Friday, November 12, 2004

About Religion...

I got a nicer response to my "Combat Boots" post than I may have expected:

That post (Your Mama Wears Combat Boots) was really more of a rant, so I figured I'd take time to explain my feelings toward religion...

First of all, I like what this person had to say. They have demonstrated that not all Christians are closed-minded and preachy. I also thank this person for pointing out that if my parents talk to me about church, they're doing so with good intentions. Keeping that in mind will no doubt temper my reaction if they do decide to talk to me.

But, (there had to be a "but") I clicked on the link "From The Morning"'s page that said we need a little more "Billy Graham", and on that page I found this:

Here's an excerpt:
During a conversation, you can simply ask someone, "Would you consider yourself to be a good person?" Then follow with, "Do you think you've kept the Ten Commandments?" Then go through each one:

"Have you ever lied? Stolen anything? Taken God's name in vain? Looked with lust? If so, then by your own admission, you are a lying thief and a blasphemous adulterer at heart. So on the Day of Judgment, if God gives you justice, you won't go to heaven but to hell."
Now, here's one of my most major problems with organized religion. Why isn't it good enough to have faith yourself? Why the need to convert others? A friend of mine in High School was Baptist and kinda tricked me into going to a "church function" that ended up being a "Soul Saving Event" that had us in small groups discussing religion, then with the congregation being pressured to be baptized there on the spot, and finally -those who weren't baptized were pressured (one on one) into taking an oath swearing we believed in Jesus, etc. I don't remember the specifics of the oath, but I do remember that as I repeated it I knew I didn't believe what I was saying and that it was likely I'd break the promise to God. I still regret giving in to them -swearing to God (any God) is not something I take lightly...

I know that the reason so many try to convert others is to "save" them. -The idea being that those who don't follow the "right" religion will be punished after death (or at least won't reep the rewards of Heaven). But many different religions say the same thing, and all religions think that theirs is the "right one". The fact is that what religion a person is depends greatly on what their parents believed. And, like I said in the "Combat Boots" post, what about those who've never even heard of Jesus? I don't understand how a "just God" would punish (or not reward) someone because of something that the person could not control. -I mean, why is it not enough for people to obey the morality laws of Christianity without praying to Jesus or going to church? Why is it not enough to respect your fellow humans, regret the (minor) bad things you've done, and do good deeds whenever you can? Why must God hear us speak His name? Why is it so imparitive that we all go to church to praise Him every Sunday? Is it an ego thing or what?

Okay, I've "gone off" again. From The Morning is right -I am bitter about religion, and I'm sure it has a lot to do with my exposure to it. I try to take a lesson from Buddism and let others believe what works for them -in the end, most religions share the same morality and ideals anyway, so it doesn't really matter who you pray to. But, if you tell me that I'll be punished because I call God by the wrong name when I pray -prepare for me to go off!

Back to my parents... This change for them seems to be a positive one, so I'm trying to go along with it. I wish nothing but the best for them, and will do my best to support their religious decisions as long as they respect mine. Also, the more I've thought about this, the more I realized that this change shouldn't suprise me so much -they've always had faith, just not the "going-to-church" kind...

Firt of all, I was baptized when I was an infant. At that time my parents were going to church regularly. They stopped shortly after my baptisim, and I recall them citing the church's hunger for more and more money as the reason they stopped going. Nevertheless, when I was little my Mom taught me that there is a God up there and that he cares about the choices I make. Good choices, like helping those in need, are rewarded and bad choices, like stealing or lying, are punished. Before kindergarden my Mom would kneel at my bedside with me each night and lead me in prayer before I went to sleep. As I got older we didn't do that anymore, and I was left to figure out "the God thing" by myself. There were occasional refrences to God, and I remember a prayer my Dad wrote one time, but talking about "God" was rare in our house after I started school.

Outside of home I did have a few brushes with organized religion...

Sometimes I'd go to church with my Grandma on Christmas. It was an akward and complicated proceedure and I felt very much out of place. It was a Catholic church -a lot of standing up, sitting down, kneeling... And then there was communion. -I was told that I had to sit in the pew while everyone else went to the front of the church. Why? Because it was a right that I had not earned.

In high school I started trying to figure out what I believed in. People would ask me what religion I was, and I had a feeling of spirituality, but no label to go with it. I sought out many religions to try to find one that "fit". I went to Bible camp with a friend and found that some of the lessons didn't sit right with me. I went to a Methodist church with another friend a few times, and they were very nice -they didn't make me feel like I was wrong or an outcast, but ultimitly it was still Bible-based and I had found that "The Book" just didn't fit with who/what I believed God was. I tried New Age religions, but ultimately found that Native American spirituality was the one thing that came the closest. My Dad always taught me to respect the land and all the creatures of the earth. I have always felt a great connection with nature, and like the fact that they refer to God (the Lakota anyway) as "Mitakuye Oyasin" or "The Great Mystery". He/it has no name. We don't know who he is -we just feel his presence. I know that the basis for this feeling "right" is my Dad's teaching as I grew up, and I think my Dad got this same "respect for the land" from his father -a man I love and miss dearly. Eventually I decided that my religion is my own, and I don't need a name for it.

I guess my conclusion is this -do whatever feels right for you, and respect the fact that other people may believe differently then you. I think that it should be obvious whether you are living "right" or not, and it has nothing to do whatsoever with the name you've given "God" or what you do on Sunday. Religion, I think, should be a personal thing.

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