As a kid, I never really thought about religion.
We never went to church, but we were taught to be respectful of Christian beliefs. We always knew Christmas was about the birth of Christ and not buying presents. My Mom tends to think she didn’t instill in us more of an appreciation for Christianity or religion. I think she did the bes thing for us and allowed us the freedom to search for our own beliefs, guided by the morals and examples she and our Dad set out for us. They were never perfect people, but our Dad taught us the value of hard-work, a strong work ethic, and basic respect for those that earn it. Our Mom taught us about open-mindedness, compassion, and respect for things that were different.
For the most part, as my siblings and I grew up, we’ve adhered to such thoughts and beliefs, despite none of us ever stepping into a church, unless it was for a wedding or a funeral. Like our parents, we aren’t perfect, but over-all, we are decent people.
Which makes me wonder why people who follow whatever religion they have chosen think they are better than people who don’t?
Sadly, I must use Christianity as an example because it is the most prominent religion that I have been around and witnessed throughout my life.
Before I go into this, I will say that for a long time, I wasn’t a fan of Christianity. And who wouldn’t be? They hate gays. Priests molest boys. Throughout history, Christianity has stuck it to non-believers (The Spanish Inquisition), supposed “savages” all around the world, and anyone else who don’t “believe”.
Fortunately, all religions have dark histories and can be manipulated by extremists to fit whatever purposes they want. So grouping a few bad apples in with the rest of those who believe in the goodness and purity of the beliefs set out centuries ago, is wrong. Over the past few months, I’ve learned just ow wrong t can be by meeting through tis blog, and reading their blogs about similar subjects.
Today, it basically comes down t the bad apples within any religion are the ones who get the press. If it bleeds, it leads. If it’s wrong, put it on. Soon, that’s all the general public sees, the bad apples. For Christians, it’s the closed-minded, right-wing nut jobs who protest solider’s funerals, blaming the gays for their boy or girl’s death. For Muslims, it’s the ones who blow themselves up, killing their “enemy”, as well as their fellow country men, women, and children.
Having said all that, it is these same people who hold their religion above everyone elses. If you question their beliefs, live a life that doesn’t fit into their world view, or don’t believe in anything, well you better watch out! You are a very bad person. You’re a sinner! An infidel! A monster, a vile person akin to someone who molest children.
To these people, I wonder when did their beliefs become so negative and inclusive?
For centuries, in the Christian belief system, women were treated quite poorly. Sure they could be nuns and sisters, but they weren’t allowed to hold any place of power within the church, cause that was the men’s domain. In many places and ways, that hasn’t changed.
In a church in Turkey is a stainglass image of Christ standing over the union of two men. There are other examples that are continually ignored because the Christian church considers gay marriage sinful and wrong, despite the fact that the divorce was also once a sin and wrong, has a higher rate than successful marriages. Even if it two men or two women want to have a union outside the Christian church, it is still illegal in many parts of North America because the church has that kind of power within the government.
Which brings me to the separation of church and government. I won’t go into details about it, especially after a fellow blogger, Abtwixt, said it better in their blog “Separation of What from Whom”. In short, the church and government should not mix. It’s hard to do when so many politicians and voters are so passionate about their beliefs, that religious influence is inevitable. But living in a country like Canada, where there are so many different cultures, races and belief systems, that having a leader who sees his belief system as better will only reveal their short-comings and create a government based on a limited scope of vision. A government is supposed to represent the people, not a section of society that follow one system of beliefs.
To me, believing in something, regardless of its origin, is supposed to be about enlightenment, the betterment of ourselves and the world around us. When that belief system is manipulated by people and organizations for their own selfish purposes, it belittles the belief system as a whole, turning it into something that is far from what it was meant to be.
I often wonder what Jesus, or any of the other beings that inspired the religions and belief systems of the world, would think of what mankind has done to what they started or inspired? I tend to think that they wouldn’t be happy with has happened.
It is this disillusionment with organized religion that has led me to Buddhism. Don’t get me wrong, Buddhism is just as messed up as any of the other beliefs systems out there. It has been splintered into various forms that follow a similar, basic teachings. There are even Buddhists who fight for their beliefs, which is against some of the most basic teachings. So, in my mind, Buddhism isn’t that much different from the others.
What drew me to Buddhism was the basics. Seeking inner peace. The simplicity of seeking answers to questions and learning how to seek the answers within yourself. Seeking those answers within yourself instead of finding answers elsewhere. If I don’t follow the teachings, the only damage done is to myself. I don’t answer to a higher being, I must answer for myself.
The thing is, in all religions and belief systems, once you take away all the complications mankind created over the centuries, they all come down to the same thing. Finding peace, being good to yourself and others, not doing harm to others, and of course, love.
But, all those complications humans have heaped upon themselves, the more our mind has begun to think and grow, we have lost that simplicity. There’s no way we can regress our minds, but we must find a way to be of two minds. Use our potential for creativity and genius to learn more and create technology that expands our knowledge and understanding. But at the same time, retain the simplicity and compassion when it comes to dealing with those around us.
Once we find that balance, we will evolve into something much greater.