moves
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Jesus came on the scene suddenly, like many other Messiah figures before and since. However, unlike all others, he birthed an unusual legacy. On one hand, many of his followers seek guidance as he did, directly from an outside source of inspiration, that many have called by names like “the Holy Spirit,” “God” and “Inner Voice.” On the other hand, his followers also subscribe to various doctrines that he did not create.
These doctrines control their actions and thoughts; thus, we find that those affected by Jesus’ teachings are torn between independence and dependence, freedom and subservience, and enlightenment and mind control. Out of love for Jesus, many veer from loving and helping everyone, to hating, marginalizing and persecuting those who differ from them in doctrine. In short, most, if not all of his followers subscribe to both the Way of Wisdom and the Way of Religion.
We find the same phenomenon in many of the followers of Mohammed, the Dalai Lamas, and the Hindu Scriptures. Most in the world are very confused. People want to be independent, but they also want to be controlled by their religions. They want to live fulfilled lives, but they cannot achieve that in a world in which religions cause people to be divided within themselves, and then, again, when they externalize that division in conflicts with others.
The Two Ways
In this book and the next one, I will present evidence that the various authors of the Bible subscribed to one of two opposing Ways of living: the Way of Religion or the Way of Wisdom. This Introduction will briefly explain the two Ways.
Lessons from the Gospel of Thomas
The Way of Religion
A person follows a Way of Religion when he identifies with a set of beliefs. These beliefs are a “Way” because they determine how one thinks and acts in relation to himself, others, and the world. They are Ways of “Religion,” because when one identifies with a set of beliefs, he defends and promotes them as an extension himself.
Religions can be secular. For example, one can be “religiously” devoted to his family, his country, his job, his friends, his political party, and even his car. This is because he has developed a set of beliefs centered around those concepts, and comes to identify with them. He sees an attack on them as an attack on himself. He feels pride in himself when they succeed, grow, or gain appreciation. He feels defeated when they fail. He finds kinship in other people who hold the same beliefs that he does.
Everyone subscribes to many Ways of Religion at the same time, be they theological or secular. For example, a Jew may simultaneously belong to Judaism, Zionism, and conservatism. Among these, Judaism is a theological religion, while the others are secular religions. They are all Ways of Religion because those who subscribe to them identify with common doctrines that consist of distinctive beliefs, including values, rules, laws, rituals, traditions, symbols, scriptures, and uniforms.
While the Way of Religion may be a path for the single person; usually single followers band together in social groups. The people on the Way reinforce each other’s beliefs, rituals, and rules. Together, they defend their Way against those who disagree with them, and they proselytize to convert others. When they do so, their sense of self is heightened through the group’s confidence in their doctrine.
The members of a Way of Religion tend to think that they are independent and free individuals, but in fact, their sense of self is dependent upon the other group members’ opinion of how well they conform to the group’s doctrine. Therefore, they are not free; others control their thinking and behavior.
All following a Way of Religion seeks to preserve it, because it gives them an identity and establishes meaning for their lives. Consequently, they promote their traditions and beliefs as sacred. They reward people for their steadfast faith, and they build up people who sacrifice or die for their faith.
In order to defend their Way of Religion, adherents often tacitly adopt the notion that the end, survival of their Way, justifies the means. Thus, they may ignore information that does not fit their beliefs, distort information to support their beliefs, ignore outcomes that show that their Way is not beneficial to themselves or society, and blindly believe ideas that are not supported by common sense or experience. They even out of love for their leaders, flag, traditions, buildings, and their doctrine, persecute, marginalize, discriminate against, and even kill people who are threats. In other words, love of me and us justifies hate of others.
The Inherent Conflicts on the Way of Religion
When one identifies with more than one doctrine, he typically encounters some degree of contradiction between them. This causes inner conflict, sometimes called “cognitive dissonance.” This can be emotionally painful; therefore, people adopt ways to avoid thinking about ideas, people and events that shine a light on their internal contradictions.
Everyone within every religion has their own lens through which they interpret concepts. Their past experiences, cultures, personality types, etc., form the preexisting framework through which they interpret new ideas. For example, every person who reads the Bible interprets every word and sentence differently. Therefore, everyone within the same religion eventually comes into ideological conflict. This can result in dysfunction within a group, division between groups, and even ideological schisms that lead to the creation of new religions. Sometimes these conflicts are relatively peaceful, and other times they can be quite violent.
Further, every type of religious group has a fundamental ideological conflict with every other religious group of the same type, because logically, only one doctrine can be true. For example, people from different sects of Christianity come into conflict because of their different beliefs or their different interpretations of the same scriptures.
The Way of Wisdom
When a person does not identify with a set of theological or secular beliefs, he follows the Way of Wisdom. Because he does not identify with his doctrine, he does not promote or defend it as an extension of himself. He may argue his opinions; however, because they are not a part of his identity, he can easily modify or give them up entirely. He may argue them to learn their limitations and inaccuracies; however, he neither stands on them for his self-confidence, nor to build himself up over another.
Because a person on the Way of Wisdom does not identify with any doctrines, he is by nature a truth seeker. He does not hold any absolute beliefs. Truth is always something to be discovered. Thus, he never conflicts with others with different beliefs.
Contrasting the Two Ways