My view of religion is a hard thing for me to put into words. I was baptized and grew up going to a Methodist church, but religion was not reinforced much at home. We were taught to be good people and could believe what we wanted to as long as we knew enough about it to reinforce our views. I never was forced to read the bible, and the most religious day-to-day activity we did was saying grace before dinner, which was usually just a mumbled quick few words so we could get on to eating. I always remember thinking in church, 'how can one religion be right at the expense of all others? How do we pray and praise a being that no one has even seen and we do not even know is real?' Therefore, I was open to spirituality but never strongly felt pulled towards a certain belief system. In my mind, praying to Buddha, God, Jesus or being Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist was fine, because being a good, kind person was above all the most important thing.
Through college I studied many religions and went to religious gatherings to learn about cultures and how other people think. It was like a history lesson- I could see what past people were drawing from and how it influenced their future. I stopped going to church sometime in high school, so I developed my views from what I learned in classes, in life, and from friends. Religion at some point, though, started making me uncomfortable because I felt it could push people apart. People believe certain things because of what their belief system says about them and can discriminate against others because it is not acceptable in their religious documents. I felt people did not get "with the times" on issues that have changed since B.C. when many religious documents and ideas were developed. Also, if you "confessed" you could be "forgiven of your sins" no matter what horrible thing you did. It didn't make sense to me- what happened to being a good person above everything? Did it matter if you prayed to someone or worshipped somewhere? Isn't goodness and kindness the most important? Especially in regards to the GLBTQ community and women's rights, I felt religions were lacking what they preached most about: acceptance and forgiveness.
Obviously religion is not cut and dry. Religious people can be more open and accepting than non religious people and non religious people can be better people than religious people. Your religion does not make you, but you can become a more satisfied person with some kind of belief and support system. Life is hard and what I am realizing is that religion, even with it's flaws, can provide comfort and support to make the journey a little easier. It can also teach us lessons about how to be better people and live more productive, influential lives.
Why am I talking about all this? Well, I went to church today for the first time in probably ten years (not including weddings, of course). I have been wondering if church would be a good place for me to learn and gain insight on my life now that I am an adult. I found the sermon and lesson to be very relevant to my life now. The sermon was from Luke 11:17 about leprosy and how Jesus cured ten lepers, but only one came to him to give his praise and thanks. The message was simple: Do not take good things for granted or think they are deserved. You should always give thanks to those (God) that have given to you. Don't always ask for more but be grateful for what you have. Don't relish on what you don't have. Want what you have.
Such a simple message, but one that resonated with me. I have thought for years that religion did not teach anything worthy to me, because of it's old and outdated books, but I am finding that it is more than just an old cultural establishment. Case in point: I have been walking around in a "funk" lately, where I have been wanting what I don't have and feeling sorry for myself. I have forgotten all that I do have and how great my life is. Sometimes, though, we can caught up on the little things and always want more. I am taking what I learned in church to get myself out of my "funk" and to be grateful for all the wonderful things. The message was so simple, yet powerful, and something I needed to hear.
While I took the message as less of a religious message and more of an insight into life, I think that is my right. We all take what we want out of religion. Though I doubt I will ever be the person in church to scream and praise loudly with my hands held high, and I may never pray much outside of religious events, I do appreciate what I can get from religion, and I hope if I continue to go to church or read the bible, it will give me insight on life and how to be a better and happier person. Religion to me is about teaching myself how to live a better life. That's what I want out of it- to believe that there is something great I should strive for and to hope that someone is watching over me, when I can't control what is happening. I so often want to think I am in control of everything in life, but I am quickly learning that is not the case.
So as I have always said, believe what you want to believe, and religion should have meaning for you in your own way. Still, acceptance and generosity should transcend all religions, and I hope no matter what the texts of your belief system say, that you take them to mean something specific and meaningful to you while simultaneously taking into account the world we live in now. The writings of religions are old and ancient, so do not forget to live in the present and to bring what religions teach you to make our world a better place now, and not one of more hate and discrimination.
And if anyone wants to talk religion with me, I am open:)