This past Friday I was looking through some suggestions my friends had given me for blog topic ideas. Mostly, I was expecting to see questions about silly, trivial topics that I could catch some inspiration from. However, one prompt in particular caught my attention and has been churning around in my head for a while now. Religion. Truthfully, it would probably be easier to avoid this topic. Religion is something that along with politics, is not something people like to talk about. It starts fights at the dinner table, and people tend to get pretty upset over what others choose to believe. Still, I knew that I would have to touch on it at some point and, if you’ve read my post on “The P Word” , you will already have some insight into my thoughts about the two taboo topics.
To begin, I want give a little background on my experience with religion. As many people may already know, my parents are from India and migrated to the United States years before I was born. The main religion throughout India is Hinduism, and it’s what my parents practiced, meaning naturally, I was born into Hinduism as well. Personally, my family has never been extremely religious. Like many others, we visit our local Hindu temple, participate in festivals, and celebrate Hindu holidays, but, from my point of view, my family practices Hinduism as more of a way of life than the strict religion it can be. That doesn’t mean though, that I haven’t seen others practice religion in a very different way. All my life, I have been exposed to a number of various religions. I have done everything from going to Church with the family of a Christian friend, to learning about Ramadan from one of my Muslim friends. In my opinion, this has helped me shape my view on religion and gives the points I am about to make some extra credibility.
One of the first questions I was asked was “Do you think religion is necessary to human existence, or can we do without it?” Now, that is a very complex question that people have been debating about since the beginning of time. To keep this post brief though, I am going to give you my simplified answer. If we go back to the nineteenth century and beyond, some of the oldest traits of religion can be traced to animism. At this time, our ancestors believed that entities such as rivers, rocks, and trees all held spiritual value. Worshiping these things gave humans a way to make sense of the world around them. So, how does this have to do with religion today? Well, in some ways, religion today is very much the same. We believe the things we do because we want to explain the inexplicable in life. Why do good things happen to good people? What is the meaning of life? Who can we put faith into? Everyone has a different belief system and nowadays, unlike in the nineteenth century, these beliefs tend to tear people apart instead of uniting them. Nevertheless, if we look back to history, we see that religion has helped build society, and at this point, I don’t think we could do without it. If we learned to practice freely and coexist, religion would only be a beautiful thing. Yet, the root of so many of the world’s problems come back to religion, and that’s where the tricky part of it comes in.
When you look at religion as purely a way people bring peace and reason into life, it seems like a healing thing that everyone should practice. It’s when we view it as “right and wrong” that tension starts to build. As I mentioned before, religion can be seen as a way of life or as rules that one must follow (or both), and neither is wrong. Whether one choses to be religious or more laid back is ultimately up to them. What I believe though, is that as humans, we are programmed to think we are right. This is the same principle I talked about with politics and, It tends to apply to many other aspects of life as well. People think, “If I go to Church on Sunday, so should everyone else” or “If I don’t eat meat, neither should anyone else”. We are very quick to judge what other people do and do not do, but somehow, when we take a step back, it’s more clear that religion is meant to be a private practice that people do for themselves. If we are spending so much time criticizing others, are we really practicing our own religion the way it’s meant to be practiced?
At this point, I could write about three more in-depth paragraphs about religion but, I want to close out here. If I could summarize this post in a few sentences, I would want to use something that my mom has said to me many times (modified a bit): “At the core of it, all religions are the same. They tell you to be a good person, to do what you know is right, and to put trust into the fact that everything will be okay in the end. Because, good things come to those who put love into the world, not those who put hate into it.”
“I believe the only true religion consists of having a good heart” -Dalai Lama
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