Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Looking up at the sky isn't always about god

Religion is not for me! I have never been a fan of organized religion. Nor have I ever practiced it.

That said, I see nothing wrong with what anyone else believes. Spirituality, in whatever form is vital to our well being as humans. Just because my beliefs have nothing to do with a supreme being or a book written by men several thousand years ago that has been over-studied, over-marketed, over-translated, and cherry-picked by whoever is reading it at the time, shouldn't matter to anyone but me. That is what freedom of religion, guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution is all about. We are all free to believe what we choose.

All this came to a head for me recently when I shared a meme on Facebook that all of my friends seemed to take the wrong way--or at least not the way I intended.
Go on, then
Source: The Hunger Site

I meant it as humorous, since weather forecasters were issuing dire warnings about an upcoming winter storm in our area. I included the comment, "P.S. Don't do this if it is sleeting or freezing raining."

I was a bit surprised when many of my friends took it to be a statement, religious in nature, as if looking up at the sky meant looking toward god.

Honestly, I didn't even think that. Only after I saw the comments, did it occur to me that this could be mistaken for a religious statement, despite its origin. It came from The Hunger Site, a site that is about online activism in the fight to end world hunger and which provides support for animals, people, and the environment, causes in which I have long believed.

I finally had to explain myself to my friends, by stating the following:

Funny how this is being interpreted from a religious perspective. That isn't how I meant it, but that's OK. Actually, I meant it with humor, thus the first comment. But to explain--when I look up at the sky, I don't see god because I'm an agnostic. I see the universe, the enormity of life forms here and potentially elsewhere. I see the stars, the clouds, and try to imagine all the possibilities beyond what we know. of course, these are all things that can be interpreted as god to those who believe in that. I just don't.

This brings to light the very uncomplicated notion that my friends and I may have similar imaginings; we may share similar ideals, behavioral guidelines, and means to get us through the rough spots life deals us. In short, we aren't that different at all.

This is the realization that I live by. Our similarities are more apparent than our differences until others are interjected through organized religion. 

Religion complicates things unnecessarily in my view. While there can be like-mindedness in groups, such as in a place of worship, there is also a loss of individuality and the kind of thinking that is uniquely our own. It is easy to be a follower, but not so easy to stand alone.

Churches for example are largely run by ministers. How often have you heard, "I go to church because I like the pastor?" I have had many friends in my life that were ministers. Our respect and our friendships were mutual. They understood and honored my beliefs. If they didn't, they wouldn't have been my friends. They didn't try to persuade me to come around to their way of thinking, or push their brand of religion on me.

Sometimes when we have a problem, it is nice to have a third party to talk to. A minister can certainly fill that role, but so can a good friend or family member, neighbor, or doctor.

What I abhor is that other kind of pastor--one that is little more than a con-man, a scam artist--who preys on people for his own benefit. I would hate to think of anyone I care about falling for one of those. We all have periods of need in our lives. It is unconscionable to think that anyone would take advantage at one of those times, but it happens so often. The vulnerable among us need to be protected, not exploited.

Wars have been and continue to be fought over religion. To me, it is crazy to want to kill someone because they have a different belief. It is the extreme consequence of like-minded groups being led by a charismatic but evil-minded person who can lead a group of people to do things they would never do on their own. It is mob mentality and it is dangerous and very often ugly.

Religion is big business. It is more about the money that can be amassed than the souls that are saved. It just so happens that saving souls is the excuse as churches have found the way to acquire huge riches at the expense of not just their congregations, but the states, counties, and locales where they exist. They pay no property taxes on huge tracts of land. Pastors reap huge tax benefits from affiliations with the church. Some are legitimate; some may not be.

So much more can be said on this topic, but my only point is to clarify how I see us all as human beings who are very much more similar than we are different, including our core beliefs.