I was raised Methodist, but very loosely. Loose as in religion had been a hand-me-down many sizes too big to the point that it finds itself falling off my shoulders. Sure, we went to church on Sundays, celebrated Christmas and other related holidays, went to Youth Group, but it was never a consuming presence in my life. We never prayed before meals, never read the Bible as a recreational practice, nor did we speak extensively about God and our relationship with the spiritual. And I think this has given me the clarity of mind to both understand my relationship and other people’s relationship with God. Let me plainly state that I am still unsure of where I stand religion-wise. (Note that I use God in the loosest sense, as I simply mean higher power, or energy force, or oneness, or universe all I think are interchangeable in this context)
I believe that religion is a way for people to understand the unnatural behaviors of the world and the consequences (whether positive or negative) of our actions. Religion is the crutch that holds up those in unfortunate situations, but has also been known to be the catalyst to wars, inhumane actions, and death. We cannot deny the raw truth of the effect of religion. But it is important to distinguish the effect of religion and religion itself. As the basis of EVERY religion we see a foundation of loving and kindness, we see undying respect for one another and complete and utter compassion. While religion can have differing effects on people, whether for greater or worse, a religion cannot simply be bad because horrible acts are carried out in its name, nor should we ever make this assumption.
My mistake as a younger individual was to simply blame a whole religion that caused suffering rather than look at the situation with more dexterity. I think this is the greatest harm the effects of religion can have. We first observe a wrongdoing by another person and are quick to attach a label to them for why they carried out such actions. Assumptions, and misleading ones at that. Over time this resentment builds up for the “religion” until it bursts. And out of the “us vs. them” mentality we have forever stuck a label of putridness to a certain type of people. I see this as the effect of religion, how religion seems to be a scapegoat for the observed wrongdoings of others. This should not be so. In fact any type of blame on a person is tragically a misleading feeling wherein the blame should be found in the discontinuity between the person and theirs actions.
I feel very strongly that as far as religion goes, I’m not opposed. However once it is used as an excuse for actions that produce negative results, that person is not at all following their religion. I believe religion should be less about the deities and higher powers that we pray to, but rather about the connectedness and oneness with others we gain from it. If we are only to have a relationship with God, then what does that say about our relationship with others?
As a teenager I will have to concede by saying that for me, praying seemed to be more of a pre-nap practice, wherein the head and eyes were relaxed and it would be silent. I didn’t however take those pre-naps as an opportunity to look within myself, to try and love others by loving myself. I did however to take them as warmups to the napping phase. I am guilty for that, but I think that religion is a concept that is very hard to grasp. This would cause a disengaged child and finally and inevitably nap time.
Children, I think have a hard time understanding metaphors and complex literary devices used in such texts as the Bible. I think by any standard a boat with 2 members of every species on earth is somewhat outlandish. I think that those who created the texts of the Bible wanted to convey complex information into more understandable dialogue, and what’s better than a story to do so? For me, hearing that god created everything in 7 days seemed completely insane to me. I could barely finish an essay in that time and God created everything just like that? That easily? But I think we focus too much on the time frame aspect, and as authors of the Bible what’s the best way to explain time? By showing the transition of light to dark to light. Years would be a harder concept to convey as we would never really know if it were a year without math and geometry, and so any other concept of time was somewhat foreign. I believe that less so 7 days, but 7 stages. The authors were less worried about the time fame, and more worried about how to convey the starkness between one time period and another. This one very minute metaphor seems to be the beginning of a text sprinkled generously with more literary devices. And with metaphors always comes varying interpretations of what the words mean. Did Jesus really walk on water? Can you really heal a leper just by touching them? Do humans really have the power to split water apart? And so on. But I think people believing truly in such events are simply missing the whole point of the Bible.
Many award winning books are works of fiction, and fiction has always caught the attention of audiences. And so rather than telling a nonfictional story about a higher presence, the authors wanted to reach a greater audience. They wanted to awe their audiences with amazing stories of healing, of talking snakes, of boats that could hold every type of life form on earth. I am not saying these events are false, but what I am explaining is the motive and intentions of the authors and curators of the stories.
I understand that I am on the beginning of my journey to understanding the world, the spiritual, and in effect, myself. I am in no way one who understands the spiritual, but I am open to learn. If anything, being a person who is one with God, I find, is a person one with the rest of humankind, with all life forms, and with the unknown. We all strive for this, whether it be through religion, or morals, or meditation.