When I was younger, I attended church and did not enjoy the experience as there was a lot of opposition and tension involved that I thought was due only to my church. Recently, I found out that many, if not all, churches have these issues with how the organization is run and who gets to decide what happens. An issue that kept coming up was keeping the younger generation involved in the church. Many churches are experiencing a decline in their younger populations and don’t really understand why. They try to implement new things such as programs specifically targeting the youth including youth ministers, younger music, and having them attend religious schools. At the same time, the congregation argues with itself over the cost of such things and if they are necessary. With every church, there is dissension in the ranks and they can never please everyone, but how they tackle this problem is very intriguing.
They want the youth to contribute more monetarily, but also know they are fleeing in droves. They want them to start out young, but are wary about the costs of targeted programs. They want to use youth ministers and music as tools to keep them engaged, but for what purpose? Do they want the younger generation to believe in God or simply to stay in the congregation and pay their dues? For organized religion cannot exist without those who support it and if they have no one to support them, they die. However, they never talk about the importance of just believing in God, for where is the value in that? I think those who are younger see this and choose to leave because they are not buying into the system anymore. As a kid, I believed in God, but it was the church and how it’s people acted that caused me to lose my faith. How could I believe in God when his most ardent believers had no love for each other?
The youth of today are rejecting organized religion and the churches know this, but they continue on as if it’s not the source of their problems. Honestly, I believe everyone is looking for spirituality and transcendence, and it is easy for many to fall victim to organizations that prey on this desire, but it is not being fulfilled. I just got done watching Going Clear, the documentary about Scientology and the one thing I got out of it was that people are searching for a greater meaning in themselves and the world and they are willing to subvert themselves for the answer. I think we will always need spirituality, but we may not need organized religion any longer. It’s been a long journey for me to come back to believe and that is my journey and I believe that is the right of everyone: for them to come to their own conclusions based off their experiences. Religion is believing in a set of rules and an organized religion sets to build a base from those rules. If religion keeps holding on to the beliefs in the rules instead of a belief simply in a higher meaning, they will continue to bleed members.
As humans, we’re hard-wired to idolize and worship deities and people alike. We worship movie stars and idolize religious figures because it makes us feel safe. We’ve been doing it for ages and some of us have never questioned why. In a world where everything is so unsure and nothing is guaranteed, the belief in something larger than ourselves gives us refuge from the unknown. If we can believe hard enough, we may be rewarded, and it is this believe that makes us fashion gods out of men and worship gods that have existed for centuries. Worship is everywhere: churches, concerts, celebrities, and whomever else we choose to idolize. We want to hold someone higher than us, so we can cast under their dominion because we have been ingrained to be followers.
There is nothing wrong with expressing your joy for something, but when you come to worship it, be careful what you do. When you worship and place someone on the level of God, they can do no wrong. They are unquestionable. And they are to be obeyed. And that is why many of us seek out fame and power; to try to attain this status. Worship is a powerful tool because it means you are humbling yourself before some one and in their complete obedience. Be careful who you obey. I believe in God, but I do not believe in organized religion or worship. I believe my God would believe in you even when you don’t believe in him, because he is always there. In that sense, why do you need to worship him unless he was a fickle God?
For me, we worship because we are a fearful race who do not want to incur the wrath of those who govern us. For those who have little power and control over their lives, it is a way to exercise what little we have in hopes to gain a bit of favor. We worship because that is what we’ve always done. This is why it is so easy for religiously fanatic groups to become cults. If you place one person above question and give them free range, you are in danger of becoming a cult. You can believe in God or not. You can worship or not. You can idolize or not, but know that you always retain the right to question. For when you start to question, you start to unravel the mysteries of life.
I distinctly remember the story of Abraham being called by God to take his son to the mountain to kill just to prove his allegiance to him. And I thought, man, God is a dick. What asshole wants his flock to follow all of his directions without question just to prove their faith? But that story worked, because the people I grew up with never questioned the will of God, and what’s more, they never questioned the mouthpiece of God: the church elders. I believe in God, but I refuse to believe in religion. It is man who subverts religion for his own gain, not the greater good of God. When a mortal tells a susceptible person this story and then asks them not to question them as well, the person is turned into a sheep. They follow the direction of a mortal, not God, without question.
If you question the person, you question your own faith by their logic, so you simply go along as Abraham, hoping that God will show you the reasoning for his actions later, but it is not God who is directing you, but man. It is man who uses this story to make you more docile to his wishes and to curb your questioning. And what happened to these people I grew up with? When faced with a threatening situation, they simply opt to pray because they so whole-heartedly believe in the power of prayer alone. They don’t even seek out other avenues because they have been hard-wired to put all their faith in God. And seriously, if God ever asked me to take my child to the mountain to kill, I may ask what for. When we are conditioned to not question, we lose the ability to objectively see reality. Whatever your beliefs are in God, do not place your trust blindly, especially in mere mortals who use the guise of God.
I see pointed attacks in comments section sometimes that say the veil is an affront to women’s rights and that they should be removed. Some would say they seem to be one step up from a burqa, and I do agree with parts of this sentiment. If you take the religion and culture out of it, what is the underlying meaning of the hijab? It is to promote modesty in women. If you subject one sex to rules of decorum and not the other by having themselves cover themselves, it is a form of control. Those who practice the religion certainly have the right to wear or not wear it, but the idea in itself translates to taking away the power of beauty from women. There is power in beauty and there are those who seek to control it. I do agree with some commenters about this point, but not on the vocalization of telling them they need to take it off. Although it is oppressive, it is their right to wear it due to their freedom to choose their religion. There are plenty of other religions that subject women to conformity such as certain Mormon sects. There are also many societal and cultural practices that are oppressive that I openly subscribe to such as wearing high heels that destroy my feet all for the sake of reaching an unattainable beauty. I agree it is oppressive, but they also have the right to wear it and I do not have the right to say anything to them because I choose to drape myself in oppressive ideas and clothing.
I don’t try to push any religion because people tend to use religion to gain earthly pleasures while thinking they are assured of heavenly ones in the process. But let’s say you do believe in God and all he can do. I grew up in the church and saw things in my youth that I could not agree with, so I became an atheist because of it. Now, I have come to believe in God, but not the God of the bible. Growing up in the church, I heard all my life phrases such as ‘God never gives you more than you can handle,’ ‘God answers all prayers,’ and ‘God is all powerful.’ If God is all powerful, why does he let bad things happen? And clearly, some people are given more than they can handle because I’ve known of persons who committed suicide. Some people in the fold go so far as to put everything in God’s hands.
I recently saw a post on my Facebook feed where a girl I knew was crying out for help because she felt ashamed of her past and she didn’t know how to reconcile it. A lot of well-meaning people told her to turn to God for help. Are you kidding me? God is not supposed to help you with every single little thing. In this particular situation, a therapist is going to help you, not turning to God. And if you so choose to see it as such, God is the one who puts therapists on earth. I find it ridiculous how much people rely on God when they definitely have avenues of help that do not involve divine intervention. I also resent the phrase that God answers all prayers. Does he? Clearly not because a lot of people are dead, but that doesn’t mean tragedy should be excluded from our lives. Tragedy is what tests us and makes us who we are.
You can choose to believe in God or you can choose not to. You can choose to believe in his curative powers or you can choose not to, but you should not think every single decision rests in his hands. You take the humanity out of the equation when you do so. If you have no choice and no free will, what is the point of life? And for the record, I believe Original Sin is a man-made tenet used to force people to believe that they are unclean from birth and thus need the healing powers of the church to free them. There is no free choice in this. There are things we know and things we believe, but what is most important is what we know of man. We don’t have to know of God to understand life. We only need to understand man’s foibles and his reasons to use such ideas to further his life. When you understand this, you can start to separate religion from church from dogma.
What is it to peer beyond the known? Do you dare even dream of what may come after all the pages are written? Death surrounds us always, a reminder of how fragile and precarious our lives are. Does it come like a soft dream that envelopes you in your sleep and then snares your soul? Does it strike suddenly like jagged lightening claiming and splitting a tree in two in the dark of the night? I’ve known of death, but I have never actually thought about it because it is something far off: something to be reckoned with in old age. It is not the young man’s racket. It has slowly seeped into my conscious as of late when I wonder what happens after we die.
I imagine complete darkness and a stillness that swallows echoes whole. A darkness that stretches forever covering the hills and the stars in syrupy ink that stains your hands. There is no more me and there is no more you in this void. All the pain of life washes away, but with the pain goes the moments of exquisite joy, for joy tastes the sweetest after the throes of agony and suffering. The nothingness strikes fear in me as my soul aches, as if it remembers existing in this plane before. If you believe in reincarnation, death is merely a way station between this life and the next. If you believe in heaven, you will ascend to the promised land above. If you are an atheist, the nothing awaits you.
I would plead with God to not send me again because life can be so cruel, but that is not up to me. If there is a heaven, I do not know if I would want to reside there. If there is no God, then I return to nothing. Whatever your beliefs, we will all return to nothing eventually. If there is an end, there was once a beginning. If there is a beginning, there will be an end. Eternity only exits in a loop. As such, humans were once nothing and we will return to nothing. One day, we will all die out and no one will exist to even remember our kind. That is the nature of physical life, but I choose to believe in the existence of a soul: the breath of who we are. All we can do is live our physical lives to the fullest, but also remember to nurture our soul. So it goes.