We've heard it all before, "I don't have a problem with God, it's religion." "I don't have a problem with people who are Christians, Muslims, etc., it's the church." To some extent, there is truth in these sentiments. Religion has taken on a very divided state in our culture, and in cultures around the world. My question is, do we really need it?
Can God, or even just morality, exist without the influence of religion? Can we figure out, without someone telling us the answers, the difference between right and wrong? I say yes. In fact, by definition, NOT being able to know the difference, puts you on a slippery slope for being diagnosed as "clinically insane." Therefore, even our judicial system, which has a baseline for everything they do locked in Christianity, in the USA anyway, declares that you MUST know the difference between right and wrong, or else, you are not deemed worthy of living freely in our society. You will be institutionalized. You will be medicated. You will not be able to learn the difference. But you will no longer be a threat to the rest of us because you will no longer be free to make the choice between the two.
Yet, once a "clinically insane" person is out from under a doctor's care, they are not able to be forced to medicate. Thereby allowing the cycle to continue. We have set our institutions up to free and consequently, protect the morally abject. It is those of us who DO know the difference between right and wrong who are sentenced to institutionalization when we screw up. Oh well. No one ever said the judicial system as fair. Wait...?
Truth is, we all "sin" if you even believe in the term at all. Let's go this route. We all commit moral ambiguity. Every day. And will continue to do so. For the rest of our lives. Religion is merely the institution concocted to point it out to us, blame us, guilt us into not doing it again.
Each religion, however, believes we will pay for what we do regardless. In Christianity, "you will pay for the sins of your fathers." Well that doesn't seem fair. As one movie explained this concept, if a diseased tree bears fruit, will not the fruit bear the same disease? My father is an alcoholic. I am not an alcoholic. This doesn't work for me. I have never been an alcoholic, nor have I ever had much of a taste for alcohol, other than the occasional college binge, and some wine here and there. I have never been dysfunction because of it. My house doesn't smell of stale beer. I have never lost a job over it, a friend, or even my car keys. The sins of my father are not my responsibility, nor are they my burden.
In Hinduism and Buddhism, Karmic law states that the sum of a person's actions in this and previous states of existence (lives, consciousness) is viewed as deciding their fate in future existences. (We often look at karma as being much more immediate; however, true karma is meant to affect you in your next life, not another person, and typically through reincarnated payback).
Islam, and I kinda like this one, sets forth a "hierarchy of sins" if you will, and so long as the good deeds of your life outweigh the bad ones, you're solid. Doesn't this bode well with most of us? I mean, if we're all born into "sin", moral confusion, or what have you, shouldn't we at least not have it count against us if we're trying to make a positive effort? If not, we've failed before we've had a chance to begin. Hence, the precepts of Christianity.
No, I am not a Muslim. Allah forbid I declare such a thing in our current state. (That was a joke). No, I am not a Christian. I have a hard time believing that a God above would spend one's time pointing out our wrong doings all the while supposedly telling us to love and be good to each other. With all that negativity coming at me, I have a hard time focusing on what is right!!!
No, I am not a Buddhist. Frankly, I just don't know enough about it to make such a declaration, other than the fact that you may not convert to Buddhism in the midst of life and be accepted into the "religion"; rather, you must be born into it in your next life. So, there goes that one.
What I claim to be is an educated and moral human being. I know what's right and wrong. But I'm screwed. So, I have decided to stake claim in my morality and tell the rest of the world to Fuck Off. Christian standards would have me stoned to death because according to them, I have literally broken every single Old Testament Commandment they outlined. By my standards, I adhere to the teachings of Jesus. Love, without expectation, and give of yourself freely. According to the Koran, I have long since broken any moral code allowing me to claim the religion my own by way of being able to read the doctrine itself. So be it. Buddhism, simply by declaring that it itself is not entirely a religion, rather a way of life, appeals the most to me.
Christian thought created a building that brought people together to worship in the way of the holy book; immediately there was undeniable discord. The church, the one church in existence, split. Again, and again, and again. Currently, there are approximately 34,000 different CHRISTIAN denominations in the "united" states alone. This cracks me up. A moral code that is not up for debate has divided itself over 30,000 times. NEXT.
Islam believes in peace and tradition. There are five major sects of Islam, each of which is divided further into levels of extreme / neutral adherence. Not quite 34,000, but still, if each of these is divided by the level of extreme interpretation, it's easy to watch the news at night and realize we have no concept over the differences in Islam. The Koran itself would not condone the acts of groups such as Isis, just as the Bible would not condone acts of Ten Commandment Killers we have become familiar with in movies like "Seven," or television shows like "American Horror Story".
Buddhism claims a total of five sects. Each sect disagreed mostly on the path to enlightenment, rather than what the end goals themselves are. Divided as they may be, nirvana, zen, enlightenment, the end result is the same. The divisiveness has rarely caused controversy, other than in the initial separation, and arguably, there has never been a war erupt in the name of Buddha.
As a child, we grew up with, what is safe to say, no religion. Sure there were the occassional bouts of church-going, I assume, when we children randomly asked something or did something that required the attention of a god. But it quickly faded. A five year old with more curious interests than sunday school accomplished very little. That is not to say that there aren't religious people in my family. One set of aunts and uncles spend five days a week in church. They were ridiculed often out of apparent hypocritical acts of life. (Though I agree, we are all hypocrites. Life changes too frequently for us not to be. It is a word I find worthless.)
Growing up, different events made me become interested in the fascination of one's attachment to religion. Freud stated that an emotional void in each of us has enabled us to create the religions that have manifested in our society as an attempt to make us feel whole, and even hopeful. Interesting. There were also particular things that occurred in my personal life that made me question whether or not I should be paying attention to a higher calling. So I began to investigate. For those of you who know me, know my educational pursuits are rather "obsessive" to say the least. I read the Bible. I read the Koran. I read tons of books arguing various positions on both. I began to meet local Christians who sparked my interest and thus I went to church. It felt right. I got baptized finally, in 2010. Shortly thereafter, very shortly thereafter, I realized I made a mistake. Church, organized religion, is the problem with maintaining faith. Only if one is able to stay blind to the pretentious nature of the church can one remain within it. And that, is defeating the purpose.
According to Christianity, all sins are the same in the eyes of God. Well then, since they're all the same as far as degree of devastation, I decided to pick the ones I like and stick with it. If they're all the same, then why not embrace what you're good at? We're all set up to fail anyway, right? I've chosen fornication and cursing. The Bible mentions cursing, maybe, twice, and not necessarily the words I use today. Some have said that cursing is for the person who doesn't know what else to say. Actually, my vocabulary is quite extensive, and I have no problem expressing myself in less vulgar terms. I enjoy the catharsis behind the vulgarity. That's all. There is no intent to harm another, there is no violence or aggression behind the majority of it. Just...release. As far as fornication goes, if sex is reserved solely for those attempting to procreate, then every single person you know in this moment on this day is guilty of fornication. There is not one person alive now who reserves sex only for an attempt at having a child. Except maybe those insane Mormons on tv with 20 some kids. They don't know the difference between right and wrong. I'm just waiting on the episode with the padded room.
Either way, there is no intent of having kids on my watch. There is no interest in me to be married. So call me a common street whore if you must, those of you set in your old testament ways. I don't mind. If I can't have children, am I to be deprived of the act which god himself apparently gave us the ability to perform? Not buying it.
The intentions of my heart are pure. I intend no harm to anyone. Even those I loathe. My enemies get no aversion from me. I am a person of peace. I chose not to murder. I chose not to fight. I chose not to lie. I chose not to steal. And on and on. What I chose to do is something that "Religion" has not taught me. I chose to be positive, and to do.
When we focus on the teachings of religion, the things we learn are constantly focusing on the negative. Don't do this, don't do that. Few and far between are the passages telling us to be good, love one another, embrace your fellow persons' differences, lift each other up. Yeah, that guy Jesus talked about it toward the end. But when, or how often, do your religious peers or administrators focus on Jesus? We spend so much time in our culture pretending that we are on a "sin hierarchy" and therefore, mine are less exposed than yours so I can judge you publically, that we forget to do any good for each other.
I am tired of listening to Adam and Steve arguments and Muslim extremist being made the face of Islam. Religion has turned into one of the biggest sources of hate, negativity, and outright judgment and evil that the world has ever seen. My religion is right, yours is wrong. That means I am better than you and you're going to hell. Wake up people. We're already there, and your moral compass paved the way!
If the peace and love inherent in the world's religions were actually our goal, then where is Buddhism in the West? Where is peace in the middle east? It isn't sexy, it doesn't sell, it gives us nothing to watch at night, it requires no belittling of one other because we feel good about the fact that we didn't do whatever the big horrifying story of the day is.
So back to my original question: Can God, or even just morality, exist without the influence of religion? I charge you with this answer, only in the absence of religion in its current state is it even possible. I live a moral life, by my standards. According to religion, I am destined for hell, because I cuss. The fact that I can't pass a homeless person without reaching into my pocket and handing them what I can, doesn't matter. The fact that I have volunteered my time at various organizations for the past 15 years, says nothing. My continued donations to charities are irrelevant. My genuine acceptance of every type of human being in spite of their moral state, does not reflect on my character. I give when you ask. I love when you don't. My carcass will burn, because religion says so.
Morality exists within us. We need only to be guided by our own heart. It is the voice inside that heart that starts the cycle of love, which hinders the acts of depravity. Judgment, when no one is perfect, to me, sets as the greatest evil I know. Live by the moral code written on your heart; let no one tell you your worth.
I leave you with a quote from one of my favorite movies. "No one fits in one hundred percent of the time. Not even you. Why would God make us all so different if he wanted us to be the same?" Ponder that next time someone tries to stifle you, or, when you consider doing the same to someone else. Peace, love, and enlightenment people. That is where we find our worth.