I recently posted this as a note on my facebook page. Figured it belonged here too:
I've been studying up on different religions and beliefs. I've barely scratched the surface on much of it. One thing I've figured out is that nobody really knows anything. A lot of people think they do. But nobody really does. Faith is a choice. You choose to believe something.
Frankly, I don't care what you choose to believe. As soon as you start using your choice in beliefs as an excuse to infringe on the rights of others or to force others to agree with you, then I've got a big problem. That's where I have problems with many organized religions. Too often, people have oppressed or killed others in the name of God. Most of the time these actions are against the true message of the belief system. These extremists often disrespect and belittle the very God they claim to know so well. But people get in power and they will use any means necessary to keep it. Nothing is truly sacred in the face of greed.
The irony of it all is no one really knows the truth. There might not even be a God or gods. Our prophets might have not existed at all or simply been schizophrenics suffering hallucinations. History has a way of making its own heroes. And we all know who writes history. The people with the most guns and power. The winners of wars. The people who have agendas to push and gold to collect.
I could easily be an atheist, based on reason and disgust alone. But I can't choose to be an atheist because frankly, it depresses the shit out of me. To think this is all there is...some might think that makes life precious, and it does. I think we should live as if this is all there is. But I would like to believe that this isn't it. Just because the thought of some kind of Heaven comforts me when I think of loved ones who have died and when I contemplate my own death or the deaths of those around me. I would like to think that we'll all meet up again and party. For eternity. Maybe it's a ridiculous superstition. But if it makes living life a little easier, then what's the harm? The atheists are generally moral people. Some of them are more moral than some religious people I know. Why? Because they believe this is all there is. They see us as all existing together with no God to tell us how to live and no afterlife to look forward to. Our tiny window of sentience makes life precious and therefore something to be revered and preserved. So I've taken an important lesson of humanity from the atheists as well as an important lesson on enjoying life. What if they are right? We should make every second count.
So I'm willing to choose to believe there's an afterlife. A happy one. I don't care much about Hell. I think you'd have to be pretty damn bad to get there, if it does exist. Purgatory or the Buddhist concept of reincarnation make more sense to me. I can't help but think Hell was invented for the sole purpose of scaring people into religion. To scare them into living and behaving a certain way. A way that often benefited those in power. Remember when kings were divinely chosen and to disobey or question them could destine one for Hell? Remember when people had to pay indulgences in gold to make up for their sins or the sins of others? All for the sake of avoiding Hell.
Open your eyes to human nature and history. Hell is here on earth. People create it themselves. Hell is in every dictator that ever oppressed his or her people in the name of God, power, or gold. Hell is in every disease filled third world village that could be cured with modern medicine that's just too damned expensive. Hell is in every battlefield. Hell is in every murder and rape.
Sure, I could be wrong. Nobody knows the truth. There might be a true eternal Hell of fire and brimstone. If I'm willing to believe in Heaven, I have to entertain the idea of Hell, right? Sure. The point is, I think if we spent a little more of our lives eliminating Hell from earth instead of adding to it, then we probably won't need to worry about an eternity of fire.
Maybe I've been a little harsh on the religious folk. Let me apologize. There are many religious folk who are living truly good lives and doing a lot of good for others. I'm not attacking you. I'm attacking the ones that hide behind God in order to discriminate, oppress, and attack. I'm just sick of seeing people use God as an excuse. If you want to oppress someone, then for God's sake, don't bring Him into it. Give the real reasons why you do what you do. If you can't find any reason beyond your personal choice of religious belief, then maybe it's time to stop forcing it on others. You have the right to choose your beliefs. So should everyone else.
I've got a long road of spiritual contemplation ahead. I've barely taken the first few steps. So far I've made a few important choices:
1. I am seeking my own salvation. I will be glad to talk to others about my thoughts and beliefs but I will never force them on anyone else. If I disagree with someone else's beliefs, as long as they are not using their beliefs as an excuse to infringe on the rights of other people, then I will not judge them. I will base my moral system on avoiding harming others and avoiding infringing on their rights.
2. I will try to behave in a way to eliminate Hell from earth. Helping people when it's reasonable and staying out of their business unless asked. That and the golden rule. Do unto others.
3. I choose to believe there is a God and that He does care about me and everyone else on this earth. I will pray to this God in whatever way I see fit. Either alone or within a worship community. I choose to believe this because it just makes the world seem like a happier place to live in. Prayer and meditation are known to relieve stress. Letting go and letting God is a healthy practice when you truly have no control over something that worries you. I have an anxiety disorder. The belief there is a God to confide in and to rely on is a comfort that helps me sleep at night.
4. I choose to believe there is a Heaven. I don't know what it looks like or exactly what it is. If it's an actual place or a state of existence. Or both. I choose to believe that people I have loved and lost are there. I choose to believe that I will see them again. This makes me happy. It makes me less fearful of death and less likely to spend time worrying over it. It makes the grieving process over loved ones easier to handle. I won't claim I know how to get there and I won't try to tell others how. I will live by my personal moral code that hope that's enough.
I think I've ranted enough for now. Just felt the need to share. :)