Listen to this passage from The Essential Kabbalah (Harper Collins, edited and translated by Daniel Matt): “The theory of evolution accords with the secrets of Kabbalah better than any other theory. Evolution follows a path of ascent and thus provides the world with a basis for optimism. How can one despair, seeing that everything evolves and ascends? When we penetrate the inner nature of evolution, we find divinity illuminated in perfect clarity.” I find it very interesting that this viewpoint could come out of the mystical branch of one of the world’s great monotheisms. It almost seems to be a direct challenge to conservative Christians today who assert that belief in evolution equals atheism. In the political times we live in, the battle over creationism and evolution rages on, with some intelligent designers scuffling on the sidelines for good measure. But I’ve never understood why someone who believes in an all-powerful god couldn’t also believe in evolution. It seems to me the most supremely optimistic position. Isn’t it liberating to think that the universe is in a constant state of becoming and perfecting itself? A religion professor I had once described the difference between Buddhism and Christianity like this; a Buddhist believes that life has no beginning and a definite end (escape from the cycle of death and rebirth: Nirvana) and a Christian believes that life has a definite beginning and no end (eternal life in Christ: Heaven). This is a very simple comparison, but always makes me pause when I think of it. I don’t know if there is an overarching divine consciousness that guides all creation. I suppose the only god that I could believe in would be one that was so vast and all-encompassing as to be beyond human comprehension. I think that’s why I’ve always been drawn to Buddhism, because it’s a religion without gods. Even the Buddha himself never claimed he was a divine being. He was a human being like you an me who, through great dedication and striving, became a perfectly enlightened person. The truths he taught, he said, were not discovered by him, but were the eternal truths that all the enlightened persons of past times had also taught and will teach in the future. So we have no god, but eternal truths. This I can get behind. In contrast, the god that conservative Christians speak about seems to be, as one of my childhood priests used to put it, “An old man with a white beard writing your sins down on a concrete tablet with an iron pen.” (He used this description to teach us what god was not, by the way). And unless you hitch a ride to Heaven on Jesus’ coattails, you’ll end up in eternal Hell. This seems to be a depressing proposition. I’ve read the New Testament, and the Jesus I see there doesn’t seem like such a bad guy. He was a obviously a learned teacher, a great rabbi. If he came back tomorrow, I’d travel to hear him speak. I believe in his message of unconditional love and forgiveness. I think his way is much more open to all people, regardless of their faith, than the conservatives would have us believe. The Buddha said, like a breath of fresh air, that anyone can become a Buddha. We can all walk the path in whatever way we choose, and none of us should have to fear damnation and hellfire. These are just human concepts. It’s late, it’s hot, and I’m rambling, so I think I’ll close. Why all these thoughts on religion? I’m reading the book I mentioned above, The Essential Kabbalah, and it’s really challenging my notion of what my conception of god and spirituality can be. And who turned me on to the Kabbalah? Madonna, of all people. But that’s a subject for another post. Until then, I’ll be busy constantly becoming who I am. Every new day is an opportunity to discover your true self.