Recently, I began a conversation with a friend who is of a particular religion. I should not have asked any questions because I know the details of religion make me uncomfortable. Why did I ask? Maybe I have a secret hope that somebody will make sense of it for me and present it in a way that I find less difficult. Faith is often an enviable thing.
Towards the end of the conversation, my friend asked me why I felt uncomfortable and I struggled to answer because I was afraid of offending. I am going to try and answer here. I don’t want to offend anybody, if I can help it.
Everybody is born into a situation, a nationality, a gene-pool, a skin-colour, a sexual preference, a brain capacity, a state of health, etc. And some people are born into a religion as well. None of us get any choice about what hand we get dealt at birth. Some of us are very lucky and are born into comfortable, loving, functional families who are understanding and supportive. Some get bits of that. And some seem to get a very raw deal. In general, among the progressive parts of society, it is considered bad taste to judge people for what they are born with.
But religion is a special case. As a different friend pointed out to me, in order to have absolute faith, you must rule out other possibilities. And that is what most religions insist on. You can only have one faith. But if you are born in some parts of the world, you are more likely to be Catholic. In other parts you are more likely to be Jewish. In other parts you are more likely to be Hindu or Buddhist or Anglican or Muslim. So by believing that only one faith is correct, it is saying that all these other people who were not given the exposure or the opportunity to adhere to that faith are inherently less likely to gain the rewards that this one faith promises. How is that okay? How is it okay to damn people just because they were born in a different part of the world? It makes no sense to me, especially if these deities are supposed to be loving and embracing.
Israel Folau has lost his job in the name of religion. A religion that talks about an all-loving God produced a believer who happily accepts that most of his friends and colleagues will suffer eternal damnation because they don’t meet with the stringent rules laid out by this supposedly merciful God.
I find this all very confusing and contradictory. I can not align loving God and eternal damnation in the same belief system. I don’t understand “He is merciful” and “He will judge you” if they sit side by side. I can’t accept the duality that while I try not judge you, in my secret heart, I believe my creator will judge you and find you unforgivably faulty.
As I have mentioned before, I am not religious and my parents did not raise us in a religion. Therefore, I have been exposed to many religions but never fully engaged with any of them.
If you believe that there is just this one chance at life and that when you die, you become worm-food, then it’s one less thing to separate people by. We are all here to live and die. It is something that life, the planet over, has in common. Humans lead more complex lives than silk worms but the same basic attributes are there. We’re born, we do our best with what we have, and we die. It is perhaps the single most uniting characteristic in a species so prone to split itself up as many ways as it can.