As a child I wore a WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) bracelet proudly, going as far as to try and ask myself that very question before every action I took. In my young age I was in love with the church, Kiwanis and my spirituality.
My mother raised me in a baptist church and, honestly, some of my fondest memories come from that place. At a young age I loved the stories, the sense of belonging, the love I felt walking into the church. It was alive, with songs and smiles. I remember driving in with a member when my mom wasn’t able to take me. I remember the ride home after worship, with a happy meal and, more importantly, a happy heart.
I was never baptized. I was promised to God, however, like many things in this world, it fell through. In moving from California to Connecticut, I went from being heavily involved in the church to having no connection.
My faith dissipated.
My spirituality lingered.
During my youth, as I began my own exploration of what spirituality was and how it related to me, I found myself attracted to Buddhism. It seemed so simple and so right. Be a good person. Of course, their is the abstaining from desires, which I didn’t like too much, as most of my actions have always been driven by a desire. At it’s core though, from the 12 pages I had printed out in the high school library, I identified with the message as it spoke to me.
In college, I got the chance to learn a little bit about all the major religions from a scholarly standpoint. Learning origins and basic concepts briefly awoken my interest in finding the connection between a higher power and myself.
In my late teens/ early twenties I met the woman who would eventually bear my beautiful children. Out of a love for her, and a lingering sense of spirituality (although it only beat like a faint pulse in the background) I decided to reaffirm my faith in God, beginning the process of becoming a member of the Catholic Church.
Now, this isn’t me trying to force beliefs on anyone. At the end of the day I am not a member of any religion. I still remain on the dry side of baptism, constantly flirting with spirituality like it is a high school crush, always with awkward stares, never approaching it seriously or confidently.
This isn’t necessarily about my religious viewpoints, or whether I agree or disagree with any one religion. I have always had a sense of mistrust with organized religion. While certain sections they acknowledge, however reluctantly, as antiquated, they take what they want from the good book(s) and carry on about their day satisfied in their position with their god. The pick and choose faith, coupled with “reading between the lines” has always rubbed me the wrong way, especially when it is used as basis for things like discrimination.
I cannot stress this enough, I’m spiritual. I feel a strong connection to the powers that be. I am not religious. To me, at the end of the day, it comes down to two things.
We need hope. The world has always been a difficult place. With technological advance didn’t bring utopia. In fact, as most deadly disease became non threatening thanks to strides in medicine and the average life span began to grow, mankind has found other ways to destroy itself; inflicting mass casualties on each other in the name of god, country and skin color. The world hasn’t become easier, MTV has just made it easier to ignore.
The second reason, in my opinion, is that for some reason, morality has to have at least some form of written rule. While it is simple to say, “just be a good person”, we have always had the guidelines in place and they are hardly followed. Most teachings in all religions boil down to being a good person and looking out for each other.
Now, like I said, all the books have antiquated sections that most people, even in their own religions, can see as relics of a past life. Progressive moves have happened across religious platforms, from the consumption of pork to the rights of people to marry in what used to be considered a sinful manner. Love is love, from bacon to homosexuality, and the masses can recognize that.
My children, with my consent, are members of the Catholic Church. They have been anointed and go to church every Sunday. Besides the fact that it gives me a chance to follow sports, from the comforts of my couch, every Sunday it also give them an opportunity at a young age to learn about the basic tenants of morality and structure. As they age I will have in depth discussions with them about thinking for themselves and how they can be spiritual and understand that at the end of the day the path to God is their path that they will walk alone.
Spirituality is important to me, regardless of my lack of affiliation with any religious sect.
Now, this is all just to preface a conversation personally that has given me trouble in tackling. I only lay out my opinions and decisions regarding religion for my family to show my background and where I come from. I could go as far as to talk about how my in-laws made me disillusioned with the Catholic Church. With their ways of never accepting me, and in my opinion, treating me like a lesser coupled with their standing at church, I lost all interest in becoming a member of an organization who had such types of people at elevated positions. That isn’t a strike at my in laws, I wouldn’t go round about to tell them they suck, I’ve told them plenty of times I think they suck.
As a spiritual but not religious person, it is easier for me to look at different religions more objectively than I think the average Christian or Muslim or Hindu or whatever religion someone might identify with. I am a part of none. I am simply a man who has come to his own terms on the search for relevance in this universe.
My wife, she is a Christian along with our children. Portions of my family are Atheists. Some I know are Muslims. Some found their way to these religions while others were born into them.
Born into them.
My children were born into Catholicism and while they do not really know what is going on, I feel it is in their best interest to learn the religion first. If you were to look at religion as a language, it is important in my opinion, for everyone to have the opportunity to start with one and grow from there, learning bits and pieces or becoming fluent in others along the way.
There is nothing wrong with identifying with one religion. There is something wrong with using said religion to inflict violence on others. That, in my opinion, largely goes against the foundations of all religions. As it stands, violence IS discriminatory. Religion has played an aspect in war and violence since the prehistoric period. Seriously, look it up! ( I did)
Yes, you could go as far as to say a primary motive in most violent altercations throughout history has been creed.
“In the name of _______(insert deity here)!”
With that cold hard truth, it is hard to say that religion is necessarily a good thing. I am not saying it isn’t, just pointing out that many throughout history have used it as a reasoning for aggressions.
Still we are here, with more diverse religious beliefs than ever before. Religion is here to stay.
If religion isn’t going anywhere, why are are they still fighting each other? You would think in this day and age that we would have learned boundaries and to respect each other’s religions, especially in a country founded on freedom of religion.
With history on our side, multiple military engagements in our lifetime, and the blood of innocent people on everyone’s hands, it is time to take a stand and realize that the continued treatment of one another as enemies. Why are we still killing each other, when we see it does nothing but exacerbating our problems and widen the rift between everyone. The cultural divide is steeped in enough blood, and it isn’t by the wishes of the powers that be.
We should, in the year 2015, be able to respect each other’s differences. Maybe, more importantly, we shouldn’t identify and set people apart by their religion. Everyone has their own connection with what they believe in, not everyone is radicalized or even in agreement with all aspects of their own religion.
Some people recognize the antiquated. Some people just want to feel a connection to something otherworldly.
For our kids’ sakes, enough is enough.
This was inspired, in part, by picking my jaw up off the floor at Ben Carson’s comments about Muslim Americans. It appalls and saddens me that we are still having what is quite literally an age-old argument. The deities may change, but the lack of acceptance stays the same.