I can’t think of a more contentious topic these days than religion (except politics of course). It inspires some of the most volatile arguments I have ever witnessed and been involved in (mea culpa). I’m not particularly interested in forcing my opinions or beliefs – or lack of them for that matter, on anyone. However, I do share honestly when people ask and lately, a lot of people are asking.
So here it is – I believe religion is purely cultural. It has the power to create and annihilate communities. It can inspire and destroy, cultivate love and compassion and just as easily, fear and hatred. The notion of God was created in its earliest form as an explanation for all things inexplicable. Simply put, we thought it best to appease what we couldn’t understand or control so it wouldn’t kill us. Imagine what our ancestors felt when they witnessed things such as thunder, lightning, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, an eclipse – nature in all its power and passion. Presumably, it scared the wits out of them and it’s logical that they would try to please what sustained but could just as easily demolish them. Hence, earth based religion was born. At the very least, they understood that their relationship to Mother Earth was symbiotic, if not parasitic and needed to be reciprocal. As time went on that changed, deities took different forms and eventually for many, the belief system became monotheistic. Interestingly enough, the monotheists believed their ancestors and indigenous ways to be heathenous and uncivilized, and the persecution began. As you know, this would become the theme for thousands of years to come and disturbingly, has yet to end.
People are still arguing about whose religion is “right”, when in actuality each is just an expansion of the one that came before. I won’t get into detail here but if it’s a topic that interests you, do bit of research on the Pagan festival of Eostre. It’s one example of the multiple Resurrection stories ranging from Egyptian Horus to Sumerian Goddess Ishtar to Dionysus to Jesus Christ. These similarities are found in numerous religious myths spanning millennia and multiple faith traditions.
Religion, which is often deeply rooted in fear and the most potent purveyor of tribalism, is taken far too seriously in the world. It is a socio-cultural construct determined primarily by ethnicity and geography. It should be as irrelevant as hair color or height in defining character.
Quite frankly, the fact that we still vehemently argue over the separation of church and state is mind blowing to me.
What is much more important, is the recognition of our shared humanity and inter-connectedness, which I consider sacred. Diversity makes everything extraordinarily colorful and interesting. I believe it’s our responsibility to shepherd and companion one another through this journey called life. To alleviate one another’s suffering and infuse as much joy as we can into this sometimes painful existence while also being good stewards of the earth and all her creatures. I like to describe this connection as an invisible string that runs through each of our hearts creating a giant, ethereal web. Sound crazy?
No more than a talking snake or walking on water, in my opinion.
While I dislike and disavow the violent and discriminatory parts of religion and scripture that prove they were constructed and created by fallible human beings, I appreciate the wisdom and beauty that mysticism offers. It reminds me of the deep love and understanding of which we are all inherently capable.
My humble opinion:
Religion is like ice cream. Everyone has their favorite flavor and may occasionally try something different. Others may decide they don’t like ice cream and stop eating it entirely.
Some may prefer frozen yogurt.
In the end it’s best to remember, no matter what the topping, it’s all just ice cream underneath and should be enjoyed as such.
No more. No less.