(One man’s perspective)
Good Morning again from the Old Man on the Mountain. As I sit here and watch the snow drizzle down I think to myself “what are the subjects that no one in their right minds would touch?” So, today’s story is titled Oh My God. The subject – Religion.
I was raised a Christian – Protestant to be precise – for the first ten years of my life. Then we moved to a town in the country and the lessons of the Lord were more self-taught. While I’ve claimed Protestant (I guess we were Congregational) as my faith, I didn’t go to church (except when my oldest daughter was born – we checked out the locals and weren’t impressed) but tried to live by the ten commandments and the golden rule (the real one, not the corporate “he who has the gold makes the rules”). Until one day a few years back. A co-worker of mine (who turned out to be the “All American Boy” in my opinion) died of a bee sting. He was younger, healthier than me and always social. In all the time I worked with him, I never heard him yell, and since he was a manager, that says a lot. He’d been an outdoors guy his whole life – coach, manager, fisherman, etc. Around thousands of bees. And bang, now he’s gone.
I’m old enough to have seen death up close, but this one really got me thinking – about all religions. And how death is perceived in each, the rewards, the afterlife, etc. The rewards part was an area that struck me as particularly interesting. From God, friends and family to seventy virgins – promises of a silver lining provided you followed the manual. Otherwise you go to hell – kind of like permanently moving in with the in-laws. But that’s another story.
Anyway, as I pondered my stance on the different religions, I asked the most important (to me) question – which religion has never tried to force itself on others, but rather let others decide if it’s the right belief for them. Since this is a deep question, I brought it up at lunch with my co-workers to get a general consensus – and the answer I got was Buddhism. While Buddhists have fought wars, they’ve never fought wars to push their beliefs upon others. The other larger religions – Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Judaism all have. And as I looked at this, I realized that I was raised under the religion that had the worst (in my opinion) record for “killing in God’s name” – Christianity.
Talk about “believe in Jesus or die”. In the news today all you hear about is how the Muslims have no value for life, with suicide bombings, etc., but this hardly compares with the Crusades or the Inquisition. And while I’ve been wrong before, I’ve never heard of other religions traversing the globe to “spread the word” the way “The Church” has done. Now, I don’t want to rile the masses, so let’s just drop this here – my opinion and mine alone, right or wrong.
So, where am I today you may wonder? Well, since I’ve pretty much abused myself physically over my lifetime, the Buddhist belief that the body is your temple doesn’t quite work for me – my temple’s pretty close to being condemned, but with enough work it can be brought back to “livable” and maybe even “nice”. I like the Buddhist beliefs in enlightenment, peace and teaching – not “forced” teaching, but educating in the ways of reaching internal peace. Or maybe the American Indians – the Sioux for example. Believing in Wakan Tanka and the spirits of the earth. While I don’t claim to know everything, I’m pretty sure the Sioux didn’t run around “counting coup” on all the non-believers they could find. Just something to help me to understand how the “All American Boy” could just be there one day and not the next. I know, I could call it “God’s will” or some other religious justification. But that just doesn’t comfort me anymore.