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An essay donated by Susan Humphreys

It is all about Qi -- attaining a just society so
that every person has the opportunity to thrive.

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IT is all about Qi.

I am most concerned about what WE need to do to create a more just society, a place where ALL people can feel accepted and welcomed, whatever their religious belief or non-belief, their gender, their sexual orientation, their gender idenity, their country of origin or ethnicity….. A place where ALL people can have the opportunity to reach their full potential as human beings.

I have come to realize that IT is all about Qi, creating a climate where people not only survive but where they have the opportunity to thrive, to become the best that they can be.

I don’t worry about a person’s beliefs or non-belief, about what church they attend or don’t attend, about the doctrine of salvation they accept, those are matters between them and their God or their conscience. Instead I think we should focus on those things that affect all of us, our day to day actions towards our fellow man and how we treat our planet.

Some people don’t believe in God.  Some people don’t believe in the Divinity of Jesus. What does it matter? Does it make them bad people if they don’t believe in God or the Divinity of Jesus? Does it make the world a dangerous place? Some are afraid God will abandon them and our nation if others refuse to believe in God or in Jesus. 

Some people don’t believe that they need to be saved, they don’t accept the doctrine of original sin. Some have found their salvation, whether others believe it or not, in other ways, through practicing other religious beliefs, or through finding themselves. Some claim no one will be saved if they don’t accept Jesus as their savior; good works have nothing to do with salvation. A person’s salvation is an issue between them and their God or their conscience. Quite bluntly it is nobody’s business but their own. 

What does it matter? Does it make them bad people if they have found their salvation through other means? Many Christians believe that it does matter as evidenced by some of the essays on this website. That belief and their failure to recognize and acknowledge the basic “goodness” of others creates distrust and ill will between believers and non-believers, between Christians and people of other faiths. It has spawned the religious wars that continue to tear our world apart. It creates a climate that hinders and harms people not one that benefits and encourages people. 

Why am I not concerned about another person’s salvation? There are many reasons. Basically I think all will be saved or none will be saved. IF there is a God I think He is big enough to grant his grace to everyone, regardless of their beliefs, regardless of their “goodness” or lack thereof. Grace by its very definition means that it is freely given, there are no strings attached. If one has to believe in this or that, accept Jesus as their savior, follow the letter of the law, or accept the right doctrines then what God is granting isn’t grace, it is a quid pro quo, bribery or coercion.

In the Bible we are told in Matthew 7:15-20 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

I interpret fruits to mean their day to day actions, their words, how they treat their fellow man.

Who is the false prophet? The writers of Matthew 25:31 to the end of the passage and of Revelations 20:11 to the end of the passage who say that we are all judged by our day to day actions or the writer of John14:6 that says you will only be saved if you accept Jesus as your savior? Or Paul  in Romans 10:9 who claims you must believe in Jesus resurrection? All of those passages are in the Bible. Which passage is telling the TRUTH and which passage is the LIE? Does it even matter? I don’t think that it does.

Quite honestly I think I can tell if someone has found their way, found their salvation. You can see it in their actions, in how they treat their fellow man. The importance placed on our day to day actions for me isn’t about winning salvation, it shows the world whether a person has found it! It is to use the old cliché, about practicing what you preach.

Nothing any person has written trying to tell me that I am wrong and they are right has convinced me to change my beliefs. It has only convinced me that I am right and they are wrong! And I am sure that I won’t convince “true believers” that I am right and they are wrong. So where does all of this lead us?

I have spent a great deal of time and effort educating myself about the Bible, its history, what is known about the writers, about the history of Palestine and the Middle East. I have taken the time and made the effort to learn about the teachings of other religions, by reading their sacred texts and reading the writings of our secular thinkers and philosophers. I have come to realize that there is a common thread that runs through all of  this. IF there is any “truth” to be found in this world it seems to me that it must be that which all of these religions and secular philosophies have figured out. IT is not about right beliefs, right doctrine/dogma, practicing the right sacraments, or following the letter of the Law, IT is all about Qi!

From Wikipedia we learn Qi is often translated as the “life force” in Chinese philosophy. Concepts similar to Qi are found in the idea of prana in Vedantic philosophy, mana in Hawaiian culture, lung in Tibetan Buddhism, and Vital energy in Western philosophy. It is the Anima mundi in the philosophy of the Stoics. As well as the concept of  “the breath or light of God” in the three main monotheisms, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Even in the “good and bad vibes” of the hippies of the 60s and 70s! 

Is this force a positive, freeing, uplifting, encouraging, empowering, uniting force or a negative, restrictive, downgrading, discouraging, corrupting, dividing force? Failure to realize that this force can be both has created many problems for mankind. 

Americans are disturbed by the desire of Muslims to create Islamic States. They don’t see their own drive to create a Christian country, (or of Jews to create a Jewish state) in the same light. It seems to me their goals, and reasoning are similar. 

Some Muslims realize that it is important to have the “light of God” permeate your whole existence and when it does, you won’t be able to help it, you will live a godly life. Karen Armstrong points out in her book, “The Battle for God, A History of Fundamentalism” p. 257:

“If they lived in a divinely ordered milieu, impelled by the law of the land to live exactly as God intended, they themselves and the meaning of their lives would be transformed.”

As well as I might add the lives of everyone in the country. In this passage she is talking about the attitude of Iranians but she could be talking about the attitude of fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians here in the US. 

In some areas of Judaism it wasn’t any different, Armstrong quotes Pinchas Rosenbluth, one of the pioneers of Zionist Orthodoxy:

“We accept upon ourselves the entire Torah, its commandments and ideas. The (old) Orthodoxy made do in fact with a small part of the Torah, observed in synagogue or the family…or certain areas of life. We want to carry out Torah all the time and in every area, to grant (Torah) and its laws sovereignty in the life of the individual and the public.” p. 259

Armstrong also writes:

“In Christian theology, hell had been defined as the absence of God.” p. 200 The goal was to unite people with God and make this world a goodly (Godly) place.

Unfortunately the outcome  of the doctrines and dogma men have created has been to take people away from the godly/goodly side of their nature and bring out the worst side of their nature.

It seems to me that the whole idea of “loving God with all your heart, soul and mind” Matthew 22: 36-40 was based on this basic idea that doing so would focus your mind on the ideals of goodness and cause you to behave as God would, in a goodly fashion. The same could be seen with accepting Jesus into your heart. The emphasis given by many about the purpose being for salvation, to gain eternal life in heaven, seems to me to have missed the point altogether. It was about becoming a better person, focusing your mind on Jesus would help you to behave as Jesus behaved. Instead it seems that many behave in ways that neither God nor Jesus would find acceptable.

The fear with many in all three faiths was that without God in the lives of the people there would be no restraint, life would be a bacchanalian debauchery and God would abandon everyone, even the holy ones, and nothing but chaos would prevail. Thus the need to make everyone in the country conform to their ideals, to their laws whether that of Shariah, Torah, or the Ten Commandments.

There is another thing that some in all of these monotheisms seem to have in common, a belief that their truths are absolute, self-evident and universal, and should be binding upon everyone believers and non-believers. They can’t seem to understand why others reject their beliefs, why they refuse to believe what they believe.

Some secularists seem to see only the BAD in religion and don’t want to have anything to do with it. I call them secularists rather than Atheists because some do have a concept of a higher power they just haven’t endowed that power with anthropomorphic characteristics and abilities. To be honest I can’t blame them. It seems that many “Christians” have missed what I see as the basic teachings, compassion and love for others, caring for those less fortunate. I’d think that if they recognized these teachings as primary to their own religion they would recognize the basic “goodness” in other people that practice these teachings in their lives whatever their faith or non faith.

I have begun to think that American Conservatism is actually contrary to, incompatible with the teachings of Jesus. Jesus teaches us to turn the other cheek, Conservatives want to see people get their just deserts, the sinners punished. Jesus teaches us to forgive others their sins as we hope to have our own forgiven. Conservatives want their sins forgiven but they aren’t willing to forgive others their sins and they actually seem to take pleasure in the idea or hope that God won’t forgive the sins of their enemies but bring fearful torments down upon them. Conservatives support unfettered Capitalism yet we know that unfettered Capitalism knows no bounds; it exploits workers, uses any means it can to get the advantage over others, it manipulates any and all for personal gain. Those don’t seem like anything Jesus would value. Conservatives want to restrict social welfare programs, Jesus tells us “the least you did to one of these who are my brothers you did unto me.” Matthew 25: 31 to end of passage. 

Secularists realize that laws and mythologies were designed for different people at a different stage of their development. Life and the world have changed and they understand that we must change with it or wither and die. Rules appropriate for a certain time and place aren’t appropriate for our time and place. But that doesn’t mean they have no values, no morality, no constraints on their behavior. Their values derive from their basic understandings of the commonalities with other humans and living things and their recognition that this is the only planet we have and we had better learn to take care of it rather than exploiting it for personal gain.

Some religious folk seem to see only the BAD in secularism. They fail to realize that many of their religious ideals originated outside their religion. The Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you) is a prime example, a teaching that is found in many religions and an idea that appears to have originated with the very early Pagan Greeks. Rabbi Hillell when asked to explain Torah said:

“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole of Torah, all the rest is commentary.” 

When Jesus when asked what the two most important commandments were, he said:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

Passage #54 in the Tao Teh Ching states that when goodness rules the rulers and the lives of the people, goodness will rule the land:

“What is well planted cannot be uprooted. What is well embraced cannot slip away.”

“Cultivate Virtue in your own person, And it becomes a genuine part of you.

Cultivate it in the family, And it will abide.

Cultivate it in the community, And it will live and grow.

Cultivate it in the state, And it will flourish abundantly.

Cultivate it in the world, And it will become universal.”

Unfortunately far too many can’t even agree on what the simplest of virtues are and refuse to see any virtue in the lives or teachings of those “others”, all of those that aren’t just like them. 

Is yours a religion or secular philosophy:

  • Of fear and hate or of love and compassion? OR do you just give lip service to the “love and compassion” bit while living a life of “fear and hate?
  • Do the doctrines and dogmas, the rules and laws of your religion belittle and demean the “other” the person that isn’t like you? Do they justify and sanctify your persecution of those that are different: the homosexual, those of other faith traditions or of no faith, liberals, the educated, women who get abortions….?
  • Does the doctrine or dogma help you cultivate feelings of compassion for -- or fear of -- the “other”?
  • Do they restrict people, hold them back, or enable them to reach their full potential as human beings: encouraging education and the acquisition of knowledge?

  • Do they teach you to respect our environment and other living things or encourage your exploitation of our planets resources for personal gain?  

I have said many times, it isn’t what religion you follow or whether you follow any all that matters are our day to day actions, how we treat our fellow man, especially those that are different from us, and how we treat other living things and our planet. By this we show the world what “force” rules our lives, the force for good or the force for bad. 

Is your life ruled by good Qi or have you allowed it to be taken over and ruled by the bad? When you practice the good (the godly) in yourself in consideration for how you treat others, your life will be filled with good Qi. Practice evil in how you behave towards others and your life will be filled with bad Qi. It really is quite simple and all of the world’s religions and secular philosophies have taught this most “fundamental” of all principles.

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Post Script:

I just finished reading Karen Armstrong’s book. Towards the end she commented about a document that appeared after the assassination of Anwar Sadat. In it the statement was made that “the sword was the only way to establish a just society.” I thought: wait a minute, something is wrong here. 

I was also thinking about the old saying that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” and realized that was only part of the picture. I think it misses the reality that power also causes myopia, it causes the one in power to see what he wants to see, not what is actually happening as we are witnessing happening so tragically in Syria with Bashar al-Assad. It also causes myopia in the sense of deciding to do what is immediately expedient and not being able to see the long term consequences, thus his justification for the attacks on his own people. 

It also causes myopia in others where the “power” of their convictions blind them to the basic goodness in others and the harm their “beliefs”  and day to day actions bring down upon others.  

I realized that once you use oppressive tactics to establish a “just” society, to overthrow a tyrant, or put down a rebellion, or to bring about God’s heaven upon earth or establish his reign over society, you have simply created another “unjust society.” “Once you become that which you abhor, you have lost the war.” 

From my minimal understanding of the Qur'an I think Mohammed understood this as shown by the passages that address issues of when to fight and how to treat prisoners etc. 

I think this is also what the meaning of Qi is about: you build a just society with just tactics that treat all people equally, fairly and create the opportunities they need to become the best that they can be. Good Qi will fill the land and for those that believe in God, God will walk amongst you. You build an unjust society with unjust tactics and bad Qi will rule the day and God will be driven away.

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Original posting: 2013-FEB-26
Latest update: 2013-FEB-26
Author: Susan Humphreys

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References added by the slightly intrusive webmaster:

  1. Google defines "Qi" as: "The circulating life force whose existence and properties are the basis of much Chinese philosophy and medicine." It was also brilliantly chosen by the Wireless Power Consortium to refer to their standards for wireless charging of cell phones and other portable devices. These systems transfer power indiscriminately to recharge a variety of types of devices. It also refers to "Quite Interesting" -- the name of a TV comedy program in the UK in which panelists are rated according to their responses being "quite interesting" rather than being correct.
  2. book cover image Karen Armstrong, "The Battle for God, A History of Fundamentalism," Ballantine Books (2001).

    Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store

Amazon.com's book review:

"In our supposedly secular age governed by reason and technology, fundamentalism has emerged as an overwhelming force in every major world religion. Why? This is the fascinating, disturbing question that bestselling author Karen Armstrong addresses in her brilliant new book The Battle for God. Writing with the broad perspective and deep understanding of human spirituality that won huge audiences for A History of God, Armstrong illuminates the spread of militant piety as a phenomenon peculiar to our moment in history.

Contrary to popular belief, fundamentalism is not a throwback to some ancient form of religion but rather a response to the spiritual crisis of the modern world. As Armstrong argues, the collapse of a piety rooted in myth and cult during the Renaissance forced people of faith to grasp for new ways of being religious--and fundamentalism was born. Armstrong focuses here on three fundamentalist movements: Protestant fundamentalism in America, Jewish fundamentalism in Israel, and Islamic fundamentalism in Egypt and Iran--exploring how each has developed its own unique way of combating the assaults of modernity.

Blending history, sociology, and spirituality, The Battle for God is a compelling and compassionate study of a radical form of religious expression that is critically shaping the course of world history."

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