Saturday, October 16, 1999

Organized Religion

I have very little use for it.

Okay, maybe that is a little bit terse.  I don’t have a problem with organized religion, per se, so long as it isn’t forced upon me.

My father is a retired Methodist minister.  (Yes, I have heard all the jokes about being a “preacher’s kid.”)  I was fortunate in that my upbringing was sufficiently liberal that I was able to (and even relatively encouraged to) examine things from an objective perspective and make decisions for myself.  (In our 7th Grade confirmation class — taught in part by my mother — we did a little bit of “comparative religion” study, which included visits to a Catholic cathedral and a Jewish synagogue and learning about other religions, including Judaism and Islam.)

(As an interesting aside, we used to get a magazine called Pix in Sunday School, which included Bible stories in comics form.  At some early age, I realized that these had to be drawn by someone, and in particular, that there was no way to know that the drawing of [for example] King David was how King David really looked.  Thus, these were filtered through people, and were an interpretation, not a fact.  And if these were filtered, so was anything else in religion, and I should thus listen to sermons and read the Bible and so on with the idea of needing to find the truth through the filtering.  The fact that I found out a couple years later there was once a Bible printed with the typo “Thou shalt commit adultery” was further evidence that any given bit of religion could be flat out wrong.)

The result of this upbringing is three-fold:
  1. I have enough background to have respect for a variety of religious beliefs, both the mainstream ones and the alternative, even “cult” ones.  (Let’s not forget that Christianity is an offshoot of Judaism, and was effectively just a “cult” for the first few hundred years, until in gained ascendancy.)
  2. I don’t see any particular religion as exclusively “better” than the others (although I see some as “worse”).
  3. I have little personal use for anything which dictates that people must worship in a particular manner, and especially those which dictate that someone else does the worshiping for you.
In other words, we all should be free to worship a “higher power” [or powers] as we see fit.  If that means Catholic high mass for some, great; if that means communing with nature for others, fine; if that simply means adhering to one’s own moral conscience and appreciating life, no problem.

I’ll never shed the Christian roots in my upbringing (and I wouldn’t want to).  The basic philosophy of Christianity — that God so loved the world that He let his son die to save us all — is powerful, despite how it often gets corrupted and ignored by religious extremists.  But other religions, perhaps all religions, also have powerful, valuable things to say, if we just listen.

And thus I say: make your own religion.  Pick the bits you like from one existing religion or another, and invent the remainder.  God (or the Goddess, or the gods, or whatever you want to acknowledge), what name you use for Him (Her, Them, etc.), whether you drink grape juice or wine, whether you worship in a crowd in a cathedral or by yourself in the woods, whether you are in fancy clothes or naked and covered with dried mud… that you are worshiping at all, and most especially in a way that has meaning for you, that is what is important.

Updated on October 11, 2000
Updated on December 11, 2009

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