This is a letter I wrote to a dear friend of mine, actually its safe to say she’s like a mother to me. She’s my best friends mom and I have been helping her of late. She’s been having health issues.
She is very southern, very kind and proper and very Christian. Lately she’s has been really asking about what I believe. She’s printed stuff out. So I have decided to write. I have always avoided it in conversation and some who read this might know why.. others might not.
Well here goes.
You have asked what I believe. I have always been hesitant to share what I believe because it does not coincide with your beliefs. It’s a topic I don’t talk about because I do think vastly different than your family. I do have very strong beliefs that I chose to keep to myself. And in conversation in the past I have made light of the subject only to distract. I don’t want my words to hurt anyone’s feelings, or make them think less of me. There is not an ounce of me that holds indifference, seeks to change anyone else’s mind, debate, question or hold resentment because my beliefs don’t coincide with anyone’s religion. That being said, I will never make the choice to openly debate religion. Ever. I hope that is ok. I love all of you very much.
I am perfectly happy and content with my beliefs. I was raised in a Christian Methodist Church but I do not believe what they do. I have always had issues with churches, their missions and their inactivity in our community which seems to be hugely contradictory towards its teachings. History also plays a huge part in what I believe as well. I cannot align myself with any religion where people have died in the name of it. When I see the sign of the cross on a church building I don’t see peace, I don’t see a place where people come together in harmony and help others. I don’t see an organization built for the people to help people. I see a business, I see pastors, priests, ministers driving fancy cars, I see the billions of dollars in tax exemptions Churches get with not having to pay property, sales tax, investment taxes; just to name a few. Its influence infiltrates our government; the very institution that was built to be in defiance of religious control now actively makes the public subjective to their agenda. I see a symbol that has been used throughout history as a reason to extort, persecute, murder, enslave, and torture all because they didn’t carry the same beliefs as Christians. Thousands of women burned alive because they were accused to be witches while people watched, chanted and sang hymns claiming they were doing gods will. That’s what I see when I see a cross. To me, it doesn’t symbolize a man who died for our sins… I see the millions of innocent people who have died because of it.
My issues with organized religion is not exclusive. It encompasses organized religion as a whole. People still die today in the name of “God.” Everyone has their god that they pray too and they all swear they know and follow his will. There just isn’t one true religion, faith, denomination, faction; there are many. Past and present, existent and extinct. They all have, and do compete against one another claiming to be right. Religion is a way of thought, it’s a set of morals and values to live by. It defines itself in culture, and also gives its believers its basis on how to view society and humanity. There are differences in each religion which sets them apart and those tend to become the basis of persecution in which they use against each other. As you stand here right now, there is someone else across the world with as much conviction and belief as you do yet they are praying to Moses or Allah, Sri Krishna, Duc Cao Dia…. Who exactly is right when everyone believes just as strongly as the next person? Faith? Faith. That’s exactly where were “faith” comes in. Belief in the unseen to back up written word, with so many people having faith and claiming to be right… I refuse to take part in such an unrealistic endeavor enough to come to some determination as to who is exactly right because there is absolutely no verifiable, tangible proof to come to that conclusion.
I cannot knowingly submit myself to any form of our popularly organized monotheistic religions because I do not believe they as a whole are determined to be the light of self-revitalization or built in the betterment of humanity. I do know if every Christian were like you this world would be an entirely different place. But you are rare. You’re a gem in a sea of make believers and people putting on their Sunday best to be seen. I have seen people that like the show of attending Church. It makes them feel wholesome as they try to perpetuate an aura of perfection. They like to disprove people like me because they are biblically programmed too and automatically assume I am somewhat lesser than them simply because I choose not to believe. Some religious people believe they are so much more enlightened than non-believers and hold pity and a sense of arrogance when it comes to people who do not share their same beliefs. With all this taken in consideration I cannot align my belief system, or my heart alongside those who hold any kind of ill will, arrogance, pity, irritation or indifference or need for convergence towards anyone else, for any reason; and especially because of a difference in belief. Even if I have no idea who those people are… I cannot blindly follow.. And that’s my choice.
On the other hand, I do see a lot of good that can come from religion. I see how it brings about hope, I see the love in people’s eyes when they talk about their lord and that is precious to me. I love to watch the passion in the voices of a choir or the power in the voice of a preacher. I do see the good that can come from people actually following their faith, which ever religion they believe in. I see believers practice true humility, compassion and morality by following the words of their god in a practical and realistic way. I am not blind to the positive effects. But none the less; however much society has benefited from religion it has not yet surpassed all the atrocities people have done in the name of it and there isn’t a single verse in any religious text in the world that will ever change that thought in my mind.
I have studied many different religions to come to my conclusions. My choice is to have faith solely in my own two hands, in the calmness of my breath and the power of my words. Those are the only forces that I have the power to change and it doesn’t need to be for any other reason than the fact that I am kind, caring and compassionate. I believe in Karma and being nice, holding a peaceful attitude towards all living creatures; even though that is a difficult feat I do believe it is something that can be achieved through proper and rational control of one’s own mind and a complete understanding of how negative thoughts of others effect the one thinking them. I believe that taking time out of your day to be at peace with yourself is the only way to find peace with others.
Through all of my research, if I were to believe or follow any type of religion enough to align myself with, it would be Buddhism. The core, the main core of their beliefs are centered around understanding your own mind, how external situations effect your state of mind and learning how to react, deal with stress, anger, feeling uncomfortable etc. which Buddhist call Dukkha. Dukkha can be translated into many words and it also encompasses and can be explained in three different categories. Any kind of physical or mental suffering that’s associated with birth, getting older, sickness and dying. The second is the stress and anxiety that’s created by trying to hold onto things that are constantly changing. The third is the dissatisfaction that’s felt when things never seem to measure up to our expectations or standards. This one word means all of those different things. But for all intensive purposes it can be summed up with the word “Suffering,” though the negative connotations associated with that particular word need to be left behind.
Being able to rationalize and come to terms by understanding with realism why you deal with struggle; tiny to large, why you feel anxiety or pain, anger or dissatisfaction is the key to making peace and with growing knowledge, deal with such things in the future. That was something I have always thought and never once saw any kind of realism about understanding one’s own self to this extent before in any other religion. If more people were able to pull the veil off themselves as to why they do the things they do, why they feel certain emotions, why things don’t seem to go right as part of something they are inviting…. And could possibly change… this entire world would be a different place. It would embody more humility.
Recognizing, dealing, overcoming and ultimately the realization of how to avoid “dukkah” is the main core of Buddhist teaching. I think it’s brilliant. If one learns the way to master their own mind to filter out negative thoughts, assumptions, mean thoughts about themselves and others, and also learn to deal with their struggles by mentally processing the truth behind their “suffering,” the true origin of how their “suffering” began, the truth behind what elevates the “suffering” ultimately finding the path leading to the end of the suffering. If you practice this way of thought for every struggle you come across you will have an easier time dealing with struggle because you have gained knowledge from the problem you struggled with earlier. That’s what I believe. I believe in taking a humanistic and realistic approach to life in that my suffering will always provide education and only through analysis does that actually bare fruit.
In closing, I am happy with what I chose to believe in. I hope this helps you understand that I have not come to some rash decision quickly, or that I am uneducated about religion therefor I must be shown in order to understand. My understanding is crystal clear and my choices are the result of careful analysis and research. My beliefs are solid and a part of my heart. I will never judge another person because of what they believe I will also never disallow my children from walking their own path. I have never taken the right to choose away from my children or forced what I believe on them but I do encourage open mindedness, compassion, free thought and acceptance. If one grows up to be a priest I will love them for it, I will attend their services with pride and love. If one grows up and decides to follow Judaism and become a Rabbi, I will do the same because I hope I have provided the base of always being kind, compassionate and caring for others. It is for that reason that I openly encourage them to attend services or church activities. I want them to have the chance to believe whatever it is they determine to be true for themselves.