Neale Donald Walsch on the Myth of Betterness


Neale Donald Walsch

I love this essay by Neale Donald Walsch. It eloquently expresses the “ego vs. spirit” and “cooperation vs. competition” conflicts. Walsch, author of the groundbreaking Conversations with God books, also contributed a story to my book, Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything. Read an excerpt here.

by Neale Donald Walsch

A “cultural story” is a story we tell ourselves about how life is. It is based on fiction and has nothing to do with reality, yet it persists, because it is told over and over again – and acted out – by the members of our species who have an interest in perpetuating it. Others follow the model.

Our biggest cultural story, the one we have held onto the longest and that has spread the farthest, is The Story of Separation. In this story, we imagine ourselves to be separate from God, and therefore separate from each other. As with most cultural myths, this story has nothing to do with reality. Yet it persists, and has informed our individual and collective ideas and actions for millennia.

In truth, God and we are One. There is no separation, no disunity. And in truth, our fellow humans and we are One. There is no separation, no disunity. We are as different parts of the One Body, called Humanity. Yet we do not know this, or, if we know it, we cannot accept it. Our culture will not allow us to.

Out of our cultural Story of Separation comes the idea of “competition,” for if we are separate from each other, then we are each on our own, and must compete with each other for the limited resources which we need to survive. This is how the “story” goes. It is not the truth, but it is a long-told story, and we believe it. And so, it might as well be the “truth,” since what you believe will be true enough for you.

Out of our cultural Story of Competition comes the idea of “better,” for if we are competing with each other, we must have a reason for declaring that our claim to that for which we are competing – food, land, resources, rewards of one kind or another – is the claim that should be honored.

This reason, we tell ourselves, is that we are better than our opponents. We deserve to win. They deserve to lose. This judgment about our relative goodness, or “betterness,” allows us to justify our actions. Any actions, really, that we feel we have to take in order to “win.” And there’s the rub. For it is what we DO when we imagine ourselves to be “better” that sets the stage for the human tragedy.

In the name of our “betterness” we humans not only knock down and punch in the face other hockey players, we not only use “unnecessary roughness” on our football fields – some of us “ethnically cleanse” entire nations. Some of us claim prerogatives, or hog resources, which are not really ours. Some of us dominate and rule over others who we imagine to be “beneath us,” condemning them to lives of quiet desperation. And, in our worst-case scenarios, some of us kill others.

That’s right, we actually end the life of others of our own species, because we believe we have a “better” way of approaching God, or a “better” method of governing, or a “better” economic justification for our actions, or a “better” reason for claiming the land.

This is exactly what was happening in Kosovo. It is what has happened before in our human history, and it is what will happen again, unless those who write our Cultural Story do so in a new way.

At Columbine High School it was said to be, in part at least, the constant taunting by others who thought themselves to be “better” that placed in the hearts of the young student gunmen, anger enough to kill. This does not, and can never, excuse their actions. It might, if we are willing to look at ourselves, explain them.

And who are the creators and writers of our human story? I believe that they are, amazingly, our religions.

It is our religions that, from the beginning, have told us about ourselves. They’ve told us who we are, and what to believe about ourselves and others. And it is religions that have fostered and furthered the Myth of Betterness.

Religions teach their followers that they are “better” than the followers of other religions – so much better, in fact, that they, and only they, will spend the Afterlife in the presence of God. And since religions claim and declare that this Designation of Betterness has come directly from God, cultures and traditions are ignited which grant permission to hurt and to kill in the name of this “truth.”

It is the supreme irony that religions claim that it is this “truth” that will save us, and, in fact, this is what is killing us.

Indeed, this idea that one of us, or one group of us, is somehow “better” than another (and, therefore, has a right and a need for more resources, more land, more water access and trade routes, more oil—more whatEVER), is what has caused death and destruction on this planet the likes of which a true love of God and His creatures could never justify.

The Myth of Better has been passed on and used effectively by others since the days when it was largely our religions which promulgated it. Out of our earliest ideas about our relationship with God we have created what we now call “races” and “nations.” The “Nation of Israel” is a good example. The “People of Islam” are another. So now we have ethnic and national differences as well – most of them having their origins in religions.

The basic conflict in Kosovo has been described as being one between Serbians and ethnic Albanians, but if the truth is told, it will be called exactly what everyone knows that it is: a conflict between Orthodox Christians and Muslims.

Today I have an invitation to all the world’s religions. Say to your followers one sentence: “Our religion is no better than any other, and WE are no better than any other.”

That is, alas, the one statement that few religions would dare make. Few ministers will say it from the pulpit this Sunday. Few priests will announce it in pastoral letters. Few Orthodox rabbis will declare it openly this weekend, and few leaders at the top of these religious systems would even dream of uttering it. The reason that such a pronouncement will not be forthcoming is that to announce this truth is to disassemble the entire justification for a particular religion to exist in the first place.

Yet, that obvious and painful truth having been spoken, here is what all of us – all religions, all nationalities, all political parties, all social and economic systems – must now teach:

Our way is not a better way, our way is merely another way.

Can we do it? Can we announce this from the pulpits of the world? Can we proclaim this from the capitals of all nations? Can we declare it in the platforms of parties? Can we demonstrate it in the practices of social and economic systems?

Now, with our ability to destroy our entire planet with one press of a button, the future of our species depends on how we answer those questions. If we are to survive in peace and happiness and harmony and tranquility, we are going to have to join together to put AN END TO BETTER.

Click here to see all my posts featuring Neale Donald Walsch.


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