There is a part of me that always erupts when I encounter religious discrimination. I have met two or three disrespectful and chauvinistic individuals throughout my life–and thank goodness our dealings with each other ended as soon as I expressed my disinterest regarding to becoming a convert of their religion. Imagine if you have to deal with this everyday at extreme levels–because of your faith, your race or ethnicity, your sexual orientation–because of who you are.
Increasingly, I am having trouble with mainstream religions because I have never seemed to be able to resonate with faith-systems that consists of a singular authoritarian deity. Having a supreme being on top of everything inevitably implicate a hierarchy–and knowing what can a sense of hierarchy do do an individual, I do not think that is the best way to connect and associate with God.
What is “God”? Is there a God? What is the nature of God? People agree to disagree. I am not going to launch into a detailing and exploration of God, but I do want to talk about my personal thoughts on the pursuit of “God”. I place “God” in a spiritual context, and not a religious one. There is a clear distinction between religion and spirituality, a line that most often ignored by the majority of faith-seekers. For me, I believe religion to be system that an individual can identify with and is able to utilize various aspects of that religion to pursue spirituality. A religion is not absolute; it is like a philosophy, a way of life, it is man-made. It is also a reflection of its geography, demographic, and culture. On a macroscopic level, a religion is as intimate and as simple as someone’s favourite band. Because of where you were born, because of your social and cultural background, because of the way you are raised, and because of a myriad of other factors–you are accustomed to certain sound progressions and certain musical layers, you are attracted to certain genres because of who you are, and you find your way to a particular band that fascinates you and in turn, comes to define your taste in music.
Religion is part of your identity. If you were born in China, you are more likely to become a Buddhist, you are more likely to resonate with the ideas of Buddhism, because Buddhism is deeply rooted in your culture and language. If you were born North America, you are probably going to be exposed to Christianity or Catholicism, because they are deeply rooted in your culture and language. Your faith does not define what kind of person you are, but your words and your actions do. Your interests, your passions, and your choices do. Religion does not dictate your identity; religion is part of your identity. And just like your favourite band, your religion, your faith, or your spiritual path is simply part of your identity. It is what you can identify with, it’s what interests you and what speaks to you on a personal level, and it’s what you feel to be true for you that gives it meaning and makes it valid.
I can recite passages from the Bible, go to church, dress in the robes of a monk, or offer incense to a deity–it doesn’t matter what I do, because if those rituals do not resonate with me on a personal level–if I don’t feel the authenticity in my actions, if I don’t feel them to be true for myself–then doing anything is completely meaningless.
For a religion, or God, or a spiritual path to be true, you have to believe it to be true. True is not equivalent to “real”. True is more of a emotional response; it is something that pertains to your identity, your desires, your attitudes, your experience. And what is true for you may not be true for others. For example, I am a huge fan of Coldplay, and I am sure many others love Coldplay, too. But not everyone likes Coldplay, and that’s fine, because everyone is different. For example, if you believe in Jesus, and of course, many other people believe in Jesus, too. But not everyone can connect with Jesus’ teachings, and that’s fine. It’s not for everybody, because we are all different and each of us unique.
What is true for you may not be true for others.
Just because you don’t like Coldplay, it doesn’t mean you should hate on Coldplay, and anybody who loves Coldplay. Also, not being a fan of Coldplay does not make you any better or worse than somebody who is.
Just because you don’t resonate with Jesus’ teachings, it doesn’t mean you should hate on Jesus, and anybody who lives by Jesus’ teachings. Also, not believing in Jesus doesn’t make you any better or worse than somebody who does.
God, is a very personal thing, and the pursuit of God (or lack thereof) should be treated as such–personal, and deserving of respect and privacy. It’s nobody’s business. You can be very open and social about it, or you can be quiet and reserved about it. What’s true for you may not necessarily be true for others–and that’s the beauty of truth. It is unified in feelings, emotional connection, and personal judgement, though different in presentation and detail.
When you try to enforce that you feel to be true in a disrespectful or unethical way unto another, against their will–
Well, let me just say–you are either a clueless ignoramus or an impertinent asshole.