What I understand about religion and what I don’t

***Disclaimer – If you are offended by this post, I apologize. It’s not my intention. But it is how I feel. I have a deep respect for all belief systems. What I am questioning here are those extremist views that do not allow people to open their minds to the beliefs of others. This is not an attack on religion itself, just a rambling on what I don’t understand about many religions.***

Religion, spirituality, faith, and belief are all things I think about often. It’s taken me many years to come to a place of understanding within myself, to be comfortable with my own belief system. And I am quite certain that where I am today, is not where I will be years from now.

In my quest for spiritual fulfillment, I have come to understand many things about religion . . . And I have come to accept that there are many things that I will never understand. I have always been over analytical. I have always searched for what was the most logical – though I admit, my logic does not always mesh with that of the masses.

It did not take long for me to discover many devout people of many different faiths, and through those people I discovered a paradox of sorts. I can take 10 devout people of 10 different religions and each one will tell you that he or she *knows* his or her religion is the one and only true path. It’s not a belief. It’s knowledge. But if one of them is right, the other nine must be wrong.

So, is there one true religion? Is there one faith that is the only way to salvation?

That concept just does not make sense to me.

I cannot believe that good people will suffer for all eternity because they believe in something different. And honestly, it kind of bothers me that I have good friends and family members who believe I’m going to hell.

I’m curious as to what makes modern religion any different from the polytheistic religions we now call mythology. One day, thousands of years from now, will these “modern” religions be mythologies as well?

I find it interesting that many believe the first human evil was eating fruit from the tree of knowledge. That idea alone speaks volumes to me about the nature of religion.

We didn’t really go to church when I was a kid, but it was pretty much known that we were Christian. I was never taught to believe a certain thing, but allowed to develop my beliefs on my own. I value that.

I decided very early on that church didn’t make sense to me . . . well, that the whole “you *have* to go to church” thing didn’t make sense to me. My philosophy since childhood was if God created the world and man made a building, how could a building be God’s home? Wouldn’t it be easier to connect with God in nature?

That later developed into – you said God is everywhere, so why do I have to worship him inside of a church? Can’t I do that, you know, anywhere?

Maybe it’s my own naivety, but I find all of the fighting over religious differences stupid.

I don’t think religious belief is a choice. People believe what they believe based upon their own experiences. If my experiences lead me to beliefs that do not match someone else’s, why does that mean one of us has to be wrong?

I can’t understand how a “loving” God would damn at least 2/3 of the world’s population. (Considering that Christianity is the world’s largest religion with 33% of the world’s population being Christian . . . If Christianity were the one true path – not taking into account that many Christian denominations believe that all other Christian denominations are wrong – then 66% of the population would be damned.)

God loves you . . . do what He says or go to Hell. God loves you unconditionally . . . but He’s okay with you burning for all eternity. God is wonderful . . . but it doesn’t matter that you spent your life rescuing stray kittens and volunteering at the senior citizen’s home, if you don’t believe such and such, your soul is damned.

It just doesn’t make sense to me.

Here’s what does make sense to me . . . Many people around the world believe many different things and all at varying levels. And none of them need to be wrong. If a higher power exists, I think he or she or it would want to see good people doing good things, regardless of specific beliefs.

“When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That is my religion.” ~Abraham Lincoln

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19 responses to this post.

  1. Have you ever seen/heard George Carlin? He is my freakin hero. If I have one regret in life it was not going to one of his shows before he passed. I would do anything to have had the chance to shake his hand. Your post reminds me of my favorite skit:

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  2. I have long held the same thoughts in regards to each religion holding firm theirs is the only way to salvation. I believe as a whole, we should uplift and encourage others; not bring them down and force the belief that they are a sinner every single service. I believe that we can create a world filled with love, happiness, and faith. Faith in oneself and a better life ahead.

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    • “I believe as a whole, we should uplift and encourage others; not bring them down and force the belief that they are a sinner every single service.”

      I could not agree more!

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  3. Posted by Karen on January 2, 2012 at 9:19 am

    wow Dayle – great post – the whole Eve ate the apple and condemned humanity has always struck me as misogynistic – among other things…It would be a cruel trick to for God to give one a brain and then ask one not to use it. I think it is presumptuous of so many “religious” that they would dare to assume to know what God has in mind for the eternity of others. I am also immediately suspicious of anyone who claims to fully understand what the bible says. I have tried to read many pages, and it is not an easy book to understand. I consider myself most likely Catholic at this time. I feel closer to God when I go to a perpetual adoration chapel and contemplate. In New Harmony Indiana there is an outdoor cathedral, built with the intent, that it was for all people. I also follow try to be kind, try to add something good, of benefit – art, helping others, discovery. To be of value to yourself and others or to try to be.

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    • I think it is perfectly valid for people to feel comfortable in a church. My issue has always been with those who insist that you *have* to go to church.

      I love the idea of an outdoor cathedral.

      And agree about the interpretations of the bible. While it has been many, many years since I have even attempted to read the bible, I know of so many different interpretations that I wouldn’t even know where to begin.

      “I also follow try to be kind, try to add something good, of benefit – art, helping others, discovery. To be of value to yourself and others or to try to be.”

      Exactly how I feel!

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  4. I’m a Bible-believer, but I also firmly believe that everyone has the right to worship any god, anyway that they choose. Even though I might think that other religions are wrong, I support their rights, because I want to be left alone to worship how I choose. 🙂

    I mostly wanted to comment on this: “the whole “you *have* to go to church” thing didn’t make sense to me.” You are right, God can be worshiped anywhere. The purpose of church is so that believers can fellowship with one another, and be an encouragement and strength to one another. It’s also so that we can learn more about God and His Word. This is how I look at church anyway and it’s the kind of church I attend. I think the people that say God can only be worshiped in church, really just want to keep God out of the rest of their lives, if that makes sense. 🙂

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    • Makes total sense! The Sunday-Christians, if you will.

      I’ve attended the church services of a variety of religions for different occasions – weddings, communions, baptisms, etc. Most of the time, I can find something beneficial from the service. I toss around the idea of going to the Unitarian church regularly all the time . . . but I kind of like to sleep in too much.

      My point (I did have one) . . . I respect why people go to church and what they get out of it. My only issue is with those who feel the need to push that on others (which, obviously, you are not one those).

      I think the world would be a much more peaceful place if we could all practice more respect and acceptance. 🙂

      Reply

  5. Posted by Anne Katherine on January 2, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    Amen, Dayle! I always wondered about all the people in Third World countries who did not have access to the info. I have had… I mean, it’s only pure random chance that I ended up here and not over there…as you stated so well, it just doesn’t make sense. What makes sense is what is universal: the belief in a higher power of some sort. And in my mind, I think all of it is way beyond what any one of us here on earth could even imagine.

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    • “And in my mind, I think all of it is way beyond what any one of us here on earth could even imagine.”

      That’s my feeling. I’ve called myself many, many things over the years, but the one thing “title” that remains no matter what else I follow is agnostic . . . I will never presume to *know* what is really out there. How could I?

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  6. You know I love that Lincoln quote 😉 – and I love this post, so articulate, so true. And your words are so powerful here –> ” . . . none of them need to be wrong. If a higher power exists, I think he or she or it would want to see good people doing good things, regardless of specific beliefs.” Could be a bumper sticker . . “None of them need to be wrong.” What if we all really believed that about each other?? Awesome possibilities . .

    Reply

    • Thank you for introducing me to that Lincoln quote! It is definitely one of my favorites now!

      I was just reminded of an article I read the other day . . . Apparently, there was a huge issue because Cee Lo Green sang “Imagine” at the NYE concert in Time’s Square and he changed one line to “and all religions true” . . . I can understand the hard-core Lennon fans being upset, but I loved the sentiment.

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  7. I agree. It angers me when people say their religion is the only way and something is wrong if you don’t share those beliefs. It’s not possible for everyone with about 7 billion people to agree on anything. I also don’t like when some steriotype a whole religion based on extreme behavior.

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    • “It’s not possible for everyone with about 7 billion people to agree on anything.”

      SO true!

      “I also don’t like when some steriotype a whole religion based on extreme behavior.”

      I completely agree. Not being Christian, some people think it’s okay to talk to me and bash Christians . . . it’s not what I’m about and I’ll tell them so. My ex-husband used to have things to say against Catholics all the time . . . until I reminded him that nearly my entire family is Catholic and that I love and respect them all.

      The simple truth of it is that the judgement has to stop . . . from all sides.

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  8. Another post of yours I read when you first posted it, but just NOW sitting down to comment…..
    I feel no offense whatsoever by this post…even though I consider myself a Christian, I found myself agreeing to a lot of what you had to say. I have an issue also with having to go to a “building” for Church, which is one of my reasons for not going to a church in so long. In fact, I am 100% responsible for my whole family NOT going on Christmas morning. I was actually shocked that my suggestion worked, really. Christmas morning is hectic, we had about 21 people at my nanny’s and they were wanting to make things crazier by everyone dressing up and heading to “church” for a short candlelight service. OK, I understand the point in celebrating Jesus’s birthday,. but I didn’t see the point in everyone getting up, getting all dressed up and going to another building when we could just ALL gather around AS a family at my nanny’s, sing carols, tell the Christmas story and have a prayer. I used to excuse of my invalid nanny being able to participate to get people into the idea as well as having my uncle who NEVER goes to church be a part of our little family time. I also quoted the scripture of “Where 2 or 3 are gathered, there I am also” to show that we could have church in ANY building as long as we had 2 or 3 people together…..
    And it worked. And I loved it so much, I hope we keep the tradition. And not just from a Christian aspect either…I loved having all my family together in one room singing carols together. It was beautiful and I will remember that moment more than any church moment ever in my life.

    As far as thinking others not Christians will go to hell…..Honestly, I don’t WANT to think that way. Maybe this is why the past few years I have found myself questioning so much of what I was raised to believe. I find myself taking all the positives from my Christian upbringing and discarding the negatives. I don’t want to believe that people I love that are GOOD people will go to hell just because they don’t believe the same exact way as me. That fact bothers me to. I found out during the holidays that my niece’s new husband, the marine, is an atheist and I found myself feeling sad but I didn’t once try to preach to him or get him to change his mind. I found myself wanting to just pray that he would be alright or he would realize there is a God someday….I couldn’t tell myself I didn’t care at all what would happen to him because I feel it would hypocritical as a Christian to NOT care if a person goes to heaven or hell……but the whole experience just made me feel hypocritical anyways……Like you said, there are just so many religions out there, how could one person know that their specific religion IS the right one? Is it bad that I don’t have an answer for that?
    I believe there is a God and I believe I will always feel that way, I have seen miracles happen that give me faith…..but do I 100% believe that only my faith will go to heaven? No, I don’t….Because I don’t WANT that to be true!

    I want all the good people to go to heaven……I wish I knew all the answers but everyday I learn more and more that makes me less sure that I am even a dot closer to them. At the end of the day the only thing I am sure of is that I personally believe there is a God and I want to live my life as something to be proud of NOT because God is going to judge me someday but because it’s the right thing to do and I want my friends and family to look back on me and say I was a good person…..and I hope that when I die, I will see all my friends and family, of all religions and faith, that were GOOD people surrounding me…

    Reply

    • If when I die, Jesus and God stand in front of me and tell me I was wrong all my life, I will gladly kneel. From what I know of Jesus’ teachings, I can’t see how he and a loving God would then turn me away.

      I’m largely agnostic. I have my beliefs, but I fully recognize that I could be wrong. I fully recognize that I cannot know the truth in this life. But I can’t fathom how people believe that billions of people (and that’s of just those alive today) are going to hell.

      Your last paragraph says it all to me. “I want all the good people to go to heaven……I wish I knew all the answers but everyday I learn more and more that makes me less sure that I am even a dot closer to them.”

      To truly believe that God is greater than anything we could possibly know, wouldn’t we also have to believe that in this life we can’t possibly understand a fraction of his truth is? That’s where I am. And like you, I just try to do good things in my life . . . not for some eternal reward, but because it feels good to do good things and I want to help people because it’s just the right thing to do.

      Thank you so much for your thoughts on this, Sharon! I really, really appreciate your openness!!!

      Reply

  9. […] few months ago, you wrote a post about religion and I wrote a post about religion. Totally unrelated. We chatted briefly and told each other that we would take some time to discuss […]

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  10. […] re-reading your religion post and from reading your letter to me, it appears that we have similar views on religion. Namely, that […]

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  11. […] few months ago, you wrote a post about religion and I wrote a post about religion. Totally unrelated. We chatted briefly and told each other that we would take some time to discuss […]

    Reply

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