I was asked to explain the following quote from Swami Vivekananda:
“My master used to say that these names, as Hindu, Christian, etc., stand as great bars to all brotherly feelings between man and man. We must try to break them down first. They have lost all their good powers and now only stand as baneful influences under whose black magic even the best of us behave like demons. Well, we will have to work hard and must succeed.”
To which I respond:
As I am fond of saying, “When the Master speaks, it immediately ceases to be what the Master said and becomes what the listener heard. And therein lies the birth of religions.” That is, of course, a two-sided coin. On one hand, religions are based upon deep spiritual Truth. They are therefore precious and to be revered. On the other hand, distortions of that profound spiritual knowledge lead people astray.
As I like to say, “Echoes of Truth, perceived as Truth, hold Truth at bay.” All too often, religions become echoes of Truth.
I have been known to say: “Racism is cultural integrity gone insane.” When not understood deeply enough, religions can polarize in that same manner. Perhaps the most glaring example would be wars in the name of religion.