Well I've already broken the rule about Not talking politics. So, because I've been thinking about it lately, I guess I'll break the second rule and write about religion.
I have gotten so far away from fundamentalist Christian views that I was honestly Horrified to hear a good teacher, wonderful father, and to the best of my knowledge, a faithful and I Know a loving husband lead a prayer by thanking God for loving him anyway, even though . . . and he called himself names.
I noticed it first in the difference between Buddhists raised in primarily monotheistic countries and Buddhist students raised in Asian countries. The Buddhists from countries didn't hate themselves. They weren't raised with the idea that they were so bad as babies and toddlers that God's miraculously born Only son had to be tortured and killed because of Them. They weren't raised to believe that they were first and foremost Flawed human beings who Needed to be saved from their degraded state. The assumptions were so subtle that when I tried bringing up a discussion about this, the Buddhists from Sri Lanka, Tiwan, China, and the person from India just didn't Get what we were trying to talk about.
I remember in one of Pema Chodron's books or talks, that a number of Western Buddhist teachers met with the Dalai Lama. They brought up the problem of Western students who mentally beat themselves up for not being good enough, or who had self-hatred to overcome. Pema Chodron said the Dalai Lama was confused, it was difficult for him to understand that Buddhists in the West Really Did Hate themselves. When all of the Western teachers agreed that this was a major problem for their students, the Dalai Lama is said to have replied that there really Must be a difference between people in the West and Tibetan people.
I remember going to an interfaith meeting where there were representatives of Islam, Judeaism, Christianity, and Bahaai faiths. I asked if these faiths believed in original sin. Everyone said no except the Christian minister. My best understanding of his answer was something like, "We don't think of it that way anymore, but yah, it's in the Bible." I took this to mean it isn't Stressed in some more liberal Christian denominations, but that it Was still a non-stressed part of their belief system.
People have asked me how I account for evil, if I'm not a Christian. I think human nature has in it the potential to do tremendous good And tremendous Harm. And I have to say that the ways in which religion is often used by politically ambitious people does a lot of Harm, in my opinion. I respect those people of any religion who try to Live it in Actions, Instead of just Talking about it. And I am not interested in trashing the religion of anyone, even when I completely disagree with some of its beliefs.
But although I am far from perfect, Not "enlightened" Not a Buddha, I am simply Not willing to hate or harm myself for a deity. Does this mean I won't give up a thing I want? No. If someone is in need I will try to hep. Does this mean I think I have the right to do anything I want? Of Course Not. I believe a person can be moral and compassionate without a belief system which teaches them to dislike themselves.
And I believe self-hatred causes Damage, Serious Damage. I know many people who will say they don't hate themselves, they just Accept the fact that they are condemned sinners unless . . . the rest of what they must do depends upon their religion and denomination.
But to me, believing one is truly damned, not good enough, is self-dislike, at Least. I can remember being so small and scared that I couldn't stay awake in church. But I awoke when the preacher yelled, "and he that believeth not shall be Damned" and whacking the pulpet a couple of times. Ok, so the Mo. Ozarks are said to be the "buckle of the Bible belt" and you don't attend a religious service like that. But Are you ok, as a falible human being with your God? Or do you have to accept that you never Will be deserving of His love and compassion unless you . . .
Sometimes I feel very conflicted. I have friends of differing relitions and of no religion. They are All kind, smart, Moral, Caring, people. I know some of them who have been Extremely kind to me would be Horrified at my beliefs, as I am at their beliefs. So the only thing I know to do is let them be who they are, including when they do something for a religious reason, and Not be who I am. For all the talk of "sharing our faith" by those who want to convert others, I find no one Really wants to "share". What they want is to find out what I believe and why I believe it so they can point out how I am wrong and They are Right, depending upon backing from the sacred book or books of their faith. But I may not Believe that these books are absolutely true Or a good guide for my life.
I get tired of keeping my mouth shut. The thing is that everyone who "shares" his/her religion seems to think it is the First time I have listened. Wrong! But if I "shared" my beliefs it probably Would be the first time anyone had heard it.
When religion promotes honest self-examination and Questioning, when it promotes Tolerance and Kindness toward one's self And others, I'm for it, if it makes a person's life more meaningful.
But when it forbids questions, crushes Healthy self-acceptance and self-love, Or crushes love of others who don't share its beliefs, I think it is a negative force in society.
My beliefs are based on what I think is true for me, and I have no wish to convert anyone. I wish I could receive the same respect from others. But the structure of many religions or their sacred texts works Directly Against Respect for Anyone who disagrees. Believers are Told to Convert others to please god. So I live with a level of frustration which I usually try to keep to myself. But, obviously, not tonight.
I will delete any E-mails aimed at conversion. It is Not the first time I have heard what Christians, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, or Seventh Day Adventists believe. I am glad your faith comforts and makes you happy and kind. This is worthy of respect and so are you. Please try to show me the same respect.