Actually, I should post this one years from now, when I actually have more than 3 or 4 people looking at my blog. Because, I honestly want everyone who reads it to share their thoughts.
Growing up in Utah, was there really any chance I'd be raised anything but Mormon? Well, a very slight chance I suppose. But, I was, in fact, born and raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I suppose, before I go too far, that I want to say that I am grateful for how I was raised. I'm grateful, mostly, for how I've turned out and, I owe that in great part to being a Latter-Day Saint. The focus of this blog entry, however, is religion in general.
I have limited experience. I've never belonged to another religious organization so, I can't speak specifically about other people's religious experiences. Hopefully I'll not make an ass of myself if I do speak about another faith.
Here's a question: Why religion? Why do people believe? Why do people have faith--a belief or confidence in the unknown? (OK, perhaps I meant, "Here are some questions:"). What draws people to relgion? And then, what determines what religion people will be drawn to?
Throughout most of recorded history, it seems there has always been religion. But even going back as far as we can find, there have been multiple religions. To me, this means people have always disagreed on religion. And people have always moved on, from one place to another, to find what suits them best; some of the best evidence that PEOPLE ARE DIFFERENT. For many, that bolded text is easy to say but tough to truly accept. (More on that later).
I once heard the saying, "Religion is Prozac for the masses." Hmmm....religion is a drug then? Well, that kind of a phrase might get you kicked out of a Mormon fast and testimony meeting. But I can see its point. People do use religion to make them feel calm. It's used to make them feel special. For many, religion is an escape from "the real world." So, yeah; I suppose religion is a bit like Prozac for the masses. I have an aunt who I think is a bit of a religious zealot. I'm sure her first reaction to reading this paragraph would be to gasp with horror. On the other hand, aren't all of those "drug-like" uses of religion good things? I mean, anything which can calm a person, make them feel like it's going to be OK, or make them feel loved, like they're special, is a pretty wonderful thing, especially if it isn't an actual drug. So, I can agree with that phrase.
Are there any other benefits to religion? Of course. Religion CAN BE a good, even great institution. For instance, Christians want to be good, or be better than they are, as a way of showing love and thanks to their deity, God/Jesus Christ. Religious organization is a great way for people to help other people. For instance, and this is definitely a Mormon thing, my sweet wife has been on bed rest for nearly a month. Now, we have rarely ever been big, sit-down-to dinner people. Instead, a sandwich here, a frozen burrito there always suffices. But for the last month, fairly regularly, various members of our local congregation (ward) bring us home-cooked dinners. What's especially amazing about this, my wife has been to church once since we moved here a year ago. (The church people are still waiting for me to show). Religion CAN keep us humble. Simply admitting that we didn't just suddenly appear in this life on our own--that there is a higher power/being out there somewhere who/that is in charge can keep our egos in check. These are just a few benefits that religion can offer.
By the way, I served a mission for 2 years for the LDS Church in Los Angeles, CA from June 1995 to June 1999. I'm sure I'll blog about it down the road. Suffice it to say that it was wonderful and I'll forever cherish that experience.
Most people don't think of religion as a bad thing, even if they're not particularly religious. But history, and the present state of some of the world show that it can, in fact, be a bad thing. Many have died for their own religion. As well, many have been killed, in the name of someone else's religion. (Remember when I said people have a difficult time truly accepting other people's differences?) Sadly, many Americans are presently taught that people of other faiths are "the enemy." Many, some in my own family, are deathly afraid that Barack Obama is a Muslim. There were rumors that he was sworn into the senate on a Koran, rather than The Holy Bible. Oh my! Are there some crazy people of the Islamic faith? Well, crazy is relative. But there certainly are some Islamists that will kill you in the name of Allah. By the way, if you still haven't found out, Barack Obama is a Christian. All better now? I'm not done.
It's very safe to say that more deaths, more slavery, more destruction, and more atrocity has been done in the name of the Christian Church than any other religion. Did that make you open your eyes really wide? If so, better find yourself some better history books to read. A good place to start would be the Spanish Inquisition. Another might be the long version of Columbus' story. Sailing the ocean blue in 1492 wasn't all that guy did. What about the Holocaust? 6 million people killed because they were Jewish instead of White Protestant. How about slavery? The southern states, and many Yankees alike, believed that God was behind them all the way when they enslaved, raped, and whipped their "hired help." So much so, that, in the name of the church, they forbade the practice of the slaves' native, traditional rituals for quite some time. Christianity was even forced on the American Indians. Their alternative to embracing the white man's ways was death. The enforcement of religion upon anyone, if it is against their will, is a bad thing. History has shown us that time and time again.
I don't like that people use religion as a way to justify maltreatment of others. I don't agree with my own church that California Mormons must use all their means to overturn a recent supreme court decision to legalize gay marriage. (If you're unfamiliar, look it up on the internet. Try and find a reliable source though). I don't like how some religions have and do elevate one race of people over another. And many have done it. In a way, the war in Iraq was religiously based. Saddam didn't think or believe as George W. Bush does and that got his country invaded and got him killed. Well, because of that and a little something called fossil fuels. (Don't get mad---I know Sadaam did some really, really horrible things too. He got what was coming to him. I just don't know that Bush was to be Saddam's moral judge). I don't like how different religious organizations assume they are God's chosen and the rest are off their rockers. Instead, how about accepting that "the other people" just moved along until they found what worked for them. It IS OK for people to be different. You can even be really close friends with someone who is "different."
Ramble, ramble, ramble. My brain is spinning and I cannot possibly organize my thoughts in a more coherent manner. Maybe I should take another writing class. Well, religion can be good or bad or neither. I think if you find a religion that makes you really, truly happy, then good on you. Or, if religion just isn't your thing, and you feel perfectly happy and content with that, good on you. My church doctrine says, "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where or what they may." I think that most Americans should believe that way, especially since America was founded on freedom from religious oppression. My philosophy: If it's not hurting anyone else, live and let live.
OK. I realize that, maybe, none of the above makes sense. I know I haven't said everything as well or as complete as I would want to. But, I'm not a good writer and it's late. Also, I really love discussing this topic. Finding out how people believe, and why is a huge curiosity. So, if you happen upon this blog, feel more than welcome to ask me questions or just to leave your thoughts.