I think I've written here before (but am too lazy to go searching the archives for) about how I'm going through a bit of a crisis of faith. As the child of divorced parents I spent half my formative years attending sporadic Methodist services in the various places we lived with my mom and the other half completely engulfed in the male half of my genetic make-up's very southern, very Pentecostal church life. I can't imagine it being any more confusing than that... except perhaps if my mom had been atheist.
Picture me, aged somewhere in the middle school years, having gone to maybe three church services in the entire school year only to be shipped off to spend the summer with my father who went to church not only on Sunday mornings, but Sunday and Wednesday evenings as well. We spent most of our Saturdays at the church, or at some church member's home, or at a park having a picnic with yet more church people. I won't lie y'all I LOVED it. In fact, I would say that the social aspect of church is still the one thing I miss more than anything.
In Jr. High I went to a private Christian school and promptly joined the youth group of the church affiliated with my school. I remained a fairly active member through out high school despite increasingly feeling uncomfortable with the actions and ideals of the church and its members. I haven't regularly attended church services since I graduated High School and by "not regularly" I mean pretty much not at all. Suffice it to say that I've done quite a bit of growing up over the last 13 years or so and I've really struggled with the ideals and things I was told were right as a child and with the things that my grown-up self feel are right.
I've spent the last couple years studying other religions that interested me, not with the thought of converting to anything different but more to see if I could find a religion out there that I could feel at peace with. I've studied a little bit of Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and even stuff like Rastafari. The combined effect being a little confusing but at the same time comforting. I love different aspects of each of these religions and there are so many similarities of message among them that I can strive towards in my own life.
I love the compassion of Buddhism - the thought that all life is precious and that through right action you can achieve peace. I love similar things about Hinduism and also that no religion teaches the only way to salvation above all others. That directly goes against everything I ever learned in church about belief in Jesus being the only way to salvation. I like the Jewish idea that ones actions are more important in their relationship with God than their beliefs. I always struggled with the notion of confessing sins, being forgiven and then going right back out and committing those same sins all over again knowing you could just confess again and be right back at square one. I love the sheer optimism and positive message of Rastafari. But I have questions...
So... what if there is only the one God? That regardless of whether we call him God, Allah, Yahweh, Bhagwan or even Jah, we're all talking about, praying to and believing in the same higher power? And if that is true then really aren't all religions the same religion just with various cultural and regional beliefs, morals and social mores superimposed onto it? Meaning that in your religion something is considered wrong not necessarily because it IS wrong (I think we can all agree that some things are sins regardless of your belief, or not, in God) but because it is/was socially frowned upon?
And, bear with me here on this hypothetical ride, if we are all God's children (and most religions do have this theme of God being the father figure) then couldn't we argue that Jesus was the son of God in just the same way that I am a daughter of God? No doubt the man was a prophet and a teacher, and a magnificently charismatic one at that - with his message of love and acceptance and do no wrong. But why can there have been only one? And why would God chose to send a son to save only members of one religion (following the thought that all Gods are the same God so all religions are essentially the same)? Why aren't other religion's prophets respected in the same way and their teachings given equal weight?
I know there can inherently be no right or wrong answer to these questions... But it is interesting to think about and study. I just wish it wasn't such a taboo subject to discuss so that instead of having this constant stream of thought and questioning going on in my own head I could discuss it with others. But I've never witnessed a truly "friendly" intellectual discussion of religion that did not at some point result in hard feelings and insults for the ways in which individual beliefs differ. Maybe that is the ultimate goal of religion, to help all of us to learn to love each other for our differences and know that we can all co-exist harmoniously in the world God created for us, his children - ALL his children.
Okay - if anyone is still reading at this point and hasn't become so offended as to delete me from their reading list all together - I feel like I should clarify something. I DO believe in God. I have felt his presence and his love for me all my life. I see God in the beauty of nature when I'm outdoors, I see him in the actions of every day people and I see his influence in the way I live my life. I believe in doing good unto others and in love and in compassion. I thank God for many things, including the inspiration he gives to doctors and scientists and artists and all sorts of talented individuals who make this world a better place. I do NOT believe that God is concerned with the petty things modern religion makes important and I do NOT think that he would be overly pleased with all of the anger and violence in the world that is attributed to his name.