Obtaining an Online Education in Religion

August 14, 2016

Obtaining an online education in religion prepares students to enter a wide range of careers depending on their concentration. Students can learn about religion in regards to faith, the world, pastoral work, and more. Many online colleges offer degree programs at all educational levels.Students that complete a degree program in religion can enter fields such as teaching, ministry, administration, journalism, and history. The main areas of study that students can enter include:*Pastoral CounselingStudents learn the different methods used to become spiritual and religious counselors. Students learn about the different aspects of their chosen religion and the proper counseling techniques to work with clients. Education focuses on sociology, religious perspective, counseling theory, and human growth.*SeminaryThe goal of education in seminary studies is to prepare students to enter careers as priests, pastors, and other religious leaders. Education focuses on exploring the Bible and history of a particular religion. Many online programs dedicate schooling to Christian studies where students examine theology, divinity, and music.

*TheologyTheology degree programs focus on the spirituality of religions and teach students how it affects people and society. Students study how to live out their chosen religion and understand the philosophy behind it. Most students that complete a theology degree program go on to enter religious careers where they become youth leaders, missionaries, and pastors.*World Religion StudiesInside degree programs in world religion students explore a broad view of the field. The relationship of religion and society is studied to present students with a thorough understanding of religion and how it impacts everyday life from politics to art. With this type of degree students are able to pursue secular careers in a variety of areas. Undergraduate study focuses on world religion. Students that go onto graduate level training typically want to enter a religious career.To better understand what a degree in religion looks like students can research the different options. A bachelor’s degree in religion with a focus on entering clergy careers, for example centers on the history, text, and theology of a chosen religion. Undergraduate training gives students the opportunity to step into entry-level positions as Sunday school teachers and program coordinators. Graduate study prepares students for work as ministers, counselors, professors, and researchers.Online education in religion covers a wide range of subjects based on student’s area of interest. Major topics studied in the four main areas of learning may include:Addictive BehaviorsBehavioral SciencesLeadershipEthicsJudaismChristianityPolitical ReligionsThe goal of education is to train students to enter a career based on their area of interest. Students can learn about all of these areas through online study, which prepares them to take on leadership roles within their religious communities. Students that pursue a secular career are able to apply their understanding of religion to government, education, and more.

Students can find the right program for their goals by researching what accredited degrees are available. Full accreditation is offered to qualifying programs that offer the best quality education. Agencies such as the Association for Biblical Higher Education ( http://www.abhe.org/ ) can fully accredited online religion programs. Enroll in an accredited online college today and begin training for a fulfilling career.DISCLAIMER: Above is a GENERIC OUTLINE and may or may not depict precise methods, courses and/or focuses related to ANY ONE specific school(s) that may or may not be advertised at PETAP.org.Copyright 2010 – All rights reserved by PETAP.org.

Give Up Religion and Get Peaceful?

August 13, 2016

I have a strange feeling that many times our religions produce the opposite effects than what we assume they should. For example, Buddhism stresses three things; discipline, compassion, and wisdom; and Christian communities stress renunciation of violence, forgiveness, and unconditional love. But do the Buddhist and Christian communities exhibit their professed values?Buddhists, even Buddhist monks, are fighting for freedom in Tibet and Sri Lanka. Christians are fighting Islamic terrorists in Iraq and the middle east. Jews, it seems, are fighting almost everybody! And I am sure that somewhere, Buddhists, Jews, and Christians are fighting each other over something or other. It seems that if our passions are aroused enough, religious guidelines go out the window.This poses a thorny question; if religions only work for those who follow them religiously, and even those followers stray as soon as passions overtake them, how can it be that religion is supposedly the magic balm that keeps humankind sane? It doesn’t seem to do that. As a matter of fact, some of the most vicious fighting that has ever taken place, has taken place between religious factions. It’s almost as if religion’s role is but a placator between passions, a huge guilt trip to make up for our inherent violence.This is all speculation, of course, but if it is true that religion has never fundamentally changed humankind’s violent nature, could it be that our violent nature can never be tamed and only needs a passionate trigger?

On the other hand, is it possible for humankind to become triggerless, or buttonless, where no matter how hard our buttons are pushed, we don’t pull the trigger? I believe that this is possible. Not only possible, but the great potential that humankind offers the universe. I believe that we can all become Christ-like and Buddha-like. I believe that we have that potential.If religion is only a convenient hideout and subterfuge from our real nature, which seems to be violence, what if we dropped religion completely so that we could see our true nature without rationalizing or denying it? Maybe we only pretend to be religious? I think what hooks us on religion is the psychological need to live after death in some fashion, i.e. mostly seniors are found in churches! It’s this ego continuation, I believe, that is the foundation of religion. In other words, the foundation of religion is saving our own behinds!If I am right and this is why we pray, to save ourselves, I can see why we will never get over our violence. We are still caught up in what is good for us, what will become of us, and therefore we remain fearful because ourselves must be protected. There is only passing thoughts about others, in a lame attempt to accord with our religious tenants. What we are really interested in is ourselves, and we even use our religions to promote ourselves. How can this ever cure our violence? The very act of promotion involves violence, because promotion involves pushing ourselves in front of someone or something else.If our religious freedom is ever threatened, for example as it is being threatened in Tibet, the fear is that we cannot practice our religion and therefore we will not go to heaven or Nirvana. But what does a collective practice of religion have to do with our individual salvation? As long as we are conscious, we can practice internally regardless of where we find ourselves. No, the fear is of someone telling us what we can and can’t do, and this arouses passion. This is strong desire.Nobody told the Buddha or Christ that he couldn’t wander as a homeless, penniless vagrant. Who would have cared? It is only when we pose a threat to someone that violence erupts. So the question must be; do our religions pose a threat to others, and if so, why? Do we threaten others by our religion? Could we get along without our organized religions and find peace within our own hearts?Christ and the Buddha, not relying on Judaism or Hinduism, seemed to have pulled this off; coming up with their own truths. Could we do the same? I think that if we knew how, we could. But how would that be? What did the Buddha and Christ do differently than we do now?

For one thing, they didn’t attend the synagogue or the temple; they struck out on their own. Also, they both spent a lot of time in solitude, either in the dessert or in the forest. And lastly, they lived their ideals, rather than only talking about them while pursuing other, hidden agendas.If this technique worked for these two men, why not us? How many of us have spent a lot of time in solitude, either in the desert or in the forest, or at least in the solitude of our own minds? Instead, we surround ourselves with entertainments and friends, never a dull moment. Could this difference be the clue that we are looking for that ends our internal violence; simply being with ourselves long enough to understand the futility of violence, the futility of winning?Eventually, adventurous people will try a new way, simply because the old ways are producing the same results that have plagued humankind forever. And whether that new way includes organized religion, has yet to be seen.The Buddha said that the Buddhist religion is similar to a raft, only a method of eliminating the cycle of birth and death. He asked,”And when you are across, will you continue to carry the raft on your head?”

Contrasts Between Spirituality and Religion

August 13, 2016

To contrast religion vs spirituality gives us a clearer understanding and appreciation of spirituality. The main differences of religion and spirituality lie in the traditional areas of doctrine, rituals and morality. All religions have these three basic components: 1) doctrine or beliefs; 2) rituals or ceremonies; 3) morality or a set of laws governing conduct. It is in these areas that I will make the contrast of religion with spirituality.Doctrine Versus ExperienceReligions have a set of teachings which all members are enjoined to believe in. If a member believes differently and teaches others to do so also, he or she is labeled as an unbeliever and may be excommunicated or put out of that religious group. Thus Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions have a different set of doctrines. In the religions oneness of doctrine is of paramount importance.In spirituality while there are certain teachings these are not emphasized so much as personal experience. Spiritual persons may be members of different religions but they have the same or similar experience. Christian mystics focus on the experience of union with the divine. So do Hindu or Muslim mystics. They may differ in the means of attaining this union with God but they agree that this has to be experienced as the goal of their spiritual life.

Rituals Versus IntimacyIn religions there are certain rituals or religious ceremonies meant to express human relationship with the divine. In Christianity we have the sacraments and the religious services like the Mass, preaching service, worshipful singing, etc. In certain religions this is so important that a person is obliged to perform these rituals as a means of salvation, like the ritual of baptism.In spirituality the emphasis is not so much on these rituals as a personal intimacy with the divine, usually attained through personal prayer and meditation, activities which in a sense are the opposite of rituals. Rituals are done in a crowd or group of people. Meditation is usually done in solitude and silence.You can see now that there really is a contrast between religion vs spirituality.Morality Versus CompassionReligions produce a set of rules to follow. This is usually expressed in written laws and oral traditions. Thus the Catholic Church has a Code of Canon Law. The other Christian churches have written policies or a system of precedents. The Muslims have the Shariah Law. The Hindus have their own laws, particularly the laws which regulate their conduct in their respective castes. After a while the tendency is to increase the number of laws and to codify these.In spirituality the central focus in human conduct is on becoming compassionate to all of creation. I was about to write “love” instead of “compassion” in the sub-heading. But over the years the word “love” has lost much of its real meaning. In almost all seminars, conferences on spirituality compassion is accentuated as the most important attitude required of human beings toward creation. This compassion begins with realizing our oneness with the divine and with all of creation. It is not just a matter of feeling but is expressed in actions of kindness towards all we meet, human beings or other parts of creation. The tendency in spirituality is to simplify the laws, just like what Jesus did, reducing all of them into two: love of God and love of neighbor.

The question I would like to pose is: Which do you think is better, religion or spirituality? My opinion is that both are necessary to human life. Religion functions as a cement in human culture. But with the recent ongoing studies on spirituality we are going to see an increasing number of men and women who are becoming more spiritual rather than more religious. Perhaps churches which have lost their active members, as in certain areas in Europe, can shift their focus from religion to spirituality and give meaning in life to more and more people. Religion vs spirituality will increase the awareness of more people to learn more of the enduring values in life.

Religion and Philosophy

August 12, 2016

Religion and Philosophy are words of repute that man resorts to for answers on God and life. Their authenticity is never questioned nor their real meaning understood. Man takes it for granted that they provide answers for what they stand for. But a gentle glance would suggest that answers have not been found as yet because men, more than anything else, are still angry with each other and with themselves too. Religion makes man believe he is a saint while philosophy fills him with pride. The question he needs to answer is whether religion and philosophy have brought him peace or drafted him into war. The present state of the world would suggest the latter is true.Every child and adult is given a religion to follow and adhere to so that he or she may lead a happy life – a certain investment to reach heaven. Its importance is emphasized to philosophical proportions. Religion and, thereby, God, if followed to the letter, is believed to ward off evil and protect man from harm. But is he free from hate or anger while he prays or when he is in a place of worship? Is he free of all that is unholy when he does not pray or is not in a place of worship? If God is the creator of the world, who could possibly be creating evil or wrong besides God? It is unthinkable that God would be the creator of good and bad, right and wrong as a reality. It has to be illusory for God is compassionate and loving. So, has religion and philosophy failed to deliver its promises and will it ever succeed? Who can tell?But what do these words really mean and what is man’s understanding of them? To most, religion means subtle or profound knowledge about God and His messages, which are beliefs or a system of faith and worship. The word religion is derived from the Latin word ‘religio’, meaning obligation or reverence to life under monastic vows. Philosophy, on the other hand, means a love of wisdom. But, on close observation, man is neither godly nor wise, and religion and philosophy have been around for quite some time. Religion and philosophy are both ancient and historical. Man came to know religion first and later, as his mind sophisticated, philosophy appeared. Primitive man was alive and lived without the need of religion or philosophy.The mind became active within man slowly and steadily and sophisticated to form religion and philosophy. Information about God happened to him and he did not bring it about. Thinking happened to man and he did not make it happen. If he had, he would have made it happen all at once and not progressively, as is the case, and, given the chance, he would see to it that everyone thought the same way, but they do not. If he did make thinking happen, he would have just one religion and philosophy and not many, as is the case.Nature was religion to primitive man. The lightning in the skies and the thunder that followed was man’s knowledge about a power above him. Light and sound were God to primitive man. The moment he looked up into the skies in fear was the moment of birth of God or a power much superior to him in his mind. As vocabulary increased within man’s mind and concepts began to form, so did religion and knowledge about God as the almighty.If religion were real, there could only be one and that would be the first one that appeared within man’s mind. Real means that which does not change and is eternal. This means that even the first religion cannot be real. How could it be real for not only has the first religion changed, but there are five more major religions alongside it? This change contradicts the meaning of real. This can only mean that the first religion and the rest that have followed have to be illusory and not real.

Religion is illusory for it exists only in the waking state, but it does not exist during the sleeping state, and man is alive during sleep as much as he is during the waking state. If religion were real, primitive man should have religion without the presence of thoughts. This only means that religion is nothing but thoughts in the mind, as is everything else.If God has created the world, every religion must be His creation too. If they are, they cannot be separate from Him. The world is energy and nothing can be separate within energy, and so, if they were separate from him or from each other, they would not exist. If God has created the world, He will be energy too because the source of energy has to and will be energy only. In this case, God cannot be a He or a She but just energy, as is every man and woman. If God is energy, it can only mean that anything and everything is a reflection of energy, including man. If energy is God, it can only mean that every speck of this manifestation has to be God, and it is so and cannot be otherwise.If God were the creator, would not every religion be His creation too, including the first? They certainly would be, and surely He would not create any religion that is wrong. The same applies to philosophy too. The presence of variety in every aspect of life, including religion and philosophy, makes it impossible for man to decide which could be true. This is the intelligence of life that makes anything and everything in life relative and not absolute. It is important to understand that every recognizable thought requires another of its kind for it to exist. Therefore, every religion exists because of the presence of the other. This is why God or life has manifested many religions and philosophies so that a concept of religion and philosophy could exist. They exist in such a manner that man may understand that their existence is illusory and not real. They only appear real.Religion is temporary because it changes and requires time to exist, where there is none. It exists only as thoughts because it disappears in the sleeping state. These are the hallmarks of an illusion. An illusion does not mean it is absent; it is present, but not in the manner the mind says it is. There are many scriptures related to every religion. When the religion is illusory, will not the scriptures be illusory too? In that case every scripture is no better than the other. Truth cannot be known for the known is always dual, and truth cannot be dual for duality is relative and never absolute. If a certain belief of a religion is not found within the confines of another religious scripture, the belief cannot be concluded to be invalid or false.Every belief does not have to be found in every religious scripture; there is no point in repeating the same belief in every religion. God is very intelligent for, if beliefs were the same in every religion, then different religions would not exist: diversity is required for religion to exist. If all religions contained the same beliefs, then there would only be one religion. Before the scriptures were written, they existed in the mind as thoughts. This means that truth, no matter how illusory, cannot be just what is written, and that which is not written can also be the truth, for the written once existed as thoughts in the mind. Therefore, man may speak the truth and it cannot be brushed aside as untruth just because it cannot be found within scriptures. All religions put together are one religion.Duality is the spice of mental life. Diversity is maintained by duality. Diversity makes life not only magnanimous but also projects the illusory as the real. Diversified religion exists so that God may exist. If only one religion existed it would be real and God would not be remembered at all. God would not be remembered because, for God to exist and to be remembered as well, another God would be needed, and the various religions do just that: they provide many Gods. It is fascinating to see that every religion is not content with itself, and it should be if it is real. The constant arguments between religions suggest that every man doubts the religion he belongs to. Knowledge about religion only indicates the capacity of the mind to store information and reproduce it, akin to a computer or a library. A scholar does not signify anything other than this.Man is born without a religion and he obtains the religion that exists in the family. Religion is, therefore, more familial than real. Life is energy and energy alone. Energy has no religion, yet man has a religion: how real could it be? Words and meanings are an auditory illusion of sound and so every religion is illusory rather than real. Religion has driven man away from God rather than bringing him to God, and this is exactly what it is meant to do so that religion and philosophy may exist. If men were made to realize that only God exists and not man, religion would collapse.Religion is just knowledge about God in a particular language. Knowledge is dead because it is in the mind as memory. Since the mind is in the past, religion too is in the past. The mind is not in life, which is the timeless ‘now’, and this means that religion is not in life but in the mind. The mind requires time to exist and science has proved that time does not exist as a physical entity in life. The smallest unit of time measured is ‘atto second’, which is one billionth of a billionth of a second. Life’s occurrences, however, happen in units of time much smaller than an atto second, which is the timeless ‘now’. Religion really means to be united with self. It has not really achieved this but, in fact, has created disunity between humans. This is life’s intelligence to maintain its illusory nature so that man may understand the real meaning of religion.Every religious man defends vigorously that his God is the only one. Now, God is not a matter of yours or mine. God is simply God. Scientifically, God is synonymous with energy, light or just intelligence. God is a philosophical word, but very intelligent nevertheless. The world is varied and so are religion, philosophy and even God. Life merely demonstrates that if anything and everything is varied, even God is varied, and this is why God is who He is imagined to be. Therefore, it is inevitable that God will appear differently in some religions and as many in others. Life also demonstrates that God is nobody or nothing, but also anything and everything. This is evident in some religions in which He is revered as being formless, which is true, and in others as having forms made of any kind of matter: food to indicate taste, incenses to indicate smell, bells to indicate sound and fire to indicate light, which are also true.It is difficult to determine whose God is real and is the first and only one. Every religion defends that their God fits that bill. If any one of the Gods that appeared after the first was real, He would have been the one who would have created the first religion and maintained it until the present day. If the first religion was false, He would have destroyed it, and the reason it cannot be destroyed is because life is energy and energy cannot be destroyed or created. This is proof that God too is energy and anything and everything is merely a reflection of this energy, which appears in the morning and disappears in the night, including religion and philosophy.The world is a manifestation of God or energy and not a creation. No man could have seen the creation to vouch for it, but surely he can understand that the world is and has be a reflection, since it is energy. Therefore, the world and God included has to be peaceful and harmonious. The mind of man is not peaceful, and this restlessness is an auditory illusion of sound, as only light and sound exists in life and not words and meanings. Man merely makes sounds, which appear as language in the mind. Words and meanings cannot exist in life, as time is absent in life.

Man or messenger of God, who has a mind, will always be restless because of duality, which is the hallmark of the mind, and to wish him peace will only be wishful thinking. A true messenger of God, if at all there is one, is an enlightened being, for he lives and realizes that the mind is illusory, so too every religion and philosophy. An enlightened being is always at peace with himself and the world, without knowing that he is. Peace is his nature for it is the nature of nature, and an enlightened being realizes that man is part and parcel of nature and not separated from it. There would be no need to wish him or her peace, for he is peace itself.Peace is the nature of the world, and it has to be if it is energy, no matter in what state it is. So there would no point in fearing it or God. Fear, if observed, is non-existent in the timeless ‘now’. It is always in the mind and, therefore, has to be illusory as is any word. In fear man can never reach God; he would be rotating in his mind hoping to reach God. Fear has been employed by the religious to bring man to God – how ironical. It is ironical that it is the religious who keep man away from God with a promise of bringing him to God. Only God is and man is merely a reflection of God.Philosophy came much later than religion. It was the product of a sophisticated mind. It made its appearance once life expressed logic and reasoning. Philosophy is similar to religion in that there are as many philosophies as there are languages, either rudimentary or sophisticated. If wisdom was real, and it needs to be real if it is wisdom, there would be just one system of philosophy and not such divergence as there is found to be.Many philosophies are needed so that a concept of philosophy may exist. The scenario is the same as with religion. Man would not remember philosophy if there were just one. A contrast provided by a particular philosophy is needed for the existence of another. Hence, philosophy means the love of thinking and not the love of wisdom, as is thought. Every man is a philosopher for thinking happens to him. A true philosopher is he who realises that thinking happens to him and man does not think. He realizes that an action or an experience can exist only in time, and time does not exist in life. He realizes that the mind would be needed to recognize an action or an experience in life, and mind, like time, does not exist in life.A true philosopher is he who realizes that the world, man and mind are a continuous and spontaneous transformation-process of energy which is uncontrollable and unpredictable. He realizes that life is timeless and thoughtless and a manifestation of light and sound, and the experienced world and the experience itself is a world of thoughts – religion and philosophy included. A truly religious man is he who realizes that everything is an expression of God the almighty – religion and philosophy included.© Copyright V.S. Shankar 2008