12065505_10153883937316412_1241185797590292852_nI’m sorry. An Apology from Organized Religion

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is an update of something I wrote in 1998, the year I was ordained as a rabbi. I was searching for a different document on my computer, and, voila, I found this. I’ve edited a little. (I’ve gotten to be a better writer in the past 10 years of writing weekly.)


On behalf of organized religion, I would like to apologize. It seems that we lied and an apology is overdue.

While this isn’t meant to remove responsibility, I’d like to point out three things.

  1. I am certain that, given the same circumstances that we were given, you might have done exactly what we did. (I’m pretty certain.)
  2. I am not telling you anything you haven’t already figured out for yourself.
  3. It wasn’t me (or any other particular member of clergy) who did the lying. It was a group, unconscious thing. Nonetheless, I am going to take responsibility.

We lied when we went along with – and let you believe – stories about God that weren’t true. We lied when we gave you notions, and helped concretize them in your mind: that God is somewhere beyond the sky, sitting in a chair, actively making a note of the good and the bad, or that God exists outside of you.

We corroborated in giving you a notion that God is a supernatural parental figure who made the earth thousands of years ago.

Worse, we knew it. At least some of us did. Some of us knew we were lying.

We corroborated these tall tales because we didn’t know how to explain the idea of the infinite and that you are one and the same as that infinite. You were little. You were a child. You were small, unable to understand concepts of the eternal now, interconnectedness, that you and God are one and the same. So we spoke to you in language that you could understand. We couldn’t explain to you about paradoxicality – that good doesn’t exist without evil or evil without good, that black causes white, inside causes outside.

You couldn’t understand that at the time.

And we didn’t take a chance of explaining it to you like that. Or maybe we were too afraid to try.

Instead, we taught stories from the Bible in which God looks out for the good, the innocent, and those who were trying their best, and we ignored so many other stories. We didn’t tell you those tales. We didn’t tell you the gory, the hard, yet important-to-read passages. And, we let it be implied that the Bible is the most primary, authoritative guide to understanding the nature of God.

I am embarrassed to tell you that we did it thinking we were looking out for your own good.

We did with God what parents do with Santa Claus. We allowed you to believe, and we encouraged you to believe. And, then, well, for many, there was a really hard realization, a hurtful paradigm shift.

All I can tell you is I am sorry.

I am sorry for three things. 1) I am sorry for the hurt it caused you. 2) I am sorry for possible damage it caused in your relationship with organized religion. 3) I am sorry for ways in which those notions have blocked your current, adult understanding of the infinite and how you are at one with it..

God is a concept beyond childhood notions. God is a symbol, an idea, of our highest potential, the most desirable good. God is the totality of those forces in the world that render human life worthwhile. God is the ground of our being. God is what moves us to self-betterment, greater justice, and love.  We “God” when we act as our best selves with love, compassion, and care. God is an eternal presence that cannot be defined, described, or proven. God is always waiting for us to relate to God – wherever we make space for God.

With my apologies,

Rabbi Brian


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