Friday, October 9, 2009

Religion: the good, the bad, and the ugly

I consider myself a modern woman. I also think I'm pretty open minded about most things. I don't care about people's sexual preferences or religious choices, as long as they don't infringe on my personal rights and freedoms. However, I do have some issues with religions that embrace some sort of double standard.

Hear me out. I actually understand some of the Islamic and Orthodox Jewish beliefs and where they come from. Being a history major, I have studied the origins of most of the major religions' beliefs. If I had taken those religions classes earlier in my college days, I may have switched my major to religious studies. As it is, I think I only need something like 9 more units for a minor in religious studies. What annoys me is those who preach one thing and then do another. Or those religious sects that have one standard for men and another for women.

Usually when I see a woman in a burka or a head scarf I generally understand the history behind the clothing. Not that I always agree with it, but I understand. When I was a teacher, I had a Muslim student who invited me to break the fast with her family at their Mosque. I had no reservations covering my head out of respect for their religion and beliefs.

But today I found myself kind of mad. I took Cookie and Jelly Bean to the mall today, as the weather was a little cold and it looked as if it might snow. I noticed a family where the woman was dressed in a prairie dress and wearing a white cap. What looked like her husband and son were dressed in modern clothes, jeans and t-shirts. I know that I really don't know their relationship to each other, but for a split second I was angry. Angry at the woman for allowing herself to be subjected to a double standard. Angry at the man for suppressing women. And then angry at myself for being so judgemental.

Of course if any of you really know me, then you know that I threw out my belief in God and religion a long time ago. In part the decision was because of my studies. I just had trouble following one religion when all of them seemed to have a similar message and purpose. I also gained an understanding of how each of them came to be. The blending of one religion into another. The bastardization of one religion in order to gain followers left a nasty taste in my mouth. And not one religion can claim they are not guilty of such acts.

If I really had to choose a religion to follow I most likely would pick Buddhism. I like the idea that life is suffering and once one understands that, then they are released from suffering. I also believe that it teaches some ethics and right action, which in a nutshell is what religion is there for anyway; to give people a path to follow. But I don't like organized religions, I don't like someone telling me how to interpret the Bible (which in my opinion is a great book full of interesting stories, but so is the Bagavad Gita). I don't like people thinking bad about others because they failed to show up for church or temple or whatever that week. To me religion is spiritual and for each person to follow as they see fit, not by some law enacted by government or a few of the religious leaders.

But, I understand why people believe what they believe, and I respect that. I know that deep down people need to believe in something greater than themselves. And maybe there is something or someone out there. And sometimes religion and beliefs are a good thing. Some people need that tie to others or the set of rules to keep them on a righteous path. Organized religion can do good. They can raise all kinds of money for all kinds of good deeds. It can provide a family to someone who has no one. And it can make people feel welcome in a new and strange place. Religion can provide peace to someone in a less than peaceful world.

I once read an editorial by a man who wished he had religion to provide him the comfort it gave his wife....but he couldn't start believing in something he was sure didn't exist. I wish I saved his article because it mirrored my feelings almost exactly. One reason I loved Job's Daughter's growing up is because I love the whole ritual of it all. Like Job's Daughters I think that Catholicism is beautiful in it's ritual also. I loved going to the Lutheran church as a teenager, not because I loved God and Jesus or even believed, but I loved the comfort of the ritual of receiving communion and the kneeling while praying as a whole congregation. I enjoyed visiting the Mosque, because like the sit, stand, kneel of the Lutheran and Catholic Church; the bowing on the knees and then standing was beautiful to watch. I felt the sense of calm come over the women as together they participated in their religious devotion. I'm interested in religions in a historical and the social sense.

So I am amazed at how one woman's dress could incite such passion and feeling in me. I realize that maybe I am still on my own spiritual journey. But one thing I am certain, you will not find me ever turning to organized religion ever again. I will not become a Christian, or a Jew, or a Buddhist. I am just too cynical and free thinking to ever follow some doctrine that tells me what is right or wrong. I know what is right and wrong. I think I will stick to the old model of do unto others.....and by the way, that saying does not exclusively belong to the followers of God and the ten commandments, the Buddhists and other religions also claim it for their own too. So live freely, believe what you believe, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

1 comment:

  1. Love this! :) Have you seen Religulous, the Bill Maher mockumentary? Have a feeling you'd love it.