Sunday, September 17, 2006

Religious Diversity

Hi, I'm Angela from Bold Contemplations! Before my post, I just wanted to thank Mike for the opportunity to guest blog! I hope you enjoy all the guest posts, and hope that a thought provoking discussion will ensue!


I believe that throughout history, distinct groups of people developed the concept of god and religion in order to provide a means for explaining and understanding life’s unanswerable questions and events – historical and natural – which seemed to be out of human control. As I see it, traditional religion is indeed the “opium of the masses.” Each individual religion is the narration of a particular culture’s myth -- its interpretation of history as shaped and molded over numerous generations in response to changes in the culture’s circumstance. For this reason, it is obvious why numerous religious schools naturally developed throughout history in lieu of a single global religion.

We continue to utilize the concepts of religion and god in similar manners today. Religion is the glue that holds many people’s lives together. It continues to provide answers (albeit some arguably outdated) to many of life’s most unanswerable questions. What is the meaning of life? Why must we experience trials and tribulations? What happens when we die? Religion also continues to provide principles and tenets (again, some arguably outdated) by which a person should abide in order to live a “good” life – one that would make their god proud. Some people are extremely religious during good times and bad, while others only embrace religion in times of emotional distress and need. Religion gives many a sense of purpose in life and provides the motivation that many need to live by the golden rule (who wants to suffer eternal damnation?). Given the extremely personal nature of the emotional needs that religion addresses, many people today search for the one (or none) that they most identify with. It is for this reason that I feel that religious diversity is important as it allows everyone to find the “truth” that they feel most comfortable calling their own. Actively identifying with a religion tends to provide a sense of purpose and belonging to the believer.

Personally, I don’t believe that one must embrace a particular religion in order to live a purposeful and fulfilling life – in my opinion, a sense of spirituality is much more important (a topic for another time). Historical events (perhaps purposefully) have perpetuated the need of humans to search outside themselves for explanations of life’s events and to provide motivation to treat their fellow inhabitants of the earth with respect. As long as this continues to be true, religious diversity will be important as it will allow the needs of diverse masses to be met. However, history as well as current events have proven that religious diversity can have just as many negative implications as positive ones.

The numerous labels we continually impose on ourselves only serve to divide humanity. History has proven that humans are masters at using the differences among its members to segregate and divide itself, to perpetuate hate and prejudice. Many of the out-dated teachings of the traditional religions add fuel to this fire. The majority of wars, past and present, are rooted in religious differences and the world’s current events indicate that this trend will not end any time soon. Therefore, I believe that in order for humanity to survive and thrive, we must begin to shed out-dated traditional religions and move toward acceptance of religions and schools of thought which strive to work towards the common good of all humanity and all earth’s creatures, in addition to re-connecting humanity by celebrating and embracing our differences.