Fairly frequently true believers leave comments on this blog saying, "Brian, you're so bitter toward religion." This surprises me.
I don't feel bitter toward any religion or spiritual organization, including Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), the India-based group I was an active member of for about thirty-five years. Rather, I'm disappointed about the false claims RSSB promotes in its teachings.
If I buy a car, or a computer, I expect it will function as advertised. If it doesn't, I don't feel bitterness. Just irritation, disappointment, let-down.
Now, how do I know that RSSB, or any religion, makes false claims? I can't know with 100% certainty. This isn't how knowledge works. Even scientists who study the material world never say "I'm absolutely sure X is true."
Truth always is provisional, subject to change via new observations, facts, evidence, research. So are claims of falsehood.
Every morning before I meditate, I say "If there's a god or other supernatural power aware of me, pay a visit; surprise me; show me something of yourself." I'm entirely open to having an experience that makes me cry out Praise Jesus! Praise guru! Praise Allah! Praise Buddha! Praise alien beings! Or praise whoever/whatever.
But I've never had such an experience.
And in my three decades-plus of communicating with many, many other RSSB devotees, before I started this blog and afterward, I've never come across anyone else who had the sort of transcendent, mystical, ultimate-reality knowing, astral traveling, soul-body separating experience the RSSB literature promises.
Most other religions or spiritual practices aren't nearly as specific as RSSB is regarding expectations. Nor, as certain. I bet from the Pope on down, no Christian alive today could say with complete certainty that they know what happens after death, and what the nature of God is.
But Eastern religions such as RSSB are quite different.
They assert that it's possible to become god-realized while in the flesh, to achieve a perfected form of consciousness, to be a "god in human form." The GIHF guru supposedly takes root in each disciple, guiding them both in life and after death, eventually revealing his non-physical nature: spirit ("shabd" in Indian parlance).
So this puts a different slant on what can be expected. Christian ministers don't claim to be god-realized beings. They admit to being seekers of Jesus/God, just as every other Christian is. But certain gurus, such as RSSB's Gurinder Singh, are held up as being God.
Is this possible? Sure. Is it likely? No, not at all.
Stupendous claims require stupendous evidence to be believed.
After more than forty years of examining evidence for and against the claim that some humans have become more than human, possessing powers of omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, and such normally attributed only to God, I've concluded that the evidence (or lack thereof) strongly points toward the RSSB gurus, and others making similar claims, being pretenders.
But I can't understand why someone would make claims about himself, and the spiritiual teachings which he represents, that almost certainly aren't true. After all, every religion -- and there are thousands of them -- makes certain assertions about the nature of a supernatural reality.
Which are contradictory.
They can't all be true, unless we give up the notion of "truth" as referring to anything objective, universal, demonstrable. So the likelihood that any particular religion or spiritual teaching, such as RSSB, is the One True Knowledge of God... that's so small as to be almost non-existent.
I've learned a lot over the past forty years. For that, I'm grateful.
Every experience I've had, including experiences of disappointment, have made me who I am today. But just as I look back with irritation on cars and computers I've bought which didn't perform as advertised, so do I view religions which make false claims.