“Dad, what is the deal with religion?”
Great. No one ever said being a parent was easy, but when you have to answer a child’s question that you have absolutely no idea how to answer, even though you may think you have an idea what the answer is, well…let’s just say the conversation gets extremely interesting.
You see, the older I get, the more I think the concept of God is the same as that of Santa Claus.
Let me explain.
Leaders since the dawn of time have tried to keep people in line. They have created rules for everyone to follow and abide in order to mold a peaceful and orderly society. They have attempted to control the way people generally live their lives.
Like almost everything else, a story, concept, whatever…starts as one thing and becomes something else over time that it really never was. A common activity in team meetings at work is to ask a group of several people to stand outside, and have one person at a time enter the room. The story is told to the first person that enters, and he or she is asked to reiterate said story to the next person that enters the room. By the time the last person enters and is told the story, the original is forgotten, and a totally new yarn is created.
Welcome to Christianity, and I’m sure the same could be same for most other religions.
The Old Testament has been copied and rewritten into several different languages. I find it hard to believe after that after many translations that the stories have remained the same. There are stories of men that lived hundreds of years, arks built to hold people and animals for 40 days and 40 nights because God was mad and made it rain out of anger, and other phenomena that the world has never seen. People rarely live for 100 years; the Bible speaks of many who live multiple centuries.
The New Testament was supposedly written in response to the birth of Jesus Christ. There are four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, that discuss Christ’s life and times. They discuss the lessons He taught, and the promise of life after death in Heaven if they followed Him and his Father. Three days later after he died, he rose from the dead, and is seated to the right of his Father. There is also a Holy Ghost/Spirit, the third of the trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that makes up God.
Do I believe that Jesus Christ existed? Yes, I do. Do I believe that he lived a life of good and preached to his followers to do the right thing and treat others with love and respect? Yes, I do. Do I believe that he was born via the Immaculate Conception, rose from the dead, and eventually return?
This is where I believe reality steps in. Again, after repeating the story so many times it is now stretched a bit thin.
I believe that a following began, and the ideas and beliefs Christ preached continued. However, to get more converts and society in-line, spectacular and dramatized stories were told. Back in the day, it was not uncommon to believe in ghosts and other spirits, so to have people believe in the Virgin Mary and “Rising from the Dead” wasn’t too much to ask.
Catholicism was the only form of Christianity up until the Church got out of hand and pissed a few people off. A priest named Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis because to receive forgiveness the Pope made people pay money (i.e. Indulgences), along with many other reasons. When “The Vicar of Christ” pissed off King Henry VIII of England by denying his request for divorce, the King told the Pope to pound sand and created the Anglican Church (now the Episcopal Church in the United States).
So much for the absolute word of God.
I have gone to Church many times, and technically I am a baptised Roman Catholic. I remember a conversation I once had with a priest, and during I asked a very simple question that I am sure many Christians have thought.
“What proof do we have that God exists?”
“Faith my son. You must have FAITH.”
Sorry, but I want proof.
Listen, the teachings of Christianity and other religions mostly are great. Be a good person. Do not steal. Do not commit adultery. Honor your mother and father. Be kind to your neighbor. Do not murder. Yeah, all of that makes great sense to me.
However, according to Catholicism, when I die I must travel to Purgatory before ascending into Heaven. Protestants I guess didn’t like the whole Purgatory thing and have decided to omit that part, along with not being able to divorce your spouse if and when your marriage goes to shit.
I understand that some people need something to cling to in order to get through life’s trials and tribulations. Let’s face it – life isn’t always a bowl of ice cream. But for me, when I close my eyes to think and work things out in my head, I know I’m talking to myself and not asking “God” for help. God isn’t giving me answers; I am thinking and coming up with my own answers based on experience and/or intelligence. What I come up with may be right or wrong, but it is me and not a deity that came up with it.
To me, religions start out with great intentions, but become a tool for good AND evil. Also, by default, they are too rigid by their original design, and as civilization continues to grow both mentally and emotionally, people see it’s faults and disadvantages.
Think about the wars fought in the name of “God”. Right now, world-wide terrorism compels us to focus on Islam. The Middle East has been in one war or another for thousands of years; however, today technology has allowed it to spread well beyond it’s borders. Also, these wars have not always been courtesy of Islam; Christianity has done a wonderful job creating wars in the past (check out the Crusades if you would like a history lesson).
Hell, in the United States, people have wanted to maintain power and control by leveraging Christianity to keep African-Americans in check for decades, and some argue they continue to do so (e.g. the KKK). There are plenty of hate groups that do their absolute best to keep non-Caucasians down and out. Many a man behind a Christian pulpit has spewed hate when clearly the Bible states to love your fellow-man.
I guess it’s all about someone’s “interpretation”.
Moreover, Homosexuality has existed forever. However, it was decided a very long time ago that men and women who were not heterosexual were deviants and could not be accepted in society. Forget the fact that they are excellent people who live honorable lives and contribute to society; what they do in their bedrooms and/or private lives was too much for a “decent” society to accept. Unfortunately, this is still an issue with some people today because somewhere in the Bible (where I have no idea because I can’t find any discussion about homosexuality or Jesus speaking against it) it is a sin to love someone of the same sex.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest problems I have with religion is that it does not evolve with society. It is too rigid. However, Pope Francis appears to see the 21st century light, and is taking the Roman Catholic church in a different direction by focusing on helping people instead of dictating to them. The Pope said that if an Atheist is a moral person and lives a good life – who is he to judge.
I guess the best way to answer my son’s question is to keep a difficult subject as simple as possible: People will and are free to believe whatever they wish. When the time is appropriate I will tell him that he will never see Santa, or hear his reindeer and sled land on the roof. On Christmas morning there will always be presents under the tree, and we will always celebrate the holiday. I believe in the idea of Santa Claus, and he can choose to do the same.
Likewise, as religions teach, we will live honorable lives that compels us to treat people with honesty, dignity, and love. We will strive to always do the right thing by allowing the use of our minds – emotions, logic and facts, to dictate the appropriate action necessary for each situation. Yes, we will make mistakes but strive to learn from them.
That being said, I will never tell my son what to “believe” – that is for him to determine on his own. That will be part of his progression as a human being. Hopefully, he, like I, will never look down upon someone who loves another human being of the same sex. I will also teach him that part of the First Amendment of our country’s Constitution provides for the “Separation of Church and State” and religious freedom, which means the right to believe or not to believe in any religion, not to allow any religion, including Christianity, to dictate how we create and interpret laws, and/or how laws are created in the future.
All religions provide excellent life lessons, but no single one provides all the answers. All religions depend on interpretations, and at times that has led to serious trouble. Again, relying on “faith” will never be good enough for me. Perhaps later in life it will be enough for my son, and that’s fine, but for me I will always rely on moderation, logic, and good old common sense.
Religion is either a great tool or brutal weapon—it all depends on it’s use.