We condemn what we do not understand. We judge others based on our definition of right and wrong. We are intolerant of those who do not believe as we do. Why? Fear.
Many religious rituals and practices are fear-based. Eventually, rituals and practices work against us. At some point, we begin to think if we don’t perform the rituals enough, we will be condemned or sent to hell. The transition is subtle, almost imperceptible. And then, we are more willing to condemn and judge others to stay in the good graces of the group of people with whom we are associated. Think I’m wrong? Hindsight is 20/20, as they say, and looking back I see the transition did, indeed, occur.
I attended a Christian church in one form or another since childhood. I don’t recall ever being told the doctrines taught were right and everyone who didn’t believe as we did was wrong, but the thought was there, nonetheless. The Catholics were wrong because they believed differently than we, as were the Baptists, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Mennonites, and on, and on. But, everyone cannot be wrong, right? It wasn’t until I realized I feared God’s judgment if I wasn’t a ‘good Christian’ and didn’t obey the ‘rules’, and worse, I was willing to be critical and intolerant of others because they did not believe as I did. What happened to being loved by God and wanting to share that love with others?
Faith is important, we need to believe in something. The key is to find what resonates with us, not believe as others do because that is how we were raised, for example. I have known people raised in Protestant faiths who converted to Catholicism, Jews who converted to Christianity, Mennonites who chose a spiritual path separate from any denomination. Why? Because the faith they chose over the ones they were raised in made sense to them. Why would God want a bunch of automatons who practiced rote religion? What is more important; embracing a belief system that makes sense, or outwardly performing rituals for the benefit of others? To be true to myself, I needed to take a hard look at what I believed, why I believed it, and what I believed about God.
Contradictions in the Bible abound, yet every time I asked about the contractions I was told Christians weren’t meant to understand everything in the Bible. Granted, I did, and do believe we cannot understand everything in our world, but am I to believe in a petulant God who condemns those He supposedly loves to eternity in hell because they didn’t recite the Sinner’s Prayer, or that bad things happen to good people because we live in a fallen world? If belief in Jesus is a requirement for entry into heaven, what about all the people who died before Jesus ‘saved’ us from ourselves? What about those who don’t believe as Christians do? See what I mean?
Do I believe everything in the Bible is wrong? No, I do not, but can we agree that humankind down through the centuries has put their own spin on God? The Bible says God is love. Other religions believe God does not possess a personality, God just is. Still, others believe there is no supreme being, not that there is no God, simply, there is not one central God. Somewhere in the middle of all the belief systems in the world is the answer; it will not be found within one religious doctrine nor one group of believers. God will be found within individual hearts…..