I have to express something that has been rattling around in my head. It has been an ongoing issue my entire life. It is a taboo topic, something I end up biting my tongue over more often than actually having an opportunity to share or discuss. I too often feel crushed and lost between the extremes of both sides… those who are anti-religion and those who are hard-core-religious. I cannot be alone, there has to be others who are not religious but respect the right to others religions. Yes the loudest voices are from those who prefer to attack others vs. those who choose to respect others. Sadly, if I admit to not being religious I am lumped in with a bunch of nuts, and if I defend religion I am lumped in with the other group of nuts. Yet I know there are sane people who are religious and not religious, they just keep to themselves, but I am sick and tired to biting my tongue!
The only thing lately that has given me an ounce of feeling “normal” is the character Sheldon on “Big Bang Theory”. His alien, robotic like response to humans, as he tries to understand their actions, reactions, and behavior is not unlike my own. I feel alien. You do not see Sheldon touch on where he stands on religion, but the inference that he is not religious is made. On many levels he is an outsider looking in, but still disconnected. I am Sheldon!
Let’s start with a hot-topic… Westboro Baptist Church funeral protests…
We all have been very aware of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka Kansas’ protests at funerals. For many this is that fine-line between our Freedom of Speech and people who has no decency, standards or ethics. For me, this expands issues I have with many religions. I will never fully understand why people will attack others (verbally, physically or emotionally) in the name of their religion. And that is what Westboro church is doing, their protests are against gays, but are they attacking gays? No they are attacking the peace people want, need and deserve during a funeral… even worse yet when they choose to protest at the funeral of a soldier, the same person who lost his/her life defending their right of free speech. Does Westboro Church see this? The irony has been used saying that people are using freedom of speech against Westboro’s freedom of speech. The bottom line, it is not their freedom of speech anyone is arguing about it is the lack of human decency and respect. They can still have decency and respect, while still protesting. Does their religion not want peace and respect at their funerals? Or will their church members protest at their own funerals? Sadly there is no way to force people to be respectful and decent; we sadly have to tolerate the obnoxious behavior of people like this.
The hypocrisy that ends up being tied up with religious people is what plucks my nerves the most. Part of the problem does come from various “interpretations” and then from people warping their church to fit their needs. There are so many “flavors” of churches now, yet too often the members are definitely not in touch with their religion, because it is so watered-down it has lost any point, meaning, purpose. Well any purpose besides being a social gathering center, and to give them a (false) sense of superiority for the time they spend at their church. Simply attending church does not make a person better. Simply sitting in a church does not allow a person to absorb decency, values, morals or ethics. Simply reading the bible does not make one understand it, know it, or follow what it contains, as well a person understanding the bible also does not translate to an improvement of that person. Think about it, studying physics does not make a person a physicist, we all can take a course but not become an expert in that subject. Reading does not always mean understanding.
The interpretations are definitely a big problem. Think about when you read something someone else writes you may try to interpret their intent, their state of mind, their emotions; you may try to interpret what is not written. Religion is interpreted the same way, the same book read by many people, each person ends up picking and choosing what they believe it means. Again relate this back to the Westboro Baptists, who think their religion is telling them they are justified in protesting at funerals, that they are justified in how they feel about gays. Anyone who thinks they KNOW they are right, find someone you think is absolutely nuts… look at what you think they are nuts for doing or saying or believing, then think about your own actions and reactions. No one is perfect, no one is 100% right, we all can learn and gain from others, if you think you have all the answers you probably are one of those nuts… reexamine where you stand, how you act and react to others. Because even if you may be “right” about something it does not mean you are handling your answer correctly (in how you react to others).
One of the things, from my own experience that has bothered me for a long time… the behavior of religious people. This is touching on that (false) sense of superiority many religious people have. (Note to religious people, I am also noting that I do not like how anti-religious people handle their situation either).
As a child the experiences I had in church were constantly negative, I was stolen from numerous times by church members, when I was 5 years old I was throw down the church steps by another member (have a scar to remind me).
When I was in my 20s, I rushed to a friend’s home to let him know about a flooded road, that he would take on his way to work. His parents (Episcopalians that attended church several times a week) left me out in the downpour (they did not have an overhang, no cover at all) and closed the door, they would not let me inside their home. Does this sound like they practice what they preach? Is this treating others as you would want to be treated yourself?
Another example, a family I know who “needs” to post their every church action on Facebook. They are the true example of superficial (as well as clueless), and also completely out of touch with their religion. They definitely fail on the “practice what you preach” (as so many other experiences I have witnessed). I have watched their children grow up, their daughter has a perforated face (piercings in her nose, lip, etc.) and tattoos cover her body (including a biblical verse tramp stamp). One odd event, when the one daughter was about 10 years old, the mother called her daughter to tell her of a family member’s death. There was no one home; the mother could have waited another 15 minutes to tell her daughter when she got home (the daughter came to me, since her mother told her daughter this while her daughter was completely alone). The mother simply does not think, and sadly her daughters are following in her footsteps. She should have been giving her children boundaries and guidelines; she fully permitted her children’s bad choices. It is only by a miracle that the older one did not get pregnant during high school, but it is yet to be seen what will happen with her other child. Another irksome choice the mother made the Gardasil vaccination. She did not bother to learn about it, or listen to anything I shared with her about it. She just followed blindly and obediently to the school requirement. Again these are just a few highlights, and this is partly due to her being a bad parent, but she also does so many things under the cover of her religion, with a “false” sense of superiority, yet she is clueless, and she just does not care to understand any ramifications of actions that she has made!
I have watched things go from a very religious world, where I was ostracized for not blindly following the rest of the sheep… to a world where it is either religious hypocrites or anti-religious nuts. I understand where those who are fighting against religious are coming from, but they are using the same fight they are fighting against. They want everyone to be not-religious, just as religious people tried to force religion on them. I know the reality is a constant fight and struggle, that one entity has a need, wish & desire to hold power over all others. Dominating is the ultimate intent. It is hard to expect America to be able to have so many religions, and non-religious people, without someone wanting to have the loudest voice.
But who is wrong and who is right? My answer, who cares. If religion makes a person feel good, safe, secure, and helps them be a better person… then please follow it. If a person does not feel a connection to religion, why should they have to follow religion? The issues I have with religion are the hypocrites, or those who feel any one who does not believe in their religion must die, or those who do not follow their religion are beneath them. I find it sad when either side refuses to learn, or listen about the other side, and simply attacks. For me that shows a huge shortcoming for the individual, regardless if you believe or not what the other person believes, you still gain by learning and listening.
To anti-religious people, regardless of what you think of religion it has a point and existence in history. You do not have to believe in religion to see and understand that facet. If you choose to “wipe out” religion, you are also erasing a huge facet that helps understand history and why certain things have happened over time. Most things people have done over the course of time were influenced by religion. Land conquests, wars, discovery of land, formation of governments, creation of amazing art and architecture. There is good and bad to all things, but if religion helped to move and inspire people, everyone gains. Even when war was a factor people still gained. If people stay in the same place and never explore they also fail to learn or grow. Exploring allowed people to learn about other people, races, religions, etc. So rather than attack religion, look at what you can gain from it, you don’t have to follow it, just learn about see how it connects to history and the present.
Here is something that is often argued… Think about money, the ultimate in power, right? The US motto was changed to reflect “In God We Trust” (President Eisenhower on July 30, 1956) from “E pluribus Unum”, and added to US paper currency. In 1955, “Under God” was also added to our “Pledge of Allegiance”. But “In God We Trust” actually has been on coins since the (1861-1865) The Civil War (the penny started just in 1859, before the Civil War). Due to the near division of our country religion was seen as the one thing that could unite this country. “E Pluribus Unum” was on and off the coins over the years with “In God We Trust”. This shows there was a time when religion was used to unite; now it is a source of division.
Visit Coin Communities for history and details on US coins, very neat site. http://www.coincommunity.com/coin_histories/
So will our country need another war or some catastrophe before it can find a reason to unite? And is the ONLY way people can unite be through religion? Don’t we have enough reason in this country to come together? The differences in religion, race, and so many other things that first blended this country, giving us the name “The Great Melting Pot” has since curdled, and become a sour spot.
Another way to view this is … politics. Even if you do not wish to view religion vs. anti-religion, look at the division of left and right, liberal and conservative, democrat and republican. The left stays stagnate because they refuse to see any view points of the right. They are determined they correct, all knowing and superior. While say Conservatives are typically Christians, notice the same fight… most Christians are deaf to non-Christians, just like the Left is deaf to the Right.
Every facet of life has always had two major sides, you are either for or against. Think about the saying “keep your enemies closer” or about “knowing your enemy”… besides thinking of someone with an opposing view as the “enemy” just realize you can gain more strength by knowing their views/points/perspective. Knowledge is Power!!
Still yet I get frustrated when my side is condemned, attacked, or people simply avoid me when they realize I am not “one of them”… that I do not follow their religion. While I am happy to respect their religion or beliefs, they refuse to respect mine, I know it is their limitation.. It is extremely frustrating and it does not matter if they know or don’t know, even by not “following” their beliefs I am ostracized.
Remember everything has a gray area. While I am not a Christian, I tend to hold alot of Conservative politic values, yet I am not truly a Conservative, I am more of a Libertarian. I believe in law, though I do not agree with all laws. I do not have to agree with all things to understand and listen. Thank you for listening to my issues today!