Although this is called Part II, it is not necessary to have read yesterday’s post in order to enjoy today’s post, but, hey — why wouldn’t you want to, right?
Once my mum began her subtle campaign to convince my daughter to get baptized or face death and an eternity in the fiery bowels of Hades, XUP Jr. and I started deprogramming having discussions about religion.
I explained that just because her granny believed something didn’t make it true. People believe in stuff because it makes them happy, I said. Like some people believe in Santa and some people don’t. (“And then they don’t get any presents, which is just like not believing in Jesus and going to hell, right?” said XUP Jr. making the necessary connections right away.)
Then we talked about all the many, many different religious and spiritual beliefs people have all over the world and I took her to a few different churches for a while until she got bored of that.
And just because I stopped going to church didn’t mean I’d given up on the whole idea of God completely. I volunteered sometimes to go to different churches with friends. I went to temple with Lily; mass with Debbie; Christian Reformed with Margo; Anglican with Sandra and even a mildly rebellious different Lutheran church with Gloria.
I signed up for the world religions course in high school – which was right after lunch and therefore populated by students in various levels of impairment. An interesting course though.
I read a lot about religion over the years. XUP Jr.’s first school was a Shambhala Buddhist school in Halifax . I picked it because it was a gentle, friendly introduction into the world of school. She loved it there. She learned a little bit about Buddhism and we found some Buddhist friends.
I took myself off to an Islamic Learning Center early in 2002 to see what was really going on in that religion.
I’ve spent a good amount of time with the Christian Scientists (eek); the Jehovah Witnesses; the Mormons, the Unitarians (they were actually pretty cool) and some Hindus. I’ve dabbled with the pagans, atheists, agnostics, Rastafarians and New Agers.
It’s interesting how passionate each person is about his or her particular belief system. And, how, like the belief in Santa Claus, most religious/spiritual beliefs are driven solely by the passions of the believers based on some long-ago legend. And more interesting is how many similarities there are between seemingly disparate faiths. The long-ago stories connect, interconnect, overlap, converge…
In the end, what I took from it all was that people in general, no matter what their culture, want or need to believe that their existence means something more than the existence of any other living thing. That there is a purpose or plan to their life. That there is a higher power in control of things.
I don’t believe any of that. I see no reason why humans should be any more special than any other life form on earth or anywhere else. Yes, we may be a higher life form, but that doesn’t mean we are being guided by some omnipotent being or that we keep on living in some heavenly realm after our bodies die.
I think every living thing has a life force – an energy that is beyond what we know of our corporeal being. But that’s as mystical as it gets and it’s a whole other blog post. (Don’t worry, there’s no Part III).
As for XUP Jr., she’s well over her fear of going to hell. Mostly she’s too wrapped up in her own immediate, moment-by-moment dramas to worry about the afterlife. Another couple of years and she’ll remember there are things outside of herself to think about.
And I’m confident that she understands that other people’s beliefs are important to them and we need to respect that; just like we respect how other people live their lives — as long as no one is hurting anyone — and we do what we can to make other people’s lives, and the earth as a whole, better.
I’ve yet to find a religion that’s totally on board with that simple credo.