Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Religion v. Faith

It seems to me like there is a constant battle going on in the world between those who are devout and pious and those who are not and on the outskirts of spirituality. We have these religious fanatics who live on the far right and even though I would consider most people moderate, they always seem to leave their own little mark on the world. Their mark is left in many ways. We have the relatively small cults that we hear about, I'm talking about the Jim Jones' of the world, the David Koresh. These two types of people are both perceived"cult leaders" and are as extreme as you can get, both with their own ideologies which differ from the mainstream of religion, and honestly, you can't really speak much about their legacies because none of us really know what went on there. But what really irks me in today's society is the social institution of organized religion.

We in American society see the ultimate goal is to have a family, raise children, have a secure job that is financial stable, be involved in a somewhat prominent church, and live happily. I really don't understand while that last part is important, though. Maybe I've have just been raised in the south in a pretty fervent small town, but I can see it as I go to college as well. People tell me that they are either Catholic, Baptist, Episcopalian, Jewish, DOC, Presbyterian, Methodist, Gnostic, Agnostic, Methodist, Mormon, Buddhist, Baha'i, Pentecostal, and the list goes on and on. The question that always strikes me is: Does it really matter? I mean, honestly. I study religion and I know the differences between each Christian denomination, each major religion also. But what's the point? Why does there have to be difference between a person who believes in confession and one who doesn't? I thought it was the same God? It seems to me like it only makes more division between humanity.

I see these people who attend church regularly and it just seems to me like it is simply just a ritual to them. They go just for the social setting of the services and listen, give money, and leave. Do they really listen, though? Do they really hear the things that are said. I think that by giving their money they must truly support all the doctrines and opinions conveyed by the church and it's clergy. This is what has somewhat conflicted me from the church I used to attend. I remember going on a Sunday morning a few months into my freshmen year of college. I had finally left the comforts of home and really the social structure of Cleburne, Texas. I had never met a Jewish person in my life until college, I had virtually known nothing of any other culture besides the typical Cleburne culture which is mostly Christian. I actually don't think I knew of one person who was not a Christian.

I remember reading in my World Religions class about primitive religions such as the one's Native American's have, and seeing the similarities to that of Christiany. Then we got to the origins of Judaism, which soon became Christianity, that which branched off to Islam and the smaller Mormonism, and even completely split itself off into Protestant and Catholicism. My Professor tells us about how each religion(Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) trace their roots back to Abraham. Abraham had 2 sons, Isaac and Ismael. Abraham represented the Jews, Isaac Christianity, and Ishmael Islam. This is where the confusion gets me the most. These are 3 separate faiths and yet they all praise the same God(Yahweh, Allah, God) and have basically the same principles of justice and the same ideologies of what is righteous and what isn't. Why must they differentiate? Why must we be perpetually confused? Why does this confusion lead to anger and even war? When I grow older and take things into consideration, it continues to make more sense to me why these things have happened. I reach this conclusion: 1) God is truly real, he is the same, unchanging. He has tried to explain himself throughout the entirety of man's existence. He tried to come as what is familiar to each culture, and as each culture of man is different, their perception of God is going to differ. We have the same past, but we get so convoluted that we let these petty differences ruin the unity God wants us to have as humans. 2) Man is ignorant, stubborn, self-righteous, greedy, impressionable, and most of all: Prideful. Just look at the Bible, I have read this my entire life, and was raised with the impression that every single word of it was holy and unquestionably true. That ideology is ignorant and almost idiotic to say. Now, I consider myself pretty Christian, but saying that a book conceived, produced, interpreted, translated, and compiled by man is infallible is almost insulting to human intelligence. Let's consider when the Bible was written, the last book of the Bible was circulating before the first century AD. The notion at this time was that the world was flat, and people were even killed for trying to imply that science could even be considered. Come on now. God gave us a brain to use it.

I'm not trying to offend, and I'm absolutely not saying that the Bible is entirely false, not at all. I believe that a lot of it is to be revered, and revered dearly. It has a great instructions, by great men who truly knew God's wonder and glory, to live life a way that does truly please the Lord. Yet, we must also put into consideration who wrote what, and most importantly, what their intentions were when they wrote it. Which brings me to that Sunday morning which made me realize that this entire organized religion thing may be full of some human error, and actually a lot of bullshit to go along with the bureaucracy of it all. As a disclaimer, I have to say that not all churches have this same opinion, and of course not all churches are bad and I'm sure there are tons of them that are open-minded and truly on the path to help people be more spiritual.

I sit there listening to the Head Pastor's words and I can not help but just feeling outraged on the ideas he was conveying as facts. The most appalling is that he was implying that this was God's feelings and it was only righteous to feel this way. He was speaking about homosexuality, particularly that there were homosexual churches out there. I remember him saying that these people were simply all just going to Hell, and anyone even remotely associated with them or their beliefs would surely burn in Hell as well. I'm not sure about you, but my picture of Jesus is not him as being a gay-basher. God created love, that's actually what he uses to prove his existence in my opinion. I never feel closer to the Lord until I feel that emotion of Love. I'm not exactly talking about intimate love, there are so many different levels of Love. You have love for a friend, love for a family member, love for a significant other, and there's the feeling of love and warmth that simply comes with the acknowledgment of beauty in something. Jesus never addresses homosexuality in the New Testament, so is this religious leader condemning an entire group of people? Does Jesus Hate? I don't believe he did whatsoever.

I walked out and really didn't even feel comfortable talking to the members of the church I had attended for the past few years. It burned me in a way in which I looked around and felt as if I was somewhat of a coward for not confronting this obvious message of hatred that conveyed in the name of God. It got me thinking, and in the months that came and went I realized why he had these opinions. He was ignorant. Brainwashed even. His entire life he had attended different churches, all of which conveyed the idea that God had a disdain for homosexuality. Even some cultures had painted homosexuality as something to be ashamed of, and even that of a deviancy. In Ghana, they are trying to pass a law in which every person who is convicted of homosexuality is to be put to death. This is also really appalling to me.

I essentially feel that organized religion is to blame. I'm not going to get into Catholicism and the incidents that happened there because I simply do not know enough to state upon such matters, I only speak of the things I've seen in my own life, in my own experiences, and sadly the place I called my home church for so long. Was I brainwashed to hate? I honestly thought going to this place of worship was making me a better person. I thought that by going, I was becoming closer to God. Was my entire life and spiritual growth just some sort fallacy guided by misinformed people who I had respected more than life itself? I honestly don't think that is true, but this I know is true:

God gave us a mind to think, a heart to love, and most importantly, a soul that connects us all. We are all the same, every one. We have the same plight and purpose in this world so why let this institution continue to separate us? We have to realize that in every positive and beautiful thing in this world, there will always be someone or some entity that will try to defile it. The church can be a beautiful place of fellowship and genuine love for the Lord and eachother, but we can not stand for such hate in any variety. Jesus did not hate, so how can continuing disdain bring us closer to a relationship with him? It simply won't.

Finally, I want to make it clear that I'm not condemning organized religion and the church entirety, on the contrary, I'm simply condemning the ignorance of man to ruin something that was intended to be so pure and so great.

Please, continue to go to church if that's what you feel makes you closer to God and closer to people. Realize though that simple attendance does not make you a better person. Have faith in God, have faith in people. Let your heart tell you what's right. Just because you're told something does not make it fact. I am just a man so I have some fallibility in the things I say. I am not perfect. I strongly feel that as humans we should follow a simple ideology: Live to Love and for nothing else.

This is my first blog so please excuse any typos or any syntax problems and also if I ranted a little bit, but this is a personal blog, not an essay. I would really appreciate any comments at all, be it agreeing or disagreeing.

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