Radical Author Issues Invitation to Religious Leaders

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Sankara Saranam, author of the award-winning book God Without Religion, uncovers the wishful thinking revealed in the Dalai Lama’s recent claim that compassion underlies all religions, saying that every centralized institution creates divisiveness. Saranam urges the Dalai Lama and other religious leaders to achieve peace by adopting a universal, inclusive spirituality based on an expanded ability to identify with all of humanity.

Organized religions have never represented loving others as ourselves

At his recent 70th birthday celebration, the Dalai Lama said all religions were “more or less the same,” with their fundamental compassion holding the key to world peace. In the same week, conservative Christian televangelist Pat Robertson warned citizens of a Pennsylvania town who voted against “intelligent design” that they had rejected God and could expect disaster to strike.

At first glance, the two attitudes seem very different. But radical thinker Sankara Saranam, author of the award-winning book God Without Religion, claims both leaders are misguided. “Robertson is obviously a deeply disturbed individual, and it’s unfortunate, though not entirely surprising, that a major religious sect has such a person at its helm. But the Dalai Lama, who is positioned to be a spiritual role model, ought to know better than to mouth platitudes about religious compassion as the solution to world conflict.”

“If compassion is so fundamental to organized religions, then why have religious beliefs caused so much war and violence?” Saranam asks. “Leaders who represent religious authority—which by definition fosters exclusivity, a false sense of superiority, and a narrow sense of identity in both ecclesiasts and followers—are incapable of promoting peace.”

In God Without Religion, Saranam uncovers the hypocrisy underlying all religions and calls for an end to organized worship. Religions, Saranam says, represent centralized authority that removes power from its rightful place in individuals in ways even more insidious than governments and corporations do. “Organized religions have never represented loving others as ourselves,” he says. “Rather, they embody the perversion of universal virtues that would otherwise be naturally expressed by an expansive human heart.”

Saranam suggests that the way to find peace is not through more reliance on organized religion, but through freeing ourselves from religious identification altogether and expanding our sense of self to unconditionally include the rest of humanity. “Simplistically touting any single virtue as the solution to conflict from within one of the very institutions that causes division is like trying to save a burning house with a water hose in one hand and a flamethrower in the other. Only when we give up identifying with institutions that foster a narrow sense of self and instead devote ourselves to the entire human family will we cease to interpret virtues in self-serving ways.”

Saranam challenges today’s spiritual leaders to symbolically cast off the outer accoutrements of organized religion and exemplify genuine inclusiveness. “If the world’s religious leaders took my criticism to heart and truly embraced a universal spirituality, they could greatly advance the cause of peace—an initiative that, as history abundantly proves, cannot be achieved from within the confines of a prescribed faith,” he counsels. “To end the wars caused by narrow identification with a religion, spiritual leaders need to march side by side as human beings—brothers and sisters free of the artificial boundaries and insignias of authority that foster divisiveness and violence.”



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