So much of our lives is consumed by the asinine march toward certainty in regards to religion and faith.
It’s not enough to have our own ideas and moral/ethical structure. We often feel the ominous need to be right about every aspect of it. Lost in the shuffle many times is the idea that we are all on this planet, trapped together in one large societal mix.
We spend our lives focused on what we ‘know’ to be true. Instead of looking outward to listen and learn and potentially expand our outlook, we treat new information as heresy and a challenge to our own truths. We turn out the lights in our own minds, fiercely protective of our own version of the truth. In so doing, we lose touch with other people, forgetting that they are us. If your faith is authentic, it should never feel threatened by the presence of other ideas or other faiths.
We spend countless hours reading the same texts and words, seeing the same truth each time. It blinds us to the reality that the texts and beliefs we’ve inherited are flawed. For those who follow Jesus, surely you see the parallel in his life regarding religious authority and the truth he was attempting to seed into the world. Those rejecting his message were utterly convinced of their righteousness toward those threatening ideas.
Even though most religious people can gather in a circle and nod their heads in agreement toward the message of love and compassion, we find ourselves distracted by dogma and the burn toward being right in our specific realm of ideas. We angrily walk away from our circle of believers over trivial things, usually saying something such as “But the Bible clearly says…” even though we know that the Bible isn’t exactly clear on a lot of subjects. We also know that if so many people disagree about what it actually says, we have a problem much different than simple disagreement.
Religious belief is going to wither further if believers can’t stop focusing on dogma and superiority of belief. None of it matters if you are clouding your own mind and locking out entire portions of the world. Jesus didn’t sit in comfort amongst the believers. He lived in the middle of a practical world.
As an outsider, I see daily how crazy it looks to observe someone demean another person for his religion, denomination, or set of beliefs. Just as you look upon someone else as if they don’t have a clue, many people in turn are looking at you, wondering how you arrived at such crazy ideas. One man’s idea of religion looks preposterous to another. That’s the nature of religion. No matter how certain you are of your ideas and faith, trust me when I tell you that a lot of people think you are nuts, uneducated, or irrational. That’s how human beings tend to function.
There is another way, though. Instead of focusing on dogma and what you know to be true, try focusing instead on love and compassion. Helping others with food, clothing, education, and health care. Not being cruel or harsh when avoidable. Never taking advantage of someone. Remembering that your religion demands service toward others before service to oneself. Don’t focus on what someone else is getting for free. Focus on your blessings. Share them.
When you encounter ideas that contradict yours, at least in the religious sense, don’t assume the other person is lesser than you for their religion or god. Resist the urge to label them as uneducated, inhumane, or stupid. Their religions sustains them just as yours gives you a meaningful and powerful way to relate to your world. Grant them the same initial respect of humanity. Doing so will not lessen your dedication to your faith in any way. It will train your heart and mind to be receptive to everyone in your path.