When I was young, an adolescent or young teen, I as my father, once Sunday noon over our traditional Sunday meal, why I never saw him in church. He responded, and rather quickly too, that “when they stop preaching politics from the pulpit, I’ll go back.” The backdrop on this is my father was a Unitarian and my mother a devout Roman Catholic. When they were married, in 1946, the Roman Catholic Church did not allow for marriage between two people of different faiths. And while they did not prohibit Catholics from marrying those of other religions, such marriages were never allowed in the church proper. And so, my parents, two really good people who genuinely loved each other, were married by a priest but not within the walls of the church. To be fair, the Catholic Church was not alone in such practices, and while that practice no longer exists today in the Catholic Church, it does in other religions.
My first crisis of faith happened at age 15 when, having suffered a very traumatic experience at the hands of another, I sought out a priest, an Augustinian, who after hearing my story told me I should ask forgiveness for my sin. He showed absolutely no understanding, no empathy, and to my mind, not to slightest knowledge of New Testament Bible teachings.
And now we arrive at the Bible, the basis of all Judeo-Christian religions. I have actually read it! Even when I was young, many parts of it did not make much sense to me. But I was instructed that it is a work of faith, and I must have faith in its teachings. Really? I cannot help but wonder what is to be learned from the Old Testament teaching of “an eye for any eye” except that we will end up with a bunch of blind people! And actually, the New Testament contradicts that saying with Jesus telling his followers to “turn the other cheek.” Now that makes a whole lot more sense. Except that one of Jesus’ first pronouncements was that he had not come to change the law. I am assuming he was referring to the old Mosaic Law. And that law, if you considered it based on the 10 Commandments, was freely lifted from the ancient Egyptian “Book of the Dead.” Such facts make me wonder about the honesty of religions.
Conservative Christians today are quick to condemn gay people to hell claiming it is God’s will. I find that curious since the New Testaments clears states that you should judge someone in the same manner you wish to be judged. I don’t think they believe such an admonition applies to them. They are quick to point at the passage in the New Testament condemning one man laying with another. But the proper historical perspective on that saying comes from the fact that traveling merchants of the day would take young boys with them who would satisfy their sexual needs. It was not a commentary on people who were gay but upon the corruption of old men using innocents for their own selfish needs.
One of the most basic problems for all religions today is their interpretation and application of the Bible. If you were of no religion and desirous of joining a particular religion based on the Bible it used, you would first have to read through literally hundreds of Bibles, the Catholic Bible, King James Bible, New American Bible, Mormon Bible, and so on. The Hebrew Bible, of course, contains no New Testament, while Christian Bibles vary as to which Old Testament Books they include. What that alone tells us is exactly how personal religion is.
Here in the United States we have many religions which do not have the Hebrew-Christian-Islam God. Buddhists believe in Buddha and Hindus believe in an eternal spiritual truth.
Probably the most divided church today is also one of the largest, Roman Catholicism. Millions of Americans, I am one, call themselves Catholic but cannot remember the last time they went to church. Why? Disillusionment with its archaic laws and teaching. I suspect other religions are experiencing the same issues. Historically, religion has badly trailed present-day issues its followers must face. Unreasonable restrictions and admonishments by those church do little to comfort and much to confuse, frustrate, and cause anxiety among its followers. It is hard to believe, at least in Christian churches, such church orthodoxy would be embraced by its founder, Jesus.
It might be good for man to consider that it was not God who created religion, but man. Man has always searched for answers to those things he did not understand, and to bring meaning to life. For the answers to things he did not understand he created science, and for the meaning of life, he embraced God.
If God had intended for all humans to be alike he would not have allowed for free-will, for considered decisions, or for humans to have a brain that would function on a higher level than another other animal on the face of the Earth. And yet, there it is. We are endowed with minds that allow us to make individual decisions and, even more importantly, allow each of us to be unique in our own way. But it is that very uniqueness that does not allow us to think and act exactly as another other human being. And that is a good thing because oh what a boring place this earth would be if we were all alike.
It would shock many Christians to hear that monotheism pre-dates Moses, and by thousands of years at that! But it does not change the fact. The fact is man has been working on the idea of one religion fits all philosophy. If one thing the over 5000 years of recorded history should have taught us is the fact that that idea has failed miserably. But it has always been small-minded men who have had a vested interest in securing places of power within their followers, who have usurped the God-given right to think for themselves. To be fair, there exist a few religions that actually promote this think for yourself idea. And if you think about, that is the only thing which makes sense when trying to ascertain “God’s will.” Therefore, by definition, each person’s relationship with God is a very personal one and can only be defined in that one-on-one relationship. It is certainly not the job of religions to tell us what that relationship should be defined by or look like, but our own personal responsibility. It is the responsibility of religion to assist, the lend help, to show compassion, and to be there at the time of a person’s greatest need and without the least bit of judgment. And on that last point it is my belief that most religions fail miserably.
This brings me back to my father. Although he was a member of a particular church, I never associate that church with him. I look at him as the person he was and cannot help believe, though he was absolutely of a different religion form me, he was none-the less, a literal saint of a man. He died monetarily poor and richly loved. I should be so fortunate.