How is it that so much harm is caused in the name of religion? How can people who do dreadful things look themselves in the mirror and think they are right?
I believe it has something to do with language. Not just the way we use words to justify what we do, but the very fact that we have language at all. Something in the human brain urges us to classify and categorise things. Language gives us names for our experiences; sentences encode our beliefs about them.
Most of us have moments of clarity and understanding, and many people have profound spiritual experiences. If only we could stay in touch with that profound understanding I’m sure there would be peace in the world. But once the moment of clarity has passed, humans feel the need to put it into words and then use the words as their guide. You could say the experience is spirituality and the words are religion, but it also applies to non-religious situations.
Words can be used to mobilise groups of people. But if the organisation, church or institution does not allow its members to connect with the internal/eternal truth that first inspired the words, they become rules, regulations and policies with a life of their own. I have heard that many organisations that start out with a holistic ideal, over time can become narrow, prescriptive and commercialised as people lose touch with the original aim.
I’ve come to believe that single words like love, peace and kindness are a more helpful guide than sentences. A sentence gives instruction or advice and often contains a value judgement, but a single word invites you to engage your heart and mind as you reconnect with its true meaning.