Religion Is and Is Not

I originally posted this a year and a half ago on the IGN blogs, but I ended up deleting everything from there. I’ve edited it a bit, as well…

My grandmother was planning on being a nun until she met my grandfather. When she met him, though, plans changed. She fell madly in love with him, had about 90 kids (okay, not that many) and eventually started going to confession every week, just to report to them that she was taking birth control because she couldn’t have any more kids. She’s still Catholic, as is my mom, so both of them obviously wanted me to be Catholic.

I called myself Catholic for about seven years, but when I was in second grade, I had no idea what I wanted to be. I certainly couldn’t call myself Catholic, since I had no idea what it even meant, and reading the Bible would have been a little too ambitious.

This is around the time I became friends with a girl who was a member of The Unification Church.

I have a problem with this church. I love many Christians, I love many Christian churches and their teachings. This church calling itself Christian is offensive to me, even though I don’t consider myself Christian. I’ve read the Bible twice since I met my friend, once for school and once because I just thought it needed to be done. I do not think that the Unification Church represents Christianity.

You see, the head of this church, Sun Myung Moon, believes he is the new messiah, a position he so generously bestowed upon himself in 2004. Not the return of Christ in the ‘second coming’ sense, rather, he considers himself a replacement for Jesus, who couldn’t do the job God sent him here to do 2000 years ago. I have had several members of this church tell me that Jesus failed. Now, I believe that Jesus taught some very important lessons, and I find this slightly disrespectful. I don’t believe that any true Christian could call Jesus Christ a failure. I think it’s wholly misguided, and a betrayal of their own creed to make this claim. It’s not so much the accusation that agitates me, but the utter hypocrisy and contradictory nature of this position.

I might call myself a Christian, a proud Christian at that, if I knew I would not be associated with groups like this. I believe if you consider yourself a follower of Christ, you should love everyone instead of living a life of abject hatred. “Of course I’m a Christian, I love everyone. Oh, except for the gays, blacks, foreigners, liberals, Jews, and, you know, all those other lesser forms of human life. God hates fags.” It’s disgusting to me. If this is what is meant by Christian “love”, then count me out.

This is not love. Why would God create people that he wants other people to hate? Why would God command people to hurt others in his name? Why would he want to hurt his children? Whichever God you may follow, or even if you follow none at all, I don’t see how anyone can hold such a belief. Yet, there are those who practice it daily.

When I heard about the Unification Church and Sun Myung Moon’s claims, I made up a religion of my own. I called it Yoshiism. That’s right, we bowed to that cute lil’ green dinosaur we all know so well as Mario’s steed. The only rules in my “religion” were golden. Treat people as you would be treated, and accept everyone for who they are. Simple right? How can you go wrong?

Around this time I went to a few different churches with my friends, and might have joined, but I chose not to be associated with the hateful, racist, homophobic, scornful Christians I found inside. I do not want to be like them. The way I see it, Jesus taught love. Love everyone, because everyone is a child of God, and God is not a psycho, abusive father. In this sense, Yoshiism is a lot closer to what Jesus taught than what I found in these churches.

Real Christianity, at least, in its teaching, is similar to Buddhism, it’s about peace and love. Having a savior gives many people the strength to go on, and having that strength gives them peace. The people who use religion as an excuse for violence and hatred are most likely already hurting, and don’t know how else to express that pain and fear but to spread it.

My dad and I used to fight a lot. Both of us were having a hard time dealing with the issues in our lives, and we would take it out on each other. After we started reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s books, “No Death, No Fear and Living Buddha, Living Christ”, we slowly began to calm down. We still get into arguments occasionally, maybe once or twice a year, but they only last a few minutes, and are forgotten soon after. Most of our time together is spent smiling and laughing, or discussing whatever’s happening in our lives. It’s actually become hard to fight with him about anything these days, because we’re both so accepting of each other. He’s my best friend because of this. No fear, no anxiety or anger. No hatred.

I have friends who are very tense all the time, it’s hard to be around them. Their stress seeps through the cracks and infects everyone nearby. Not many people are interested in being close to them. I get the same feeling when I’m around people that are hateful. This is not a trait of any one religion, hatred can be found in every set of beliefs. This includes atheists, agnostics, Satanists, Muslims, Catholics, whatever. Hate is a disease, not a strength, and it’s upsetting when people use religion, which should be a strength, to create a disease.

I don’t know how people will interpret this, but I’m going to try to make it as clear as possible: I do not hate people, I do not hate religion, I do not hate Christians or people of any other faith. I think it’s wrong for people to use religion as an excuse to hate. I think understanding is the best way to get around or solve a problem, or to realize there really is no problem, simply a difference. I believe that seeing things as differences, nothing more, is much easier than turning it into a problem, or worse, hurting people because of it.

2 thoughts on “Religion Is and Is Not

  1. Excellent read, Danielle, I agree. As a Sikh I am encouraged to learn about all faiths, and I can tell you right now that at their core all religions focus on the same thing, love and respect everyone. Unfortunately there are people who will use religion as a means or justification to spread their prejudice and ignorance, thus leading to much of the wars and atrocities associated with it. Most true Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, etc. do believed in the core values of love and tolerance for one another, my friends and I would be a good example of this.

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