A Thousand Flavors of Faith, Belief & Religion
I grew up in a non religious environment yet I've always thought it to be intriguing and a little odd.
For as long as I have understood the concept of religion I've struggled to grasp the why? To me it seemed weird and unusual that someone else would define what I could and should believe in.
Religion - often entirely determined by your parents - can be central to how others see you, how you see others and more importantly how you see yourself
Not to say that parents who are part of a religious group shouldn't be allowed to teach their kids about something that's important to them; it can actually be a great thing; if religious traits brings you joy there's nothing wrong with spreading that to others.
I think I struggle with the concept that if you're born into a religious family do you have a choice? Why is something wrong or right, and who decides that for you?
Many religions can be complex, with varying beliefs, advice and moral implications.
As a kid I thought that isn't there as many religions as there are people; due to our own minds, thoughts and experiences?!
For me and my own situation, I identify more as a spiritual person than a purely religious individual.
Sin is a tricky thing
Part of being human is the fact that we sometimes do destructive things. We need to find ways to avoid these things if we care about getting along as a society; that much is true. But it’s unfortunate to be limited in life by an obligation to follow rules against harmless things - rules that might have made sense to a bronze age tribe who worried that something was watching and could get upset; rules that have no utility today. Outdated ideas of sin have an unfortunate impact on society as well. For example beliefs about sin cause major problems for those in the LGBTQ+ community.
Religion can abuse power
Leaders within religious organizations hold positions of social power over their congregants and sometimes they intentionally abuse the trust of vulnerable people, as we’ve seen in so many cases. Then, to make it even worse, the organization often covers up for the abusers. Many people have been hurt by this dynamic.
Religious teachings have also enabled systems of abuse that normalize brutality, such as colonialism and slavery. There might be moral good in some of the teachings, but so often we witness abuse in many forms; one religion overpowering others, controlling individuals and actual killings.
Religion Flames the ‘Us Versus Them’ Mindset
Us versus them mindset often invites the thought of right and wrong; we are right and they are wrong, even though many religions are very similar in their beliefs and even worship the same God, yet they are sworn enemies, and that can lead to violence.
Religion is fine as long as you don't use it to tell anyone how to live
The way I see it is the purest purpose of religion should be to unite a group of people under the same values and principles, and to facilitate their collective and individual communication with a Higher Power and/or philosophy. In other words, religion should enhance goodness.
And certainly, sacred texts are useful, but the interpretations of those texts should be processed through the mind, heart, and soul of each individual. And that's where I struggle when guidelines become rules.
But then if I think of it as a healthy lifestyle, maybe some people need a stricter schedule to stick to something that in the end is actually better for their wellbeing? And therefore like commandments or other set of rules isn't that bad, for some.
So despite my lack of understanding of organized religion, things I do appreciate and honor regarding religions are quite simple.
If religious teachings lead someone to kindness, happiness, trust, generosity, love, and good health.
Beliefs about the afterlife can give great comfort. We all manage the fear of death somehow.
Some people have been through horrible trauma and only find peace in religion. The rituals, structures, and assurances of supernatural belief can be a literal lifesaver for them.
Religious communities can provide people with a consistent sense of community, which is vital for most people’s happiness. In many places there is simply no better way to develop connections.
Some religious traditions have given rise to practical tools like meditation and yoga.
Despite these upsides, I prefer to live my life without any specific religious belief, and more as a exploring spiritual individual allowing anyone and everyone to choose to believe in whatever makes them happy without hurting or forcing others around them.
What might look like a lack of faith, I kindly ask you to go gentle on me when making assumptions about my life, and finding satisfaction in the idea that I deserve to burn in hell forever.