Debating with my father is never a good idea. The traditional man leans towards a ‘my way or the highway’ philosophy and tends to only believe ideas he already supports. Yet, as I sat in the living room with my parents and my grandmother, we began to discuss religion. Religion is, and perhaps always has been, a hot button issue. Setting aside controversies, religion is often very personal to believers. No one likes to have their beliefs and values contradicted. As we watch politicians debate and wars wage, all in the name of religion, it is no wonder we should find ourselves saddened.
Whatever God you happen to believe in, I’m sure they did not intend for their presence to divide humanity. Happiness and joy can be found in religion. Acceptance and peace with others different from you can also be achieved.
- Separate religion from God. God, in most cases, is a divine being who is believed to be responsible for the creation of the world. Religions are human creations aimed at celebrating God(s). It is important to take time and reflect upon this. What are you worshiping? Are you worshiping God or religion? Understand that anything created by human hands has the ability to be flawed. The religions of our world today have changed over time. They change because they are not perfect. Like any individual, a religion grows, learns and changes as time goes on. This continuing change proves that no religion is perfect.
- Retain your free will. The God of Abraham is believed to have given humanity free will. This free will allows us to question everything. It also allows us the amazing ability to make mistakes and learn from them. We were not meant to regret and lament our sins. Instead, we can learn from our mistakes and evolve into a fuller person. When you retain your free will and reject being completely controlled by religion, you will also find yourself accepting of more people. Those of different religions are simply worshiping God in their own way. Those whose values are different from your own have simply exercised their own free will to find what lifestyle is right for them.
- Separate values from religion. My father made the argument that religion is necessary to form values. Without religion, what is stopping us from stealing all we see and murdering whomever we wish? I happen to know a few atheists who believe these actions are wrong, and religion certainly plays no part in their decision. If religion is so against killing others, why then do people still wage war in the name of religion? You do not need to be controlled by religion in order to be a good person. Instead, think about how you wish to be treated. Think about what you hope for the future of humanity. The qualities and goals you come up with are your values. I can’t image you would hope for a future where murder is rampant, nor for one where everyone is exactly the same. It’s unlikely you wish to be discriminated against or condemned by others. You have now formed values without religion.
- Search for and embrace religion. In a discussion with a friend of mine about religion, she revealed she was searching. Not only was she still searching for truth, she preferred it that way. In this way, she would continue to learn and grow throughout her life. Whatever religion you grew up with, you are under no divine obligation to remain there. In fact, if you remain in a religion which you don’t fully believe, you may find yourself unhappy and even doubtful of the existence of God. With an open mind and free will, you will realize you are completely free to be a part of any religion. Don’t let doubt in your current religion cause you to doubt God. Instead, do some research on religions and find one that closely matches your personal values. Exercise your free will to worship as you choose.
The choice is yours. Religion does not have to be a controlling part of your life that separates you from the rest of humanity. Those very qualities control and separation can make us feel isolated from the rest of the world. Diversity is beautiful and free will is essential. Don’t let anything control you. Instead of following a religion blindly, seek to question and grow like a person. It may be true that in your search for a personal truth, you will make mistakes, but through those mistakes you will become a greater person. Above all, remember you are the only one who can define the personal relationship between yourself and your God.
About the author: Tonya Vrba is a passionate writer. Her work has been published in newspapers and blogs. She is currently an active writer for Online Dating Sites. Learn more about Tonya and her work at her personal website.