Some time ago, I challenged all of us (myself included) to learn as much about a religion other than our own as possible.
I had planned on coming back here two months later to write a blog on my own discoveries but life got in the way.
That does not mean that I haven’t spent a good deal amount of time in reflection of God and Religion. I also followed through on two of my challenges. I re-read those parts of the Bible that I skimmed over previously, I read the Mahabharat and some of the Upanishads and I reviewed the basic tenets of Islam and Judaism. I also spoke to my husband about his feelings on God and Religion (as he was born and has practiced Hinduism all his life), I emailed with a friend of mine who is Muslim to ask her the same and spoke to my cousin who is Jewish.
And what I found did not surprise me in the least. It only confirmed my own convictions.
We all just want to love God, worship God and do God’s work.
We may do it in different ways or say different things, but we still do it.
I did learn one astonishing thing. Everyone felt that it is the same God that we all pray too. Christian, Hindu, Jew and Muslim all felt that it is one prevailing God who watches us and loves us.
I understand that this is by no means the end conclusion and that there would be many, even within my childhood religion, which would disagree and do so passionately.
“The Christian God cannot be the Hindu God!!!” they would proclaim loudly “The Hindu’s worship more than ONE God and bow before Cows!!!”.
“The God of Islam cannot be the God of Christianity as our God is pure and devout and would never allow the decadence of the West!!!”
“Jehovah cannot be the God of any of those religions as Jehovah was the First TRUE God! All other’s are pale imitations and usurpers!”
And I think that this is the point of the problem.
I think the problem is not God or religion, but MAN.
Growing up, I had many issues with Christianity. I didn’t like that animal were thought to have no souls and therefore would never make it to Heaven. I hated that the women were depicted as either sluts or pious virginal wives. I despised the intolerance. I loathed the hypocrisy of men and women attending church on Sunday only to go and sin the other 6 days in the week, secure that they were saved because they accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savor and no other deeds were necessary.
My Mother and Father did not force us children to attend church after we were old enough to decide for ourselves. They encouraged us to learn of other religions. They wanted us to choose for ourselves and then they would honor that choice.
Other kids weren’t as lucky; their parents shoved their religion of choice down their children’s throats. They talked of hell and fire and brimstone. Because where I grew up was called the “Bible Belt”, I never had much opportunity to meet and speak with people of religions other than Christian or Jewish. But I was a voracious reader and I gobbled up religious texts as much as I did Sci-Fi and Horror.
By the time I was 21, my feelings about Religion were fairly set if not a bit crude. I felt that anyone who stuck with one church and one religion and refused to learn anything new was a bore and ignorant about what God was really about. I started referring to myself as Spiritual rather than Religious. If I was forced to list my affiliation, I would put down the religion of my father – Brethren – but it always made me upset that I had to do that. There was no other choice, either I chose Christianity, lied about it or selected Atheist (which I wasn’t) or None (which I wasn’t either)….I considered myself ALL. As I grew older, I began to meet people who did practice what they preached and all of the sudden Christianity did not seem such a beast to me. I found people who’s hearts were warm and welcoming, people who forgave and forgot, people who did their best to live a good and wholesome life irrespective of the death of Christ that washed away their sins. In essence, I began to learn there was a different side to the religion I grew up with and had never witnessed.
There is several universal truths and one of them is this: kids can be cruel. However, they have the same cruelness that adults have. Kids are just more honest and upfront about it. While an adult will smile to your face and whisper behind your back, a kid will tell it like it is right then and there.
When I was younger and still forming my ideas, I faced a lot of issues from what a few us kids called the “bible thumpers”. They would yell that I was a heathen for not praising Jesus for saving me. They spat and said I was going to hell and that their Mommy and Daddy said I was “unclean” and that they shouldn’t play with me in the schoolyard because my family didn’t “attend church” regularly. Some kinder souls offered to take me with them to their church in the hopes that I could be “saved”.
They would whisper that word as if I had some horrible disease that needed to be avoided and pitied.
“She’s not saved!” they would whisper in the lunch line or at the swings.
And a part of me WANTED to be saved just so I would fit in. Just so I would belong. Just so the picking would stop.
And there you have the world as it is now.
Some people go along with others just so they can fit in, belong and so the harassment and torture stop. It happens in all things; look at the world as it is now. It’s not just religion that this happens in, it’s in Politics and Society.
I know what your argument is going to be…especially those of you anxious over the terrorists. You say that they are mostly Muslim. You say that their religion preaches all these horrible and atrocious things. You say that it’s condoned in their religion to beat their women and force them to wear covering. You say they have the ability to declare Holy War on anyone who does not believe in Allah.
And you would be right. I won’t disagree with you.
But that is not all of Islam. These things do not define it.
Just as the eye for an eye, animal sacrifice, multiple wives, bigotry, and Holy Wars did not define Christianity.
We all have this evil within our religious texts to some degree. Yes, ALL of us. Even some pieces of the peace-loving Hinduism has this.
It’s what PEOPLE chose to do with it that is important. Just as in Christianity, we no longer chose to sacrifice so much life for an offering to God and we no longer allow the Church to rule the Law of man. Christians now practice what S. Morgenstern liked to call “The Good Parts Version”. Some of today’s Christian’s pick and choose what to follow in the Bible. Some will tell you things changed because Christ came and wiped away our sins and this is why we no longer have to do some of the things we once did. I call this hypocrisy. Jesus preached as much eye for an eye as the last man. That Christians no longer follow all the rules of the Bible is both good in some ways and bad in others, but it does not change that they are behaving hypocritically while pointing fingers and throwing stones whilst living in glass houses. I prefer the Christians who recognize the faults in our Bible and live to prove these wrong. I prefer the people who say not everyone is wrong and not everyone is right….only God is, without claiming any ownership to God for their own chosen religion.
Like my father says, you can speak with your mouth but your hands tell a different story. (This after he suspected I had been digging in my parents garden without permission, I said “No Daddy” and even though my hands were clean, my nails weren’t…also I had left the shovel with clumps of mud, idiot child that I was.) It’s hard for me to digest that it’s perfectly OK for a Christian to judge another person when the Bible says we must not…that is God’s province.
And the same holds true for the other religions as well, not all Muslims follow the tenets of the Book of Islam any more than all Christians follow theirs or the Jews or the Hindu’s or any other religion of the world.
I don’t believe that God cares how we come to him, I think he only cares that we DO come.
I believe that God does not want his children to argue over him. I think he gave each of us something to follow because that is what we could best understand.
There are many similarities in the religions of the world, but the most important one is that God teaches love to all things, great and small. Somewhere along the line we’ve forgotten that.
We are like children fighting on a playground over one Dodge Ball. All of us want to play with it but with different rules and none of us want the other to have it for their own game.
So what can be done to heal the breach? I know some people (maybe a lot) would say that it’s too touchy a subject. Too heated a debate. But why should it be? Shouldn’t it be the most sweet and loving topic we all have in common?
If President Obama were to ask me, “What you would do to solve the worlds Religious tensions?”, I would suggest the creation of a UN for Religions. Where people of all the world’s religions would come together to talk, to share, to compare and discuss. People who were respected enough within their own that the information they shared with the public would be heard and understood. I would encourage a World Religious School where the Religious Scholar’s could teach the world about each other’s religion. Where, in order to graduate in Theology, you had to have gone to study for at least two years if not more. I would want it that in any Political meeting of Country’s, those leaders from that Country’s religion also be in attendance to give their insight.
I do not say that the world should be guided by religion as that is folly…man must abide by man’s earthly laws. But entirely removing religion from the equation is not the answer either. Whether people want to admit it or not, religion plays a large part in what defines us as individuals, people, society, culture and country. We should have our world’s religious leaders there as well, but only if they are men and women who grasp the meaning of this gesture. That they can no longer hold on to “us” and “them” mentality but instead embrace “all of us together”.
What are your thoughts on this? You’re points of view? You’re opinions? Have you done your homework? What did you learn from talking to your friends of other religions? What did you glean from your reading of another religious text?
Share and let’s ALL be enlightened!