Firstly – in no way am I putting down religion. Understand that my views are very much my own and I have the utmost respect for anyone who puts their faith in any religion out there.
I grew up in a church and until I was about 15 I strongly believed in the teachings that were taught to me by my church and my parents. I love my parents for giving me some of the basic teachings that allowed my faith to evolve. To give you an example: my parents taught me that Christianity is NOT the church, it’s not going to Sunday school or how much time you spend in church. They showed me through their actions that church was in fact HOW you lived your live and believing and living in the teachings of Jesus and the Bible.
This always stuck with me and when I was ready to get baptized I was ready to reach into that higher level of spirituality and love through faith. But as I was dipped into the baptismal pool I had a profoundly life-changing moment of enlightenment. I came to the revelation that aside from being wet, nothing had changed. Well one thing had changed, I will filled with questions. Questions about what had happened and why I was searching so hard for a further level of external love and fulfillment. Now these were not evident in that immediate moment but there was a sudden emptiness that I felt which evolved over the next 10 years. This seed germinated into a further curiosity and questions that propelled me into a journey of self discovery and searching that ended up giving me a greater sense of spirituality then the church could ever give.
I explored Buddhism and the teachings of the Taoist way, I tried to understand the similarities between Judaism and Islam by reading and experiencing people and hearing how people lived their faith. What really wrapped it up nicely for me was when I was attending college in Canada’s North. I was studying a native stream Family and Child Social Work program and by default, was immersed into the culture and teachings as a distant relative. Being very skeptical of outsiders had been something that was almost bred into what I refer to as TRUE Canadians, but I opened to them and explored my own native and cultural South American roots they accepted me as a distant cousin who was eager to learn and share the culture. I even had the opportunity to stand in as a translator for an Ecuadorian Shuar elder who was visiting and sharing in this cultural exchange. It was where I was first able to note how all religion tied together and how it propelled my own personal theory forward.
Humans have an innate inquisitive nature. Always looking to understand how things work in order to understand their place in life. This is what drives us forward, drives us to understand electricity and how we continue to modernize our everyday lives. Explaining how the sun rises and how things grow, especially when you don’t fully understand the complexities of the nature can lead to finding a logical way to explain the in-explainable elements around us. To me this is the root of religion, the need to try to explain or label how things work and why things happen. This is the root of my theory: As humans, we wanted to try to explain the in-explainable and in doing so we produced GOD, and supreme being that could explain the mysteries of life and give meaning to our purpose here. Created by divine purpose in order to explain the biology, the chemistry, the physics of why the world is as it is – why we feel the way we do and where we go once we expire. A way to give us hope and a purpose fueling fire to continue to strive forward.
At this point in our civilization I think that we should be able to move beyond relying on religion to explain the inexplicable. I feel that we have evolved enough to be able to use the technology and pure human intelligence to be able to explore and answer the questions that seemed impossible to answer. There are two other elements of religion though that require a little more human development and evolution before we can move completely beyond a dependence on religion.
The first: Religion is a huge tool in teaching our children the right and wrong of this world. Teaching that actions come with consequences and that a life of goodness has a reward in the afterlife. However I feel that this is still slightly wrong as you are initially teaching people to do good in order to avoid going to hell rather than being good for the sake of being good. We need to go away from the ultimate punishment theory and actually teach people, being good is its own reward. I still remember being taught in Sunday school that if were good enough AND converted enough people you would be rewarded in heaven with a jeweled crown. Positive reinforcement may work with training animals but when it comes to humans it can lead to religious leaders being arrested for fraud and embezzlement instead of being true leaders of people.
The second: Love. Not the love between spouses, families and friends but the love of oneself. I remember wanting a greater love, the promise of the kind of love that you could only get from the deity – if you worship and adore them and follow all their rules. When I started on the path to searching for that external love I ultimately came to the realization that what I was actually craving was the ability to love myself (insert dirty joke here). In all seriousness I needed to be happy with myself, content with my life and fulfilled by everything I did in order to be able to live the way I needed. When I finally came to that understanding I was finally able to live. Enjoying the world around me has become so much more enriching since I stopped looking externally for love and started validating myself.
Ultimately the point I am trying to drive home is that I don’t believe that traditional religion is for me or anyone for that matter. I think our society needs to start thinking outside the religious box and start understanding the core fundamentals of what religion provides and how you can provide it to yourself. I like to imagine a world where love really does prevail and the hopefulness that people feel due to differing theologies is a thing of the past. The last thing I want to do however is take anyone away from their own faith as that is something that really bothered me about the church. Believe what makes you happy but respect others and focus on how YOU can enhance your everyday life.
Last point – please note that at no time have I denied the existence of a higher being, one that possibly had a hand in creating the world we see around us. That, however is a story (or theory) for another post.