(Note: this goes into further detail on a thread I started in the posting "books")
Ah, the blog! Somewhere to voice my internal dialogue. What a relief. Here's what I think of at 4:30 in the morning when I can't breathe (from a cold) (you may be surprised):
Some background: I grew up in a house with an atheist and an agnostic. As a child, religious exposure was occasionally provided by my grandmother (a member of the United Church of Canada) who lived 5 houses down the street from us. She wasn't preachy, and my parents allowed us to pursue whatever religous path we chose - even if it wasn't theirs (usually either pure science or Eric von Daniken-esque musings). So there were periods when I went to church with my grandmother. There were also times when I went to other churches with friends. But my enthusiasm with joining any church ended when I perceived hypocrisy or when one of the church's tenets did not sit well with me (for instance, I just can't get over the virgin birth thing - sorry, but that one point is a major deterrent away from Christianity - but they have lots of other great ideas that I put in my spirituality pocket).
As I grew into young adult-hood I became pretty jaded toward any organized religion. I can't think right now why I became that way aside from the possibility that I just never found one that fit with how I felt about the world. I didn't take kindly to clergy telling me what I should believe or feel when I didn't believe or feel that way. I didn't have anything against them, it just wasn't right for me.
Throughout my life I have read about and discussed religion and spirituality a lot - my parents were the first sounding boards, and many others have taken that position since. And I've come to some conclusions of my own that work for me. And I don't need someone else standing at a pulpit to tell me that I'm right or wrong. For me, I am right.
So for that with background, here is what I started thinking about last night. The main question that came to me was: "Why are people so threatened by religious beliefs that are different from their own?" (After all, many wars have started over religious differences, and millions of people have been killed for the same). The obvious answer is that they are fearful. By why?
The answer that makes the most sense to me is that they are afraid they are wrong. If someone else has a different belief, it challenges their own. Only one belief system can be right, right? So if you believe something different than I do, then maybe I'm wrong. So I have to change your belief or get rid of you, because my belief is right. I know that. It makes me feel good and helps me deal with the world. And your belief system brings in doubt that makes me very uncomfortable. FEAR. That's what it is. Fear that everything I believe and that keeps me grounded is wrong. My foundation is shaky and I need to fight to regain it. Since fighting someone else is always easier than fighting myself, I think I'll fight you. After all, YOU caused these uncomfortable emotions in me. And I have a whole lot of like-minded people who can back me up against you and yours.
Of course there is also the physical reality of maintaining a large church. The more people in the church, the more support (financial, physical, emotional) is available. There is strength in numbers. Huge cathedrals were built because of strong congregations. So get more people in here so they can support our beliefs and our lifestyle. There is a lot worth fighting for there, as well. Again, FEAR of losing that support can push people to violence.
But why can only one belief system be right? Why can't they all be right? Yours is right for you. Your beliefs make sense based on where you were born, who raised you, what information you have been exposed to, what your culture tells you. And someone living somewhere else, raised by different people, exposed to different information or from a different culture may well have different beliefs from yours, but they make sense to them.
There's an opinion that I've heard a couple of times in the past: "What you say about me behind my back is none of my business". I've always thought that was very true. The gossip said about me behind my back really doesn't affect the person I am and I'm better off not knowing about it. And I feel religion is similar. Someone else's spiritual beliefs are really none of my business. Of course, a good debate is always welcome, and I like to hear other people's opinions about spirituality in case it can help me add to my own. But if it's not offered, it's none of my business. And it certainly doesn't shake my connection to the Universe to know that other people believe differently from me.
I consider the universe of spirituality to look like a bicycle wheel - many spokes leading into the centre. The spokes are spiritual pathways, the centre is God (white light, universal energy, Allah, Buddha, Nirvana, Heaven, the whole plethora of Hindu gods - whatever word you choose for it). All pathways lead to God, and whether you stick to the straight and narrow on one path, or jump from one to another, are with a huge group of people or go it alone, the spiritual pursuit will lead to God.
I can't help but think, however, that if others are harmed along the way, your progress will be greatly slowed. I agree with the Wiccan saying: "An it harm none do what ye will".