Tuesday, April 20, 2004

I Know What You Believe

For twenty years I have been speaking to many different people about what they believed in, religiously speaking. This fascination on the spiritual path of others was due to my own longing to understand what attracted others to organized religion.

As I have mentioned before, I grew up going to church and Sunday school. My parents did everything right to indoctrinate me into their Christian beliefs.

About the time I graduated from high school something just didn’t seem right to me about the whole religious experience. A few years later I found myself questioning things even more. Not because anyone was talking to me about it, or trying to lead me astray. In fact, I didn’t want to tell anyone because I thought nobody would understand.

I prayed for guidance. I began to feel like I was the only one who felt like this, and could not figure out what the heck was wrong with me? I found out much later, once I started sharing my feelings with others, that I was not alone in this confusion.

Not one to be shy, I decided it was time to speak to someone about what I was feeling. When you want the correct answers, I knew you went straight to the source. Going to my church and making an appointment with our pastor, we sat down and had a long talk about Christianity, and religion in general.

Unfortunately, by the time I was done asking questions, and he was finished trying to answer them, I had my answer. It’s not his fault, he gave the standard answers I have heard from many people for the next twenty years.

Okay, since you’re now wondering what I mean by the standard answers, it pretty much boils down to this, “We take these things to be true on faith”.

Funny thing faith. It allows the wielder to not be accountable for the information. Taking something strictly on faith, leaves you open to all manner of misdirection.

Take the followers of Jim Jones, and the “People’s Temple.” The followers of Jim Jones thought he had all the answers. Many of them even followed him down to Guyana, South America when things began to get too hot for their religion in the United States. Their faith ultimately ended in them all drinking cyanide-laced Kool-Aid. Well some drank it willingly, some were forced, and some were just shot. All-in-all 914 people died for their religious faith.

Next, we all remember the group called, Heaven’s Gate, and their leader Marshall Herff Applewhite. Around March 26th 1997, 39 men committed suicide over several days by drinking a lethal cocktail of Phenobarbital and vodka. Their faith was that an alien spacecraft traveling behind the Hale-Bopp comet was coming for these men as they shed their earthly bodies.

Sure you read these things and think these are extreme cases, but how many of these followers were doing so on faith? I would say pretty much all of them.

An example that is closer to home, are the people now killing our soldiers in Iraq based on their faith. It is their belief, their faith, to kill everyone who does not follow their understanding of their religion.

Where am I going with all of this? These examples are exactly why I don’t follow anyone based on faith.

Does this mean you should not follow your religious beliefs? Certainly not! I do not want you to do anything based on your faith in me. I won’t ask you to drink Kool-Aid, but I also have no right to tell anyone what to do with their spiritual path. I’m the last guy you should be listening to!

What I would recommend that you do, is to study your religion. I’m willing to bet that you believe what you do because that’s what Mom and Dad believed, and you just grew up in the same religion. What do you know about what you believe?

I find it astounding that many people will argue with me until they pass out defending their religion, but they have no clue about how their religion came to be. They are arguing from a position of ignorance.

If you decide to research your religion, do so outside the official documents of your religion. Don’t read the Bible for your research, read the works from many scientists and theologians who have studied every aspect of Christianity.

Here are some ideas on places to start your search.

Mormons. You know that Joseph Smith started your religion on 6 Apr 1830. I encourage you to do some research on documents about Joseph Smith that are outside the Mormon control.

Wiccans. Did the modern Wicca religion began in 1954 with Gerald Gardner’s book, “Witchcraft Today?” Was it always being practiced in England as he claims? What proof does he offer? Are the Gods and Goddesses called upon for their help real, or just focal symbols?

Christians. When did Jesus live? When was the Bible written? Were there other versions of the same stories found in the Bible? Who put the Bible together? How did the people who wrote those stories know exactly, word-for-word, what Jesus and God had said?

If your religion isn’t listed here (with thousands of religions in the world, that’s a strong possibility), you should get the general idea from what I have presented above.

If you have so far believed in your faith because that’s what your parents believed, don’t you think you should learn about what you have patterned your entire life around? Heck, I’ll bet you're diligently indoctrinating your kids the same way your parents indoctrinated you.

My hope is that you just find more things to strengthen your belief. At the very least you will learn a little something about just what exactly you believe in.

Once you have researched your own religion, why stop there? Take a step back and look at what others believe, and possibly why they believe differently then you.

What were other people in other countries believing in when your religion was first started? If your religion broke off from another, why did they break away?

Just like learning about your country is important, learning about your belief system is equally important. The two major things that mold who you are, and what you do are the country you live in and the religion you follow. Don’t you think you owe it to yourself, and your family, to learn all you can about both?

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