Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Religion's Appeal

Having grown up outside of religion, gone heavily into it during my middle years and coming out the backside of it as I reached my elder years, I find it a bit of a mystery today.

I cannot speak for others, but I wanted to believe a religion had the answer to living life wisely, to connecting with god. I went looking for which one made the most sense to me. I liked the security of thinking god was up there with a plan which we could find through, although a man-made system, channeling directly from god. If I could still believe that, I'd still be in a religion; but it was never a social thing for me but rather a search for truth.

Today, there are times I feel so negative toward religion that it's hard for me to write about it fairly. When I read a poll such as came out recently that showed more Christians are likely to condone torture than non-Christians, I am not surprised, but think what most would think-- how can a religion founded on a belief that their master was tortured to death like the idea of torturing people-- what the @@##$$%%#$# is that all about?

It's not like a fondness for torture is new to Christianity if you think about the witch burnings, the years of the Inquisition, the people who put themselves on crosses even today as a sacrifice, beat themselves, or give up something, everything supposedly to satisfy god or their religious understanding of what he/she/it might be.

Despite today's you can get anything you want if you rub god the right way version of Christianity, it was founded on a blood sacrifice-- first the Passover and then the Crucifixion. The Crucifixion was supposedly okay because of the Resurrection but without the torture and death, the Resurrection would not have had meaning.

Christians flocked to Mel Gibson's film about Christ's last days. Was part of that appeal somehow glorying in watching someone being tortured-- for them? I think in Christianity today there is still this strange mix of it will fix everything for you combined with sadism/masochism. Read the Old Testament and then tell me that today's Christians are totally blowing their interpretation of their faith.

I think back to the days when I would read the story of Abraham and think what a testimony to the man's faith instead of what a nutcase and how dare people still celebrate a man who sets the stage for sacrificing one's children if they claim god said to do it! How was that ever okay with me?

It's not just one religion where this is how it is. Humans want something. We want to identify with something. We want to be part of something. We want to feel safe. We want to think something bigger than us cares. But our wanting that does not make it so and somehow religion has often been so subverted that it ends up doing the opposite of what it might have originally been intended to do.

I think this article said it well for why people choose to join religions:

Defecting to Faith

When I hear someone saying praise the Lord-- no matter what just happened-- say they are turning their lives, all their decisions, over to an invisible god who they cannot hear or see but somehow think will make them do the right thing, I cannot help but remember when I felt that way and in some ways envy them their faith. Those ideas were part of my life for a number of years; but today I cannot claim what I do not believe.

I haven't given up on spirituality. Now I am looking for new spiritual meaning that is not in any religion. I do believe it's possible to find-- just not as easy and without as many comforting promises.


Darlene said...

Rain, to a degree I followed the same path that you did. I attended Sunday School during part of my childhood, but, although they were Christian, my grandparents were quite relaxed about their religion. My mother got into a cult (Christian Science - I consider it a cult) when her life became so hard she had to find something that helped keep her sane. I could never believe in her denomination so religion separated us to a degree and that hurt.

When our son was born my husband and I joined a mainstream church and I became very active.

I could not find any comfort there, hated the petty squabbles, and disliked parking my mind at the Church door.

Being pragmatic by nature I have a lot of difficulty in taking things on faith. I am not a church member now and don't miss any part of it. I know what I believe and am quite comfortable with that.

Ishrath said...

Rain, excellent post. I guess it indeed takes a lot of guts for people to make the statement you have just made. How true you write... that its just not a social thing but the search for truth. There is so much inner turmoil always... atleast as along as we are alive :)

And I look forward to death, for it must be giving lot more answers than life currently is... in a much beautiful way. This cycle, this pain, this angst, this quest... is so beautiful.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

ugich konitari said...

Rain, I am a Hindu. My parents and ancestors were Hindu, and I grew up following certain values and customs, and rituals. But my parents, maybe because of their education (both with Masters from Brooklyn Poly(father), and Columbia Teachers college,NY(mother), in 1948), and strong minds, exposed us to many cultures through schooling and travel within India. While attending Christian Schools, I picked up many things, I have had Moslem friends, and one learned there too. In my own religion, I did not agree with certain rituals, and I never did them , always ensuring that no elders were antagonized in the process, Those were the values .

As a grad student, I had amazing Catholic and Protestant roommates. I have attended their weddings in church, and the ceremony has moved me to tears. When my Catholic roommate's parents passed away, we found that as the second generation of families that grew up far away from each other in 2 totally different religions, we actually had very similar beliefs about death.

My roommate on her own, had a memorial mass said for my mother, and she and her family attended. I received the card by mail.

I think my mother would have been honored and touched. She probably wouldn't understand the Latin, but would have simply wondered , how, despite being such different religions, with different rules and stuff, at the end of the Day, it was all about being at peace with each other.

To me that's what religion is....

Anne said...

Interesting post! I've been in and out of various churches and spiritual paths, right now I call myself a "lapsed Buddhist" but I could just as easily be a lapsed something else. I grew up in a religiously divided home, my father a strong doubter of all things religious my mother a pretty strong Anglican (Episcopalian). While never being quite the Christian my mother was, I think I have travelled from one end of that spectrum to the other a couple of times, currently hovering around my father's end of the line. However, I did once belong to what I would call a pretty enlightened Christian church community, one where "parking your mind at the door" was not a requirement and the church community life was on the whole pretty uplifting and supportive rather than petty (not to say that it didn't occasionally dip into the petty pool). I left only because I moved away and was unable to find any other church quite so home-like to me.

I think that a good church is a community that satisfies spiritual needs, and in this day and age we sorely lack good communities, let alone ones that satisfy spiritual needs. It's disappointing to join a spiritual community only to find that it is neither spiritual nor a community, leaving us to pursue our spiritual paths on our own. Not always a bad thing, but I have experienced the benefits of doing it in community, and that's not a bad thing either.

Paul said...

An old Sufi said to a young friend,"I looked everywhere for God for 40 years and I found him in my heart. He was there all of the time."

Parapluie said...

I grew up in a family practicing religious and ethnic denial. And it is still mysterious on my father's Jewish side. I serched the world over and none of my relatives with the same Jewish great grandfather practice the Jewish religion. Many dead and living carry out Jewish values however. But what is the point of going to the trouble of spitting my husband by converting when there is no living relative in the religion.
I hang out with members of a service organization called Hadassah. There isn't any pressure to be anyone other than me no matter how I feel about religion. I keep hearing from them hopeful signs of a world where hate and anger is healed through treating all people's health needs without religious bias. Hadassah is ambitiously expanding their hospital and peace outreach.

Anonymous said...

Rain forget religion and seek. Religion is not the goal. :-)

Rain said...

I want to especially thank those who shared personal stories here regarding their religions as the diversity of comments added a lot to this topic.

TorAa said...

you have my signature to your honest writing about Relgion