Nov 11, 2015

Posted by in My Viewpoints | 0 Comments

Faith and Religion: Educate don’t Indoctrinate

Right now faith and religion are a hot-spot of offense that many people seem to get really upset over, in one way or another. You have the people who are so into their religion that anything outside of it bothers them, right down the spectrum to people who are so atheist that even the idea of religion gets their feathers in a bunch. It really makes for a difficult time when it comes to quietly practicing your chosen faith, without having to resort to methods from the days of old and go into hiding to do so.

I’d like to start off by stating that there is nothing wrong with practicing your chosen faith, on the condition that your practice does not harm nor inconvenience others (ie: You stop to perform prayer/ritual/rites in a public place that causes inconvenience to others without prior official approval from a city official; I’m not talking being late to Jimmy’s party because of church). Faith and religion are something that’s meant to be personal, and because it’s personal it means it shouldn’t have to involve other people. Thus, if others don’t want to be involved they shouldn’t have to be. However, it doesn’t mean you should not be able to practice, either. Just don’t force it on other people, and other people should not condemn you for your practice. Not a difficult concept, but people seem to struggle with it regardless.

Then there’s the issue of what faith or religion to practice. Honestly, it astonishes me that in this day and age we are still arguing this. Way back in the history of the world, wars were fought over faith, and people died defending their beliefs. The amount of death that has followed religion around is terrible, and one would think that humanity as a whole would realize that this might be the stupidest reason to kill each other ever. Apparently though, we have not evolved past that point, ISIS being a prime example in the news of today. This just makes it difficult not to inherently discriminate against certain religions, or judge people based on them due to these extreme actions creating a sort of mass-fear of the faith as a whole. Which is completely unfair to those peacefully practicing the faith without causing woes to others.

To me, faith and religion are a beautiful thing. I find it wonderful and glorious when a person has found a faith that speaks to them and they wish to practice. Even if that faith is in science and they do not believe in any spiritual practices. That’s still a form of faith, and it’s just as beautiful as the Christian who prays or the Pagan performing a ritual or the Buddhist that meditates and chants mantras. What makes it beautiful though is the fact that the individual has adopted the belief, and feels passionately about it. It’s the passion that’s gorgeous. Just like when you witness a wedding of two people who are truly in love, it’s the passion that you are admiring.

It’s okay to be passionate about your faith, too. There’s nothing wrong with that, because if you weren’t passionate about it then why practice it? Faith and religion shouldn’t be a habit, nor a requirement. It should be a choice and a love. And if someday you find the love isn’t there and it isn’t serving you anymore, there should be no issue with you changing your views to something that does work. After all, as human beings we are constantly changing and having new experiences. It’s only natural that these things will change our beliefs, be it marginally or majorly.

Should someone ask you about your faith, there shouldn’t be a fear about telling them what you practice. No one should have to stumble over that question, and no one should be afraid to ask either. America, especially, was settled by the Pilgrims because they wanted religious freedom from the oppressive nature of their native country. We totally botched how to handle it, I realize, but that was the reason for their emigration.  To then go and say that we’re a “Christian Nation” is just silly. No, we’re a nation of freedoms. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights lay out what our natural born rights were, and state quite clearly that we are free in the “Pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness”. It says nothing about Christianity, and in fact we were founded with a separation of church and state. So there should be nothing wrong with being a Buddhist, Muslim, Protestant, Christian, Atheist, Shamanist, etc., just so long as you practice peacefully.

If we were able to speak openly about religion and faith without fear, it opens up the opportunity for communication. It would allow us to actively share and teach about our faith with those who were curious, and the dialog would probably be a great opportunity to realize that just because we have differing faiths that doesn’t mean we are any better or lesser than another person. It’d let us realize that many faiths honestly teach the same principal and moral values. There are even parallels between many differing holidays (Samhain and Dia de los Muertos come to mind readily) that I’m sure most don’t realize. There’s such a fear though of persecution, and religious bigotry that this dialog is stifled and it really is a terrible thing.

We should not, however, be trying to force each other to practice the faith we believe in. I don’t agree with fear-tactics to make a person believe, nor killing someone because they refuse. There’s nothing wrong with having faith, but don’t force it on another person. If they’d like to learn, that’s fantastic. If they don’t, then that boundary also needs to be respected. Pretty simple I think. Furthermore, if you indoctrinate someone who really doesn’t care nor share the passion for the faith, are you truly doing them a favor? Or just forcing a burden of belief on to them that they may not wish to shoulder? Jesus may be your Lord and Savior, but to force another person to believe that is a heavy thing. Faith is only light and wonderful if it is your passion and will to believe it. To those who don’t get a choice, it becomes a heavy thing to shoulder, and something they may eventually resent. A lack of faith follows the same principal. Just because you don’t believe in a higher power does not invalidate another person’s belief. And for some people, that belief is all they have to give them hope, and to take it away is a heavy burden on them.

So at the end of the day, it’s perfectly acceptable to practice a particular religion. It’s perfectly acceptable not to. But we need to respect these things in each other, and not try to decide who is right and who is wrong. It’s a pointless argument because the true answer is that no one is right or wrong. And in doing so we need to stop being offended when we see expressions of faith (that do not harm others or force them into anything) by others that don’t match our own. As an example, I practice Wicca, but I don’t get offended if I see a menorah or a nativity scene. It’s not hurting me, and it’s not forcing me to alter my beliefs, so why should I be offended?

If it takes a material object to validate your faith, by the way, you’re doing it wrong. Faith and religion should be internally validated, not externally. It’s personal, remember? 😉

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