what is religion
More acts of "terrorism" again make the world headlines. Is it really terrorism as we define it, or is it an expression of the deeply held convictions of a religion that refuses to join the 21st century. Religions, as with all other institutions influenced by the mind of man, should evolve and change with the times. If a religion is so rigid as to deny the basic principles of human rights we all aspire to, nothing will change the mindset of those that adhere to and revere those principles. Such a religion has no room for reason, only the rigid rules that dictate the "believer's" life. Imagine a world where church doctrine regarding astronomy, mathematics and even the origin of the universe was the only accepted philosophy and anyone who questioned it was subject to incarceration...or worse. Our past is resplendent with just such occurrences even though it is downplayed in modern history texts. Today, there is one major religion that continues to struggle with it's own intrepretation of the word of "God" as it relates to others. Just as ancient tribal societies struggled to enter the 19th and 20th centuries, so do some contemporary tribes struggle with entering the 21st century. Can a Western culture of tolerance and religious evolution be forced upon those mired in religious antiquity ? The answer is "no"....not unless mainstream followers of the religion, in this case Islam, are willing to accept, modify and adapt a more modern, tolerant form of Islam. It will take a new, enlightened generation of Imams to accomplish this and, sad to say, that generation is not of age yet. In the meantime, human rights violations, including slavery, will continue in the name of an individual religion's own "rights".
Religion...what is it to different people ? What are the differences between religions and why are there differences ? We want to know, I want to know, to learn. Most religions are fundamentally the same, providing insight into the human condition and giving us some form of guideline for living our lives, yet each promotes their own way to attain salvation or the hope of an "after-life". It is that very hope that often gives humans a reason to struggle on in the face of the complexities of life. Only thinking humans seem to face this paradox. The history of most major religions involve warring factions with the righteous overcoming evil-doers, often with the mass slaughter of all non-believers. As most religions evolved into modern times, the newer doctrines of tolerance and peaceful co-existence prevailed over the petty in-fighting so prominent in the ancient world. A central, singular God was (is) paramount in the major religions with ways written down (by man ?) detailing how to stay on or return to a righteous path in order to be granted salvation. Religions that promote several god-like beings or other righteous beings have basically been relegated to a lesser status, even if peace-loving or tolerant of all other religions. Although the major religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have similar histories and historical individuals, the conflict between them (and often within factions of their own religion) is well documented with the violent interactions always ".. in the name of....". The question, in this modern age of information and supposed "enlightment", should not be which religion is correct "in the eyes' of God", but which religion(s) promote tolerance and the well-being of fellow mankind. I want to believe in a God that allows the living human experience to be fulfilled with the freedom of choice, not the dogma of strict rules set forth in ancient times when even our own solar system was misunderstood. I want a God that is forgiving of my transgressions as long as I acknowledge them, correct them, and try not to repeat them. Questions that should be asked, and need to be answered, are these: 1) does your religion require strict rituals for salvation ? Why ? 2) does your religion have various levels of success within the religion, success that grants you favors with the supreme being in the after-life ? Is not that very philosophy similar to the rules of religions relegated to "second-tier" status ? 3) If following your religion requires the destruction of all other religions, is not that contrary to the philosophy of tolerance ? Why should any religion worry about whether a non-believer attains salvation or a "reward" in the after-life ? If they end up in "hell", is it necessary or required for you to send them there ? One can spread "the word" and let others decide whether they want to believe or not.....unless....unless....there is that even more basic need among us humans, that of greed and power. Would any all powerful God approve of that ?
Having read the basics of many religions, only one seems to insist on the strict following of ancient writings with no acceptance of the evolution of human society, an evolution that an all-knowing God would have known about, if not pre-ordained. An example is the true-believer of Islam. Any tolerance of other religions is not acceptable within the guidelines of the Koran, and in fact, the destruction of other religions is a requirement to reach higher levels of acceptance in the eyes of leaders. Other religions are not exempt from having to demonstrate one's faith to reach the desired end result; Hindus have various levels to traverse on their journey to Nirvana; Catholics require confession and repeating of chants for absolution, etc. These facts alone raise another question. Would an all-knowing, all-seeing God really make such petty requirements part of His plan, or is this man's own conception of what we think others might want to see or hear to prove one's fidelity. Maybe it is time to consider that God, regardless of how one chooses to recognize or acknowledge Him, truly is a supreme being that allows us to choose our own path, with His favors based only on that being a righteous path.