Ready for a fight over religion? Put ‘em up! (ง’̀-‘́)ง
Actually, that is not the intent. My intent is to tell a story of my religious beliefs, including how they came to be. In no way am I saying that you should believe what I believe. In fact, I believe that everyone should hold their own beliefs. No solution is right for everyone.
My best friend put a post on his blog and it got me to delete and rewrite an article I was working on about religion. His blog is The Ideolog. He has a way to make me think and rethink everything that I believe and stand for. He named various types of religious people and lamented the fact that religion has become a social scapegoat for some. Some people blame religion for making people bigoted, racist, murderous, and various other dangerous things. Moreover, I will admit for a while after September 11, 2001. I did fall into the “blame Islam for 9/11” crowd. Now, I feel bad for doing that. I regret being that judgmental. Had I have met Muslim people, while I was in that state of mind, I would have been terrible person to them. Nothing excuses that kind of hate. Both sides of that hate are equally wrong. I have had similar feelings about most religions during some point in my life that religion makes people bad people. I am learning yet again, nothing could be farther from the truth. Bad people use religion to give themselves legitimate cause to do the things they wish to do anyway… Those are the extremists. What am I?
Let me use my Friend’s definitions. This is copy paste from his post entitled “Let there be Dark…” As of right now, I would consider myself, again, disavowed.
These are the people who either by their own experience or by the hand of someone else aggressively disassociate themselves with the religion. I can think of a lot of people who fit into this category. This category includes people who are living a lifestyle that is considered taboo or inappropriate for a specific religion. This group also includes people who have had some bad experiences with authority figures within a religion. The rigidity of the religion in some cases causes this type of disconnect. This is a very complex group to cover because the reasons for the break can vary greatly. In some cases such as homosexuality these wounds are very hard to heal. I don’t see the larger organized religions changing the majority of their beliefs to include people they believe are committing a mortal sin. And for this case I have to say religions are private entities that don’t have to change their rules to match public opinion. There is really no way around this issue in my opinion. For the others in this group, I have always wondered why we lay the blame intended for certain people on an entire religion. If you have an issue with one church, why not just change churches? Why completely abandon your religion because of the actions of a few people? These are real questions to which I do not have any answer.
For me recently falling back into the disavowed category again is a very complicated matter. Yes, I am still a member of a Unitarian Universalist church in my area called Unity Temple. Yes, I still have a belief system. However, I have not practiced any part of my religion, including going to that church for quite a while. I have lost contact with that section of my whole. Just before my Year of Apathy, I turned my back on my own religious construction. That is right; I made my own religion. During my darkest years in the end of high school, I needed support. I needed help. I could not turn to another human because I had no way to communicate what I needed help with. I spent a couple years researching every religion or religious text I could get my hands on. I spent hours pouring though…
- Old Testament, New Testament (Christianity)
- Torah, Nevi’im, Ketuvim (Judaism)
- Quran, Hadith (Islam)
- Sutras, Tripitaka, The Tibetan Book of the Dead (Buddhism)
- Analects (Confucianism)
- Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason, and many others (Deism)
- The Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana (Hinduism)
- Epic poems of Homer and Hesiod (Greek Religion)
- New World Translation of the Scriptures (Jehovah’s Witnesses)
- Dresden, Madrid, and Paris codices; Books of Chilam Balam; Popol Vuh; The Ritual of the Bacabs (Mayan Religion)
- Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price (Mormonism)
- Various New Age Documents (New Age)
- Various New Thoughts Documents (New Thoughts)
- The Satanic Bible (Satanism)
- Dianetics and Scientology (Scientology)
- Kojiki, Nihon-gi (Shinto)
- Tao Te Ching, Chuang-Tzu (Taoism)
- The Witch Cult in Western Europe and The God of the Witches (Wicca)
- Unorganized Paganism forms the core of Wicca. Wicca led me to research of Unorganized Paganism. Which has its own, but very sparse religious texts.
- Zend Avesta (Zoroastrianism)
I poured though a great deal of texts. The internet is a very helpful thing for getting lots of information as quickly as possible. When I started this project, I had no idea how big a project it was. The church I am a member of, Unitarian Universalism, is not on that list. It would be a couple of years before I knew UU even existed. I grew up in a household where my mom was a Protestant and my father was a Roman Catholic. Religion was never really a part of my life. Sure, we celebrated Christian holidays, but they did not have a deeper meaning to me, as a kid, other than “I get gifts!”
That detachment from religion as a child allowed me to, when I searched for it, do it in a dispassionate and logical way. I spent hours per day pouring all these documents. Even at school, I would take some with me and read them in various down time. I created a binder where I did not have physical books. When I should have been doing homework I was doing this studying instead. (Wish I could have gotten class credit for it) My grades suffered because the study of various religions had consumed my life. I studied differences between sects of each although I wish I had done more of that. I saw common trends throughout religion. I saw rules, laws, stories, histories, believes, actions, rituals, celebrations but I very rarely saw freedom. Nevertheless, I also saw guidance and answers to questions that I had but could not use science to answer. Science was my previous subject of love. Science was my favorite subject all though grade school and early high school.
As I studied more, I found things I could not get behind, things core to various religions that I could not believe in. Before I got near any religion, I already had a series of beliefs. One of the core beliefs that hurt me deeply is the idea of Original Sin. I cannot tell you how many things out of the bible I just cannot get behind. I could not believe that because of a person long past all humans have darker impulses. I cannot imagine that my darkness is because of Original Sin. To me that says I will be judged (if I must be judged) by someone else’s actions, not my own. Of course, different Christian and Jewish sects see this slightly differently. Some see that humans are inherently bad people until they go through a baptismal because of Original Sin. On an interesting note, this topic drew me closer to Islam. I like to consider Christianity, Judaism, and Islam a group called “the big three.” Of the big three, Islam is the only one where original sin does not exist. Adam and Eve, being forgiven by God allow that each person be judged upon their own actions and merit. This is just one topic I studied in depth thought-out each of these religions and many others. Any religion that based itself on the bible had its own opinion of original sin.
Each place that religion conflicted with my already held beliefs sounded like a discordant note. It was as loud, and as agonizing, as a pile driver outside the window while trying to sleep. However, religion had some answers that I found comforting. Religion had places where it answered what science could not though the use of belief. I needed the reassurance and the comfort that religion provided without religion telling me I was wrong about things I already hold true. I wanted to find something that would fit my whole life and me, not something, that I would take some but not other parts. I wanted to be sensible about adopting religion into my life. Therefore, let us take a break for Captain Sensible.
I did what I do best… Overanalyze (Keep in mind ‘what I do best’ I will be mentioning it a lot thought my blog. Eventually I am just going to say, “I did what I do best.”) I created a chart and grading system for religion based on my needs from religion. It had heavy weighting toward things I could actually believe in given my already constructed secular beliefs and morals. Those documents along with many others from my religious past no longer exist. I will talk about why later. However it was an excel spreadsheet 23 pages long when printed. It rated each religion on a score of 0-100. Zero being it did not meld with any of my already held beliefs. One Hundred being it was the perfect fit for my beliefs and me. There were beliefs I wanted a religion to include and beliefs I did not want a religion to include. Each one of those beliefs had a weighting as to how important it was two me. The results were depressing to me. The highest score was Thirty-Six. YES! THIRTY-SIX! All of the “big three” scored under FIFTEEN, but all the scores were positive. What did I learn from that? I learned that while no religion was perfect for me every religion had merit and value because nothing actually came up negative.
The next post is about the things I was looking for in my religion and how I developed my beliefs. As I am in Toronto right now I scheduled it for post later this week! Needed to have some content while I was on vacation. 🙂
Continue on to Part II: Becoming an Observer