Religions are so diverse there is a flavor for everyone. The universal idealism of religion is that it is supposed to be a guide in how to live a good life, how to treat others and ultimately getting a good reward in the end. One can extrapolate that this goes for majority of the world religions. While this idea is wonderful, the reality can be a stark contrast.
Who is right? Every religious entity will tell you it is the right one. It is the one true path for life and the afterlife. There is so much conflict and fighting for who has the truth that it has pitted man against man from the inception of religion.
Man’s interpretation. The Bible, the Torah, the Koran and countless other manuscripts have been written ‘by God’ or God-inspired but always with a male cultural twist. The things that were the norm 1000 years ago is not the same as those 10 years ago or today. Religion is struggling to keep up with the changing norms that it requires interpretation after interpretation in order to be relevant. The problem with these interpretations or extrapolations is that they are usually reflective of the person’s own experiences and convictions. i.e. It was heretic to suggest that the earth was round and not the center of the universe, women were burnt at the stake for being witches, menstruating women were shunned and considered unclean, and many illness were consequences for someone’s sin.
Ignorance of culture. A die-hard believer will tell you culture has no place in religion. However, they read from interpretations of old manuscripts with references that do not always apply today or they have no reference for things today that were previously unimaginable-heart transplant, airplanes, nuclear bombs. Think about it-the working women of the old days were prostitutes, if the elderly or women had no families or men to care for them (Ruth and Naomi), then their lives would be destitute. Girls were married as young as 13y/o and it was almost impossible for a man to transition out of the station of life in which he was born. Christian practices differ depending on where you live or from differing households.
Religion breeds anger and hatred. The quickest way to create animosity is to put two people with differing religious beliefs in the same room. Due to each person’s interpretation, even those who claim to belong to the same denomination cannot always agree. The religious zealots can be so dogmatic that if you do not agree, then you are automatically sinful and going to hell. If you want to see how easily a Christian can sin, then challenge his or her beliefs.
Happy Christian? When someone drill in your head all the don’ts, you spend your life being very conscious of every boundaries or rules you should not cross. This can make Christian life very miserable. Look at the 10 commandments Exodus 20 and even the Love chapter 1 Corin 13 and make note of all the don’ts. What if they were written in the positives? Your God is the only God you should love and service. There is no need for graven images because he is always with you. You should always honor life which is a blessing from God. You should be respectful of things that belong to others, you should give God praise when your neighbor is blessed etc. What would happen if Christians speak that way to others?
Getting Caught Up. The highly religious are so quick to write you off when you are “doing something wrong” in their eyes. They are quick to judge very harshly, they are quick to condemn, they are quick to slap you with the ‘good book’ than share, they are quick to shut you down than listen, they are quick to be right and therefore be righteous. We keep forgetting that there are so many ways to worship: John the Baptist did things differently from Peter, who was different from Paul, who was different from Mother Theresa who was different from the Chaplain on the battlefield of Afghanistan or the lay woman in Uganda. We constantly put God in our own narrow box and call that truth.
God’s Agenda. God did NOT promise everyone that they would get all the desires of their hearts no matter how good it sounds. King David wanted to build the temple but it was taken away from him and given to his son King Solomon. The only guarantee that the New Testament made was about an afterlife which is either good or bad (most people cannot agree on what those will truly look like); however, for everything before that, life is either choices or predestined (depends on your interpretation). So, telling others that they are putting things out of God’s order or trying to rush his agenda makes no sense if you believe that God is always in control no matter what. Believe it or not, sometimes good things can come out of bad choices, situations or mistakes. Sometimes you do everything right and it all turns out poorly. Who is to say that was not God’s plan? After all, Christians believe Judas’ betrayal which played a part in Jesus’ suffering and death was the catalyst for something good.
Religion is not all bad or all good. It is usually the way we interpret it and implement it in our lives. One person uses religion to chop off someone’s head while someone else uses it to feed the poor. One person uses it to uplift someone while the other person uses it to cast judgment. One person finds freedom while someone uses to restrict and confine. I was taught to be dogmatic in my beliefs and take the interpretation of others as gospel. The moment I broke away from such rigidity, I realized there was more freedom to understand God, conflict, doubt and also more relevant and real life applicable questions that does not have clear Biblical answers.