“Religion” is a personal and largely subjective topic for any debate, even for rational people. The raw emotion that comes out is sometimes painful to experience first hand and very difficult watch when it comes from another person whose deep rooted emotions and beliefs are pressed and questioned-even in a non-judgmental manner.
We all have seen friendships tarnished as the result of some religious line of questioning. So, as you might imagine, I refrain from religious debates, discussions, or religious meetings with people I know as a general rule. I think it is better to leave religion to the faithful and, as long as their religion does not interfere with my family or me, live and let live.
That being said, I completely believe that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs-EVEN if I completely disagree or can’t possible understand that belief. I also think that it is your responsibility to validate your OWN opinion regarding your chosen religion by looking at the history, foundations, and tenants of your chosen religion and evaluating those criteria versus your emotional attachment to that religion.
As I typed that last sentence, I realized that if every single person of every religion actually did that, the religions would change almost overnight. If every person really sat down and looked at what their church, denomination, synagogue, strip mall Christian life center, mega church really stood for, donated money to, campaigned for, socially supported, and politically backed I think many sets of eyes would be opened.
Growing up I was reared in a southern baptist church. It was small and traditionally styled. I remember my family in uncomfortable pews, old gospel hymns, mini-saltine crackers, and grape juice in shot glasses for communion on special occasions. Those things make me smile when I remember them. However, There was something else there every Sunday morning. A reminder that if I did not walk the walk and talk the talk like a good Christian should – I was going to Hell. It was made clear to me that this was not a debatable issue. In my young sponge like brain I KNEW that the man quasi-yelling at me in a fervent tone truly believed that I was a damned soul- If I didn’t change my 5 year old ways.
I admit that back then I was too young to understand his point or motivation for scaring people or what was really going on but, I did know some very definite, real things in those early days. Some were:
1) I had the chance to go to Hell or Heaven and God will judge me when I die.
2) If I, a 5 year old, didn’t change my ways, Hell awaited.
3) This man is scaring me.
4) What this man is saying MUST be true because my grandmother, grandfather, parents, aunts, cousins and 50 other people are nodding their heads in agreement with everything this man says.
From early on, I was being shown, by those that feed me and care for me, that what was going on in this church is “right” and “the way it is” because the loud scary man is telling the truth. As I have aged, I believe exposure to different things is vital to become truly intelligent and forming your OWN opinions. Sadly, the opposite is also true and an easier row to hoe. To avoid things because you don’t know anything about them, demonizing opposite schools of thought, or simply doing what you are told and following along limits your ability to grow as a person. I truly believe that. I once heard an intelligent, college educated man say, “I am a Republican because my dad was a Republican.” (NO POLITICAL COMMENT HERE) I think the same thinking goes for religion. Not researching YOUR own beliefs and weighing them against how you feel about the world around you is denying your ability to reason and preventing self determination and that, in my humble opinion, is a waste of a life.
I am not advocating going out and attempting to disprove every religion in the world. I am not saying that there is no truth in organized religion. I am not saying that there aren’t good people doing good work in the name of religions around the world. I am not claiming that religions are corrupt or misleading people.
I am saying that you, as an intelligent person, need to be open to all information and facts and constantly reevaluate your positions and beliefs on EVERYTHING, even religion. If you do not open yourself up to new information and different points of view you will become sedate and stagnant in your intellectual development in regard to whatever issue you choose to put your head in the sand about.
If you are a Christian, know why YOU are a Christian. If you are a Buddhist, know why YOU are a Buddhist. If you are Jewish, know why YOU are Jewish. If you are an atheist, know WHY you are an atheist. YOU are all that matters in the arena of your life. It is your responsibility to learn from those around you, take information from everywhere, research the writings of people you agree with and disagree with, but in the end decide for yourself what you believe and believe in.
It is truly the most important decision YOU can make for yourself.