The Easter Bunny has not visited my home in many years. No brightly colored eggs, no fancy baskets, no plastic grass that gets everywhere. He (or she) used to, but since there are no longer any young children residing here, my home has been crossed off the Bunny-list. For me, this is just another Sunday. Also absent is the deep religious meaning that today brings to so many around the world, and closer to home, to many of my friends. Those who are familiar with my musings here know that I do not subscribe to nor have I any personal experience with any established religious doctrine. As a scholar of communication, however, I am fascinated by the tradition and history of religion and the influence it has on humanity. But I am not, in a structured sense, a “believer.”
But many of my friends and family are. The fact that we do not share certain beliefs has not negatively affected the closeness or the authenticity of those relationships, indeed differences in religious belief (or lack thereof) is just the beginning in a long list of different and sometimes opposing beliefs. None have ever tried to “convert” me, though many have argued for the legitimacy of what they believe. So do I, and I am not trying to win converts either. I used to have a much different view of religion; Christianity specifically, but organized religion generally appeared to be a game of politics in which the one that ends up with the most followers wins. And it seemed that they would say or do anything to win.
I know better today. Not that there are not those extremists who view their beliefs in a decidedly egocentric and myopic way, but rather that this is not the norm. A vocal, often hypocritical minority within not only fringe groups but also bad apples within mainstream religious organizations formed my impression. Those extremists are also often news, and I was constantly exposed to religion portrayed only at its ugliest. It’s still true today; even the current scandal within the Catholic Church is not a reflection of the vast majority of Catholics, although the church’s inept and bumbling organizational communication is certainly not helping matters any. The point is that through maturation, education and a little bit of common sense, I can view religion without being reductive.
Does that mean that I am doomed to eternal damnation? Perhaps, but if I truly believed that, I certainly would do something about it. I’ll not go into the multitude of contradictions and claims made by differing religions, but I will say that I am absolutely sure that I will get whatever I deserve in the end. I am not living my life for any reward in the hereafter, but rather in the right now. I believe that if I can adhere to the principles that are considered universally virtuous throughout the history of humankind (coincidentally enough, the same principles almost all religions hold as honorable), I will have fulfilled my purpose. Whatever else that purpose entails specifically, I believe we are all meant to strive for the highest moral standards that have always existed.
Of course, that last sentence opens an entirely different can of worms: If we have meaning, where did it come from? I’ll leave that question for another time.
Another great piece of insight, I have managed to surround myself with a religious/spiritually diverse crowd and have not felt the need for conversion in either direction. I was raised with the dogma that provides for the different thinkers as long as they are committed to their...thinking. You, my friend, walk the walk of a committed thinker and I personally have no fears for your afterlife. Keep 'em coming Michael.
Mike, I am Catholic by tradition but have never tried to convert anyone to that mindset. To each his own and live and let live are my motto. I look forward to your continued discussion on this topic.
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