In Gratitude . . .
Contents Foreword by Arun Gandhi Preface Introduction Chapter One Worshipping by
Chapter Two A Bigger Picture of Human Progress The Cycle Theory • Moving Past the Dark
Ages • Avenues to Knowledge Chapter Three An Alternative to Organized Religion
Chapter Four Testing Today’s Choices
Religion never satisfied me, and often infuriated me. Though I was raised to be a Jew, I thought
of myself first and foremost as a human being and never viewed myself as wiser, luckier, or
happier because my parents were Jewish or I adhered to the accepted truths of their religious
tradition. To my mind, I would grow emotionally, intellectually, and socially only by
understanding what was universally right and natural in life, why these things were right and
natural, and how to live accordingly.
After years of attending Hebrew school, I rebelled against the dogma I had been taught there. In
college I focused instead on subjects requiring the use of logic that appealed to my scientific
mind—physics, mathematics, engineering. However, I eventually found that while the material
sciences could answer some questions concerning how the world worked, they could not
explain why it existed at all, nor could they offer personal direction or prescribe an ethical way to
Searching further, I investigated yogic techniques. I began practicing concentration exercises,
breath regulation, and more sophisticated methods of pranayama (sense introversion),
eventually entering a monastic order. There, I implemented an inner science requiring intuitive
observation to address the questions unresolved by my earlier scientific studies. While intensely
practicing pranayama over the next decade, I came to realize that human self-awareness was a
fragment of an expansive substance extending throughout the cosmos—a far more universal
presence than that proposed by many organized religions. God, if I could call it that, was
everything, and being godlike meant to actively identify with, and not merely tolerate, more and
more people. Understanding that the idea of God signified absolute unity in a larger sense of
self, I concluded that anyone advocating unquestioning loyalty to a restrictive group such as a
faith, ethnicity, or nation was in fact promoting the fall of humanity by advancing its division.
Following these realizations, I also knew I could play a part in introducing the idea of expansive
awareness to people who had given up on a larger idea of God out of either disillusionment with
organized religion or lack of intuitive direction. I knew, too, that before sharing my discoveries
with others I had to learn more: I needed to comprehend why people cling to their religions; to
assess various religions from a historical perspective; and to understand them in the contexts of
psychology, sociology, physiology, mythology, cosmology, theology, and ontology.
Consequently, in addition to earning my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in religion, philosophy,
Hebrew, and Sanskrit, I spent six years studying the larger implications of organized religion’s
In the process, I learned that religions were never intended to support the search for expansive
ideas and are actually antithetical to them. Probing further, I discovered that human beings
aspired to know God as an infinite substance of self-awareness long before religions were
established, suggesting that the genuine worship of a larger idea of God could outlive the
narrow forms of self-worship currently in existence. Simultaneously, I found an unholy trinity of
political, economic, and religious forces fostering and perpetuating massive greed, poverty, and
ignorance. I then began to work with people seeking a more unifying and responsible
understanding of God.
God Without Religion: Questioning Centuries of Accepted Truths was written to encourage a
redefinition of the idea of God as the very act of expanding the sense of self; to reveal how
organized religion has been destructive to individual societies and humanity as a whole; and to
inspire a more inclusive embrace of the enormous potential of humanity’s collective awareness.
This book questions religious interpretations of historical events, as well as the goals and
divisive beliefs that religion espouses, the perilous rift between scientific and intuitive inquiry,
and the intellectual honesty of many mystical and spiritual movements. It is aimed at the
countless scientists, philosophers, academicians, and other professionals who, while signing off
on institutionalized forms of worship, may have thrown out the baby of expansive spiritual ideals
along with the bathwater of organized religion. It is also for Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews,
Christians, Mormons, Jains, and Taoists who realize violence is provoked by ideologies that, in
championing exclusivity, promote contentiousness and bigotry. Ultimately this book is for people
who want to see an end to the destructive influence of organized religion and cult-like spiritual
movements and who seek a more fulfilling understanding of the images and ideals of God
through approaches that place the expansion of their awareness in their own hands, making
them more self-reliant. It is my hope that by encouraging an inner search for God—the
substance of awareness underlying everything—based on timeless techniques beneficial to
personal freedom, this book contributes to a broadening of perspectives around the world,
culminating in the eventual unification of humanity.
Not to engage in this pursuit of ideas is to live like ants instead of like men.
—Mortimer J. Adler
Faced with the complexities, confusions, and contradictions of the modern world, many people
are beginning to examine their religious beliefs in light of their longing for a more meaningful
sense of life. Some individuals, while asking challenging questions about the religious beliefs
handed down to them in childhood, are uncovering seedbeds of prejudice and divisiveness.
Others, exploring spiritual movements, are finding many to be as dogmatic as organized
religions. People dissatisfied with dogma, prejudice, and group persuasion change radically
when they independently embark on a journey of self-exploration.
Two steps are involved in questioning one’s views about God and seeking personal knowledge
of a more expansive idea of God. The seeker’s first step is to assess his reliance on beliefs
instilled in him by spiritual leaders, teachers, self-appointed gurus, or well-intentioned parents or
friends. It is important to realize that the truth of an idea cannot be established based on the
authority of its proponents. In fact, because of their positions some religious leaders no longer
engage in actively seeking the truth. Ultimately, only when individuals are free to challenge
authority do intellectual and emotional growths become possible.
The seeker’s second step in preparing for a broader understanding of God is to use his own
intellectual faculties to evaluate his beliefs. A critical investigation of being repulsed by or
attracted to beliefs increases the willingness to take responsibility for our reactions and also
nurtures self-reliance. My work with students in recent years demonstrates that by holding
beliefs up to the mirror of reason it is possible not only to have a profound understanding of past
ideas of God but to identify in the present with a more expansive ideal of God.
While evaluating an organized religion handed down to them, many people stop short upon
discovering the goodness of an entrenched belief system that teaches such principles as loving
your neighbor and doing God’s work. However, just as machines that squeeze oranges are
rated not by the health value of orange juice but by their effectiveness in producing juice,
organized religions need to be evaluated in terms of their practical influence in the world rather
than the ideals they preach, which existed long before the advent of religion. When viewed
through this lens, it becomes clear that any good accomplished by an organized religion could
have come about without the artifice of a belief system, while the faith’s violent outcomes could
not be mitigated by attributing them to God’s will. Compared with religionists, secularists are just
as worthy of emulation when they serve others, and no more culpable when they commit crimes
Pressing beyond the positive biases of an inherited religion proves to be extremely beneficial. It
unveils negative biases rooted in the seeker’s religious background. It also furnishes training in
individual and collective psychology, providing tools for penetrating the mysteries of the mind,
including the extremes of human behavior, the need for deeper meaning in life, and the paradox
of our existence as thinking creatures aware of our mortality yet aspiring to overcome it. Many
great thinkers who rejected religious beliefs in an afterlife still pursued quests for immortality by
striving to improve the human condition through their deeds.
But the study of only one organized religion, as helpful as it is, affords little insight into the
overall impact of religion on humanity. For this, we must turn to the study of religious history—a
horror story of immense proportions. An examination of religious history reveals that adherents
of all faiths have consistently sought immortality at the cost of their earthly existence. Religions
fostering a desire to be in a sectarian heaven do not inspire peace in their followers but instead
tend to provoke injustices. Even religions that consider suicide a sinful act indoctrinate their
followers with beliefs that breed inner turmoil, leading to a slow death. And sadly, the lives of
“infidels” and “heretics” have historically been even more disposable in the adherents’ bids for
Another awareness gleaned from religious studies is that religions routinely claim to deliver
ultimate expressions of truth, often judging followers of other religions as inferior, or worse,
dupes of some evil power. Ultraorthodox Jewish sects teach their adherents that the Jewish
soul is chosen or superior to the souls of gentiles—dogma that many Jews accept with pride.
Asian Buddhist sects for centuries approached the search for truth as if it were a competitive
sport in which they excelled through one-upmanship. Fundamentalist Christians inform followers
that people who do not believe in Jesus go to hell, including those who lived before him, never
heard of him, or were raised to believe in another god. Similarly, Muslims tell their followers that
Muhammad is the last of Allah’s messengers and that Allah’s final word must be heard and
obeyed by all; for radical fundamentalists of terrorist organizations and the Islamic State, this
means the whole world must convert to their version of Islam or die.
Organized religions have done much harm by professing the superiority of their followers and
creating such divisive categories as true believers and godless heathens, God’s righteous
chosen ones and pagans, the heaven bound and hell bound, and the enlightened and
unspiritual. Overtly, “us against them” distinctions attract congregants by psychologically
empowering them. Covertly, they forge polarized perceptions and a distorted view of human
abuses, catalyzing endless violence.
In addition, religious scriptures of all persuasions have imperiled humanity’s freedom of thought
and pursuit of liberty. Playing on fears of the faithful, scriptural writings exalt those who follow
blindly, attack brave questioners who entertain honest doubts, and threaten dissenters with a
lifetime of guilt. These writings work insidiously in the minds of the faithful who, intolerant of
criticism, have gone on to incite witch hunts and religious wars, resulting in immeasurable
bloodshed between religions and within them.
Historically, some of the greatest evils have emerged from displays of holiness. It was usually
zealots, sure they had heard the voice of God, who fueled the fires of fear and hatred, directing
them toward religious sects, ethnic groups, racial minorities, and women. Humanity is still
suffering from the fanaticism of individuals influenced by canonized books espousing erroneous
ideas, theologies based on superstition, unscientific cosmologies, false expectations, and
unethical commands. And not surprisingly, wherever ethnic or racial minorities or women are
treated as inferior, the landscape is parched with ignorance and fear. If there is a useful purpose
served by religions that continue to disempower any portion of the human race, it can only be in
inspiring us to prevent history from repeating itself.
God Without Religion examines the past effects of organized religion and offers more direct
avenues to expansive self-knowledge for the present and future. Chapter 1, “Worshipping by
Wondering,” explores our present understanding of God within the historical context of various
religions; this invitation to worship by wondering rather than believing opens pathways for
questioning popular definitions of God while simultaneously observing the effects of belief
systems on the human mind. Chapter 2, “A Bigger Picture of Human Progress,” shows how we
arrived at this point; challenging linear notions of progress, it introduces an ancient model of
human progress and degeneration as a means for historically positioning both the rise of
religion and humanity’s intellectual and intuitive potential for universalizing an expansive idea of
God. Chapter 3, “An Alternative to Organized Religion,” presents the theory of self, a
nondualistic option for realizing knowledge of the substance of self-awareness at the substratum
of existence; this theory portrays intuition as a verifiable, repeatable, and unbiased
psychophysical science. Chapter 4, “Testing Today’s Choices,” weighs the merits of modern
spiritual movements, points out the pitfalls of Western approaches to Eastern spiritual traditions,
and illustrates ways to expand the sense of self beyond narrow religious, spiritual, and historical
Interspersed throughout each chapter are techniques to aid in the search for answers to
questions concerning our existence—better answers than those furnished by organized religion.
These techniques are universal, having been passed down in one form or another through
ascetic and philosophical disciplines. When practiced regularly, they help uncover not only
better answers to spiritual questions but also better questions. And with better questions comes
increased personal freedom on one’s path to self-knowledge and a more expansive concept of
God. Readers embarking on this path are advised to prepare for moments of discomfort
following the release of one familiar belief after another. Eventually, in ceasing to identify with a
narrowing belief system, your identity will grow, enlarged by the very questions you have
embodied. And with your newly expanded identity you will be more knowledgeable in matters of
the self, for the more we question any aspect of life the better we come to know and internalize
it. Of the many ghosts from the past currently haunting humanity, few are as damaging as
religion’s outdated dogma and divisive practices. The dogma poses a barrier to intellectual and
spiritual expansiveness, and the divisiveness a barrier to world peace. In vigorously challenging
these walls until they crumble, we become the architects of our own thoughts, unfettered by
conventional forms of worship and free at last to unravel the mystery of God from within.
Worshipping by Wondering
“What Is God?”
God offers to every mind a choice between truth and repose. Take which you please—you can
never have both.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Wonder is the gateway to knowledge. A person entering this gateway seeking self-knowledge
would ask penetrating questions about the historical and spiritual nature of God, and the more
questions the individual asked, the more profound the answers would be, leading to deeper
questions. Constantly challenging our conclusions and refining our understanding of God
prevents us from stagnating, both intellectually and spiritually. Simultaneously, these acts of
wonder keep us perpetually engaged in a sophisticated form of worship.
It is also possible to worship by believing other people’s theological conclusions, but this
approach often erects barriers to intellectual and spiritual growth. Individuals who
unquestioningly accept their inherited beliefs about God end up harboring a narrow view of
themselves, humanity, and the natural world. Others tend to challenge their inherited provincial
beliefs, hastily adopting the conclusions of a teacher whose answers to spiritual questions are
more universal, encompassing expansive love, more people, and broader knowledge; but
without testing these answers firsthand, worshippers are unable to personally experience them.
In both instances, the unchallenged acquiescence to precepts pronounced by others inhibits
Worshipping by wondering does the opposite, continually revealing the next step forward. While
wondering about and raising questions within the vast subject of God, a person advances
because of the liberating knowledge gained through personal exploration. And the more
questions asked, the more inclusive perspectives will be because renewed questioning
inherently erodes the barriers posed by beliefs. This means that each time the questioner
integrates a more refined answer, not only will ideas of God expand but also the sense of self.
Step by step, refined answers broaden our personal and social identities by catalyzing
intellectual and emotional freedom.
A good starting point for wondering about God is to ask the question “What is God?” Answers to
this question have historically incited violence between religious followers with clashing replies.
However, seeking knowledge without religion eliminates preformulated answers that divide
humanity into warring groups of people with differing beliefs. This question rouses even atheists
and anti-theists, who piqued by intellectual honesty will admit to having been swayed less by the
spirit of inquiry into the history and nature of God than by religion’s poor answers. Though
answers furnished by organized religions often lead to complacency and divisiveness, to call
them unquestionably “wrong” would belie the spirit of wondering. For atheists, agnostics, and
religionists alike, the anguish a poor answer engenders can prompt further contemplation,
investigation, and imagination.
In asking What is God? sincere truth-seekers resist the temptation to remain in a comfort zone
and instead keep reaching for new and better answers. They recognize that the solace drawn
from earlier convictions prevented them from contemplating more viable possibilities. They also
see many answers that once furnished a sense of security as no longer useful, or worse, as
stifling or superstitious. Rejecting pat answers, they embrace the uncertainty inherent in
discovery and prepare to continually exchange old comfort zones for new realizations.
Tirelessly asking questions about historical accounts and the nature of God is also a path of
scientific investigation. Just as material scientists investigate the cosmos, intuitive scientists
seeking a better understanding of God explore the inner space of the human mind—the source
of beliefs about God. In both endeavors, hard and fast answers suppress free thinking; hence,
material and intuitive scientists alike, propelled by the spirit of sincere wonder, question their
own answers and even doubt them. Wonder, it turns out, is not only a sure-fire method of
inquiry into the subject of God and our emerging ideas of self but also a potent antiseptic for a
mind flooded with accepted truths passed down for centuries by organized religion. Though the
washing away of tainted views can be uncomfortable, it leaves the intellect free to exercise its
potential and the eyes cleared of inherited myopia.
Unaware of the decontamination awaiting them, many spiritual investigators start asking What is
God? in the context of the religious tradition that forged their earliest impressions of God. But
they soon find that penetrating inquiries directed to religious authorities are generally
discouraged because the religion’s continued survival depends on wide acceptance of the
answers already provided. For centuries the Catholic Church, for example, excommunicated or
killed members who dared to question its dogma. Today, some religious authorities still use
evocative words such as heresy, devil, and Maya to undermine the human propensity for
wonder. In the extreme, threats of violence are issued, forcefully coercing people to adhere to
orthodoxy and indoctrinate children according to accepted truths. Organized religion routinely
capitalizes on the insecurity individuals feel when their views are at odds with group persuasion.
Spiritual investigators meet with resistance from well-intentioned congregants, who inform them
that the answer to What is God? emerges from faith. These encounters awaken a realization
that religious faith leads to one answer only, whereas investigative perseverance ushers in a
lifetime of questions and little interest in settling comfortably on any answer. It also becomes
clear that faith based on religious dogma glorifies matters pertaining to destination, often
resulting in a devaluing of human life and overdependence on a presumed afterlife, while
sincere inquiry celebrates the journey of life.
In pursuing answers to What is God? within the confines of a synagogue, church, or mosque,
spiritual investigators begin by peeling off layers of accepted truths and challenging their most