The following is a personal reflection, and the opinions herein represent only the author's views.
What if everything we said and did mattered for all eternity? What if all the good we did, and the hurt we caused, carried over when we died into another, future way of existing? What if this life we're living right now is already part of our eternal life?
Believers in God already say this is true. And yet so many still spend an awful lot of their spirit judging others, and warning them about the peril of their souls. It's as if these people believe God wants them, no, requires them to play God, to judge their neighbor, and threaten them with Hell. Is this the angel within themselves who they aspire to be? The kind with a flaming sword, commanding an army of believers to worship before the Almighty God?
It's troubling to think of anyone believing in a God who works this way, let alone billions of believers thinking this way. I've often laughed at my fellow Christians who love quoting the one little scene in the Gospel accounts where Jesus overturns the money-changers' tables in the temple. This is the Jesus they see. This is the version of that great man they choose to focus on. Judgment. Anger. Violence.
But guess what? The opposite doesn't make much sense either! C.S. Lewis offers us this gem: "We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven—a senile benevolence who, as they say, 'liked to see young people enjoying themselves', and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of the day, 'a good time was had by all'." This kind of path is filled with thorns all its own.
So what are we left with when either end is dismissed as a little too extreme? We're left with the same thing we've always had: basic moral principles. Yes, we disagree on a lot of things as Americans and as human beings. The death penalty, abortion, and marriage rights for gays are just a few.
As human beings, whether or not we believe in a deity, there are certain moral principles we all hold true. Killing is wrong. Raping is wrong. Stealing is wrong. So if these we all agree on, why can't we also reach common ground on more? Why can't we get to a place where we see the universal truth in honest, true living? If we believe a man and a woman who love each other are allowed to marry, why do we not allow two other people in love the right to marry? If a man has broken our agreed-on moral code, and killed a person or persons, why do we then break the same moral code to kill him as punishment? In short, why do the truths we hold so dear suddenly bend when we're talking other people's human experience? Why should the moral code apply differently?
If we truly believe God is up there, or out there, or within us, or maybe all of the above, why do we still treat one another as if God is not in them? Why do we do the complete opposite of turning the other cheek, and actually go after people we believe are living in so-called sin?
The greatest moral truth I've learned, and I hope others will too, is that every single soul, living and deceased, is my brother and my sister. Mother Teresa is my sister, but Adolf Hitler is also my brother. Love has no clauses attached to it. There's no "yes, but" phrases. I just love. Do I see great darkness in some souls? Of course! As does God. But if we truly believe in the soul within, we believe that every one of us was created by a loving God-parent who must absolutely scream in horror when one of the children does something heinous and evil.
Here's the thing about seeing your own inner angel: you cannot really see goodness inside if you hold hatred outside. You cannot really love God if you do not love all of God's children. What man dates a woman and promises to love her, but hates her children? The woman would not allow it. You want to mistreat or abuse my kid? Then you don't love me! And God works the same way! God wants us to see with God's eyes, and love with a potential for forgiveness far above what the human "norm" would be.
The search for our inner angel is a quick one when we live life like a being of love. But when we live this life like a commander in an army, patting ourselves on the back for keeping God's soldiers in line, we only reveal our own darkness. God lives in light, and love lives in light.
There's a fun phrase I've heard, "You can't get into Heaven on the backs of other people's sins." And I think the real truth in this can be found in the imagery. If one of our sisters and brothers is struggling, even if they've dropped to the lowest depths of unconscionable action, we cannot leave them behind, because he's our brother, and she's our sister, and that's the only reason we need.
Our inner angel is capable of some amazing Godlike tendencies, but only if we are really, really in touch with our inner selves. You can pray on this if that helps you, or meditate, or do any other spiritual practice that works for you, but you must, must, must find out who you really are, who your soul really is, before you dare preach God's "rules" to any other person. God is Love. We are Love. And it's time we start acting like it.
Sean Patrick Brennan is the author of Heaven, Hell, and the Planet In Between, available for purchase on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Heaven-Hell-Planet-In-Between/dp/1484090187 and through online bookstores everywhere. His second book, The Papal Visitor will be published in February, 2014.
An accomplished writer with a unique background and history, Sean is also a former monk, a Publishers Clearing House deputy, and a social activist on a national and international level.