The Orlando nightclub killer’s father, a follower of the Islam religion, shared his religious belief saying that it is up to God to punish homosexuals, similar to what many conservative Christians believe. He said he was saddened by his son’s horrific actions and did not support them because he believed it is not the job of humans to do God’s work of punishing others. Is there is a link between the religious beliefs he passed on to his son and his son’s actions? After all, isn’t doing God’s work easily justified as “holy” work, especially if you feel called to serve the God of your religion?
When I look at religions like Islam and Christianity, I find that many of those who wrote and interpret the holy books still teach some form of a judging, condemning and punishing God. Parents like the father of the shooter pass on to their children beliefs such as a man loving another man or a woman loving another woman is evil and a path to eternal damnation. I remember one Christian church where I once lived, displaying signs that “God hates divorces. God hates…, God hates…, etc.” I assume that these religious teachers feel it is important to instill a fear of God’s violent retribution as a way of trying to prevent what they believe are sinful human behaviors. But fear has never been successful sustaining control of hateful and violent human behaviors, and I want to make the argument that it is actually helping to create them.
While most people living in modern societies have consciously evolved to recognize and provide special laws and protections to ensure the same inalienable rights for the LBGT community, many Americans along with large populations of middle-eastern and third world countries have not. Why? Because in my opinion for hundreds and even thousands of years they still blindly follow ancient beliefs without questioning their moral foundation and social value. Do they lead to peace or to fear and violence? Love or hate? In some sects, questioning religious dogma is considered blasphemy and is punishable by death. They are so filled with fear and insecurity; they can’t tolerate other opinions, let alone consider them. And so hundreds of millions of children are taught each year, decade after decade, the ancient beliefs of their parents’ religion. Innocent and never exposed to any other environment, they have little chance of growing up without the thought that God judges, hates, condemns and violently punishes those who don’t share the same beliefs, and therefore don’t live like them. Outcomes of these thoughts lead to mental distress, intolerance and anger towards others. Thoughts eventually lead to spoken words and ultimately actions.
For example in the United States, millions of conservative Christians condemn homosexuality and consider it a direct threat to personal values, their way of life and civil society. This has led to the shunning and bullying of gay children in some schools and sometimes acts of violence. We heard story after story of gay children living in fear and the great acts of courage it takes simply to be who they are in public. We have witnessed protests and legislative efforts to stop gay rights. If not successful at the federal level, opponents take political action at the state and local levels. They say that a private business’s right to refuse gay customers is not discrimination (like white restaurant owners once did refusing to serve people of different color), but an individual freedom of choice. Yet an individual’s right to freely choose who to love, marry or enjoy sex with is not a freedom they want to allow, despite pledging allegiance as an American for the “liberty and justice for all.” They feel empowered to make exceptions and twist discrimination into a “constitutional right” simply because they have been mentally programmed by the prior generation to think and act a certain way.
Looking for evidence to justify their beliefs, they find and memorize obscure verses in sections of the Bible written by different authors or in the Koran that support their unique interpretation of “God’s Laws”, while in my opinion they blatantly ignore those that don’t like loving your neighbor. they appear to be very close minded and fundamental, believing that their religious interpretation of old “Holy” scriptures is correct, and anyone who disagrees with them religiously or politically is wrong. I find it disheartening that some convince themselves that they must be right and God must be on their side or God would have never allowed the shooting in Orlando to happen, inferring a God that condones violence. Even if they can’t see it or acknowledge it, they become energetically or emotionally aligned with the crime, filled and vibrating with hateful, mean-spirited thoughts such as ‘divine’ justice has been served or “Those homosexuals got what they deserved,” both having nothing to do with divinity.
When you have been taught to belief one thing your entire life, it becomes a truth, an accepted fact. It does not require a leap of faith for a few individuals to justify a move from belief to action. Racists, terrorists, bigots do not act out of faith. I believe true faith develops inside an individual. It is an immutable trust or heart-centered knowing acquired after deep reflection, not from blindly following religious dogma insisted upon by others. They act not out of faith, or divine guidance, but they are innocent in the sense that they unconsciously react, from institutionalized beliefs passed down from generation to generation that have programmed their minds to think and see the world a particular way. I believe that if they were taught differently about love and tolerance, growing up in a different family, church or community, they would have different beliefs, and therefore, would act differently.
I invite the world to take a closer look at beliefs. Beliefs are simply mental constructions, but they are extremely powerful when they become deeply embedded patterns of thinking. Though beliefs are seeded and held within each individual, they have a far greater impact when they are collectively shared within large groups. Through science we know that thoughts create electrical current in our brains and bodies which generate much larger electrical impulses in our hearts. We can feel this as emotional energy. The electrical impulses from hundreds of millions of people believing the same thing creates an electro-magnetic field of vibrating, emotional energy that supports similar thoughts. Sensitive people can feel these energies. Collectively they physically manifest as cultural values and behaviors from what many call social consciousness.
If they are loving thoughts, they create an ‘open heart’, experienced as compassion, understanding and tolerance for others. If they are hateful thoughts, they energetically support ‘closed hearts’ which are less compassionate, understanding and tolerant. Eventually they can develop into hateful actions such as bigotry, discrimination and violence, whether people are consciously aware of it or not. Violence can be verbal, psychological, and as we just witnessed, physical in the most grotesque way. It only takes one crazy person with hateful thoughts to put them into action and kill. All action, loving or hateful, originates from thought. And what I am suggesting is that the massacre in Orlando was not the act of a lone gunman, but began years ago with one, simple, hateful thought which was shared and supported at some level, either consciously or subconsciously, by millions of people.
While law enforcement scrambles to prevent future massacres, I do not see it as the lasting solution. To me, the answer is not more metal detectors at all public gathering places. It is not putting weapons in the hands of every person. It is not carrying side arms with us wherever we go to feel safe. The weapons are just manifested symbols of our fear. Stress and fear kills. These emotional energies do not support life, they shorten it. They restrict our freedoms and will lead to more violence. Living in fear takes away our happiness and joy of life.
I would like everyone to consider that the only permanent solution to terrorism and violence is to uplift our beliefs. If we want to live in a peaceful, sustainable world, we need to teach our children new beliefs about love that lead to tolerance, support life and sustain peace. At the same time, we need to transcend above those of hate and violence that create obstacles to love. What the world desperately needs is more love and it begins with us and our children.
It is my hope that the world’s religions will step up more and place greater emphasis on teaching us how to love one another, and about a loving God whose characteristics and behaviors we can aspire to emulate, not one to be feared who judges, condemns, punishes and condones unspeakable acts of violence as punishment. If we want to stop violence, terrorism and war, it begins simply through a willingness to change our thoughts. If we desire meaningful and lasting changes to people’s behaviors, let us work together to change their beliefs. This would not harm anyone or financially cost anything. I only ask everyone to take an honest look at what is working and what is not working to create the freedom and happiness we all seek, and begin addressing the core causes of violence, death and destruction…outdated beliefs about Life and God that no longer serve the highest good of humanity.