This past summer I met an inspiring person who had similar views about religion. However, unlike me, he studies all religions and has read the Bible, the Tanakh, and Koran. He is an avid believer in faith, but not religion. He made some very interesting points about the issues with religion. For instance, he had one similar view with me by claiming any religion is tarnished when it becomes a business because it is consumed with raising money. He also made the astute observation that religions are referred to as denominations. And what is the meaning of denominations – divide. In other words, religions divide and polarize the masses. Thus, there is nothing wrong with having faith without practicing any divisive religious ideology.
For the most part, religions and their followers coexist in society without any issues or problems. However, there is no question that religion and religious beliefs have created a great deal of friction around the globe. Today, the U.S. is fighting Islamic extremists in two wars and Jewish – Muslim tensions in the Middle East are as high as ever. Many wars throughout history have been waged over religious ideologies. The Crusades and the conflict between Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants are all excellent examples of religious wars. And let’s not forget how the issue of a Muslim cultural center being built at ground zero turned into a media circus painting all Americans as Islamophobic. This may not be true, but it illustrates how religion creates friction.
I was brought up a Catholic, but my view of the Catholic religion was tarnished at a very young age. I attended Parochial school up to making my communion in second grade. During my few years in the school I was beaten by nuns for telling the truth; beaten for not going to the Catholic Church affiliated with the school; and beaten for not donating enough money to the school and church. In essence, I was punished if my parents did not drive me 10 miles to the proper church or if they could not afford to give large sums of money to their cause. This not only got me upset with the church, but it created unnecessary conflicts with my parents.
My mother’s second husband (my stepfather) was an alcoholic who was both physically abusive to my mother and me. Our family suffered through many years of brutal beatings. My mother sought the advice of a Priest and he told her she was obligated to stay married to this monster since divorce is a sin and she already had one strike against her. How can any human being, Priest or otherwise, give such bad advice. What’s worse, the Priest could see my mother’s scars and he still would not help her seek refuge. This proves religions can be much too rigid. There are no exceptions to any rules for any reason whatsoever even if it means life or death. This is absurd, life is not all black and white in fact; it is mostly gray.
I married an avid Catholic and got married in a Catholic Church. Prior to the wedding, the Church put us through many exercises including taking a compatibility test. The test told us what we already knew – we were polar opposites. This alarmed the Priest and he talked to me one on one about the results and begged me to reconsider our decision to get married. His main concern was my behavior since I did not go to Church nor did I donate money to the Church. The Priest was afraid that my opinions may influence my wife’s actions and beliefs. I told him that our marriage will in no way affect my wife’s church going ways nor would it affect her donations. He did not believe me, but I have never questioned any individual’s religious beliefs and asked them to alter them. I also explained to the Priest that the Church was going about screening compatibility all wrong. No couple is going to be 100% compatible and it only takes one issue to break up a marriage. Instead of gauging compatibility, the Church should be teaching people how to cope with their differences. He scoffed at my proposal and reluctantly married us. We have been married 19 great years.
The problem with religion is that it is too inflexible, rigid, divisive, and business like. For this reason, I avoid religion and practice my faith in an individual manner.
My Book: Is America Dying? (Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble)