by Nanice Ellis
Often our religious beliefs are handed down to us by family and
culture, and by the time we are old enough to consciously choose,
it's too late because we are already brainwashed with pre-ordained
beliefs that seem to be set in stone.
Ideally, the true
purpose of any religion should be to facilitate a
direct connection with the "Divine," and to support spiritual
Unfortunately, few, if any religions, fulfill this
purpose. If they did, many more of
us would be awake by now, or at least intimately connected to the
Source of who we really are. Even with the prevalence
of "new age" spiritual practices today, few of us have attained full
spiritual awakening and direct Divine connection.
What's wrong with this picture...?
Maybe that answer lies in the
reasons why humanity seeks out religion, or structured spirituality,
in the first place…
Seeking the answers to the unknown can be a scary business:
do we come from, why are we here, and especially, where do we go
The further we travel down the "rabbit hole" in our
quest for spiritual truth, the more lonely, confusing and
frightening it can become.
Religion preys on this
fear and confusion:
by providing premade answers designed to give us
a false sense of security, it offers a reprieve from that inner
in exchange for that spiritual crutch, we must give up
spiritual sovereignty and the freedom to choose our own beliefs
We must give up the very
thing it saves us from - finding our true selves.
In many ways, my spiritually convoluted childhood was a gift in
disguise. Although my mother was raised strict
Roman Catholic and my
father was raised strictly Jewish, I was baptized Christian, and
when it was time to send me to school, I was sent to a very Catholic
school run by tyrant nuns.
Neither my mom, nor my
dad, considered that they were sending me to a Catholic school,
where I would stand out like a sore thumb - with a very Jewish last
name and a nose to match.
I was treated differently by the nuns than
the other kids but I was too young to understand why, and by the end
of first grade, even the other kids formed an alliance against me.
This overt judgment from
nuns and peers went on for years, and as result, I did poorly in
school, I had no friends, and I believed that there was something
very wrong with me.
In fifth grade, the ongoing emotional stress caused me to have a
nervous breakdown and, as a result, my parents enrolled me in public
school, and also allowed me to figure out this "religion thing" on
By the time I was twelve, my immense
search for truth was
Up until that time, I had been taught that God was to be
feared, and if you sin or break any commandments, you would be
punished, and maybe even sent to a fiery hell to repent eternally.
It was quite convincing, but something inside me said, it just
My long and relentless search for spiritual truth delivered me to a
sacred space that was, not surprisingly, void of all religion and
the imprisoning dogma that keeps one from discovering the truth for
Why is it that religions often keep us from the very thing they
should be doing?
Instead of empowering us to a full connection with
the Divine and supporting us
to Wake Up and remember who we really
are, they keep us asleep, buried under piles of disempowering
beliefs that they programmed into our vulnerable minds.
If we are fighting to prove that we are worthy of God's love or we
must depend on a "go-between" (priest, rabbi, guru etc…) in order to
communicate with God,
How can we ever attain a deep spiritual
connection with the Divine?
Most religions operate through mechanisms of control, but often the
dynamic of control is so covert that you cannot recognize it, and if
you cannot recognize it, you might easily fall for the religion's
Or if you are a long time follower, leaving the
religion can be like extracting yourself from emotional quicksand.
Most religions, and even some spiritual practices, keep people
asleep through a program of shame and secrecy.
The program includes
an ingenious control formula, based on disempowering beliefs, such
as unworthiness, powerlessness, judgment and exclusion, all
resulting in painful and debilitating emotions that can last a life
Most religions install beliefs about "right and wrong," "good and
bad" and "sinful and saintly," causing followers to believe that
their well-being or salvation is dependent on their behavior, and if
they disobey, they are judged and punished with the equivalent of
karma or an eternal afterlife of unwanted proportions, but that is
not even the worst part!
The defiance of your religious beliefs
automatically invokes feelings of shame, guilt, obligation or
regret. These feelings, or the fear of these feelings, can be a more
powerful deterrent than even the threat of physical torture.
The deepest part of the control mechanism is through
emotions, so that you actually punish yourself.
For example, if your religion says that it is wrong to
outside of marriage, and you have pre-marital sex, you will
automatically punish yourself through feelings of deep shame, guilt,
regret and unworthiness.
In fact, if you even think about going
against the religious doctrine, these powerful emotions will induce
feelings of impending regret, and make you think twice.
The same goes for things like regular "attendance",
tithing/donations and any other conditions or requirements of your
Your fear of feeling guilt or regret controls your
behavior and makes you do things that maybe aren't right for you, or
maybe keeps you from expressing your real self.
The thing is, if you
are emotionally manipulated, how can you even know what is best for
you? Only through free-will can you ever be inspired by your own
Because the control is coming from inside you, in the form of your
own beliefs and emotions, you probably don't even realize that you
are being controlled, which is what makes this type of control even
more diabolical than if someone threatened you with a knife.
you can identify an external control source, it is clear that you
are being controlled, but when you have been willingly programmed
with beliefs, and these beliefs are causing painful emotions, it is
almost impossible to discern that an external source is in control
of your life.
Taking Advantage of the Young and Vulnerable
Most people are programmed with religious beliefs either when they
are too young to question those beliefs or at a very vulnerable time
in their lives.
For example, people seek spiritual answers when they
are experiencing emotional pain or confusion.
Religions feed off
this, and even take advantage of this vulnerability, seducing
seekers with the promise of security and comfort, for this life and
maybe even the afterlife.
Sacrificing Power in Exchange for Salvation
Most religions ask that you give away your power, and that you trust
the religion and its leaders more than you trust yourself. You are
taught that in order to connect with the Divine, you must depend on
non-physical deities, or religious leaders.
If you want a prayer
answered or you seek forgiveness, you must use a "go-between"
because you are not worthy, or pure enough, for direct communion
with the Divine.
Worst of all, the message is,
...and, as long as you don't trust yourself, you remain
powerless to external authority.
Ruled by Conditional Worth
In most religions, there is an unspoken decree of worthiness that
all practitioners agree to.
Your worth is dependent on how well you
follow the rules of your religion - if you do as you are told,
according to your religion, or your religious leader, you are deemed
worthy, and if you go against, or question the rules or beliefs, you
are deemed unworthy.
Unworthiness induces deep feelings of shame
which leads to secrecy.
Use of Judgment
The fear of being judged, shamed or the subject of gossip is
commonly used to keep followers in line, creating secrecy and
keeping followers from sharing their "indiscretions" with each
Because judgment feels like death to
the ego, we will do
almost anything in order to avoid being judged.
As a result,
everyone pretends to be a good follower, while secretly hiding any
"bad behavior," and, because no one is sharing openly, it appears
that everyone else is saintly, making it impossible for you to speak
No Room for Doubt or Questions
If you believe that your fellow practitioners will ostracize you, or
report you to religious leaders, you will not likely share any
feelings of doubt about the religion or its leaders...
silently keep your questions or uncertainty to yourself, never
knowing that your friend, neighbor or family member feels the same
Judgment, and fear of being judged, supports division.
"Divide and conquer,"
...and, at all costs, keep those
already conquered from coming together in rebellion.
separation allow religious agendas to operate unnoticed.
What about the threat of non-believers that are not part of the
Often, followers are well-trained in converting
non-believers, with programmed answers for any, and all, objections
that might come from the one they are trying to convert.
are often taught how to prey upon vulnerabilities, with promises of
salvation, but, if that doesn't work, the non-believer is viewed
negatively, cast aside as ignorant and excluded.
This type of
righteousness, where the believer is right and the non-believer is
wrong, is just another form of judgment and exclusion in the name of
The motto often is:
"Either believe and join us or be excluded and
judged as sinner."
I am not saying that you should leave your religion, or even think
about it - that is not the point.
The point is, if you want to
awaken to the truth of who you really are, you must free yourself
from disempowerment. This means taking back your power from everyone
and everything - including religion.
It might seem easy to blame a religion for keeping you powerless,
asleep, or disconnected but religions only exist because we seek
answers outside of ourselves.
From the deepest perspective,
religions are set up to fail you, so that eventually, you will look
in the only place where you can ever find the answers you seek:
Religion says, "You are unworthy unless you meet certain
Awakening reveals, "You are unconditionally worthy."
Religion says, "You are powerless to external sources."
Awakening reveals, "Your power is accessed as you take
responsibility for your life."
Religion separates, judges and excludes.
Awakening and Oneness are synonymous.
In awakening, you remember that who you really are is the Divine,
and if you judge yourself, or others, you are really judging 'God'...
How do you know if your religion or spiritual practice supports
spiritual empowerment, Divine connection and spiritual awakening?
Most importantly, your religion or spiritual practice should work
for you, and only you can decide what that means, but here are some
suggestions for you to consider:
Your spiritual practice gives you freedom, and space, to find your
own answers, even if those answers disagree with the spiritual
You are not judged, punished or excluded for thinking differently,
or questioning ideas.
Your spiritual practice moves you toward love and oneness, providing
the space for you to forgive yourself and others, as you let go of
old heavy baggage which no longer serves you.
The spiritual teachings uplift you to new heights of awareness,
while also inspiring you to express yourself.
Spiritual beliefs are offered through lessons of empowerment, and
not through fear of karma, punishment or any form of disempowerment,
nor should you be manipulated through guilt, obligation, or
Your spiritual teacher does not encourage dependency on him or her,
tell you what to do, how to think or make other spiritual teachings
wrong or less than.
You are not asked to judge, reject or exclude others in order to
remain in the religion, nor are you punished for loving those who
don't obey the rules of your religion.
You feel honored
and respected by your teacher and peers, and you never feel
as if the teacher, or spiritual practice, has power over
you, or that your worthiness is in question.
Your practice empowers you to discover who you really are, and
supports you in developing an intimate and personal relationship
with the Divine, where you experience yourself as unconditionally
If your intention is spiritual awakening, your spiritual practice
must not only empower you to discover the door of awakening, it must
also encourage you to let go so that you can enter. In order to
fully awaken, you must be willing to let go of even the sacred
practice that got you there.
The bottom line is,
Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater
If you have left your religion, or you are thinking of leaving,
don't confuse leaving the religion with leaving 'God'.
Just as the
"Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater,"
throw God out with the religion.
God has been tainted by all sorts
of disempowering beliefs - from crazy rules to unreasonable nonsense
and everything in between. You can leave all that behind and you can
find God on your own terms, in a way that feels particularly right
Sometimes we stay in a religion well past its expiration date
because if we leave, it probably also means that we must leave our
Tolerating rules and dogma that no longer fit for us
might seem like a small price to pay in exchange for the love and
support of community, but that price is much higher than it appears.
If you are,
compromising your freedom
hiding your true feelings
constricting your expression in order to be accepted in a community,
...sooner or later, you will likely experience deep spiritual wounds
that arise from betraying your own true spirit.
Yes, there might be a period of time where you don't have the
support of community, but I promise, your most ideal community is
out there somewhere waiting for you.
A massive wave of people
all over the
world are waking up, and leaving situations and environments that no
longer fit. Just like you, they are looking for that place where
It is time to come together to form empowering
paradigms of community where we can all thrive, and be who we came
here to be...