From One Faith to Another: Religion is a Tool — Have Faith in People
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought.” — Siddhartha Guatma
“When you’ve done the technical part, you’re then into the joy, the zen, into being. Technology no longer exists for you. You’re then into the mystery of the thing, you’re doing.” — William Shatner
“When you no longer need guidance to react to the movements during a meditation, you are in a zen moment. You are moving in perfect fluidity with nature. You are achieving a spiritual high.” — Kent Allen Halliburton
Just recently, I got into what can only be called a heated debate with some evangelical Christians. They are both neighborly friends, but they still thought it necessary to tell me that my understanding of faith was wrong, and that I was going to go to hell if I did not make a complete change in my way of living, my way of thinking, and my understanding of the faith. When they were saying this to me, my mind drifted to Dante’s Inferno, a part of his Divide Comedies, which I have read. Here is a colorized picture from the text. Eventually, I drifted back to your soul must be washed by the blood of the lamb and the like, and so I prepared myself for the mesh and chain mail assault to come.
I then responded, from which of the forty or more translations of the holy texts did they get this idea? They could not answer me except to say that that did not matter. All that mattered was that I needed to accept Jesus into my heart and then get baptized; the same line most Christians give when they cannot think of anything else to say. Had they dropped a scripture and verse and a particular translation of the bible, I might have been stumped for a few a moments……but only for a few.
Hmm, I said, where is Jesus, then? They said he is in Heaven. Hmm, where is Heaven, then? Is it above us? Is it all around us? They said Heaven is above us, and Hell is below us. Okay, which translation of the holy texts did you get this from? From the bible? Which one? The bible, again? A little irritated, I responded, which one?!?! No answer….. Again, I would have been floored if they had actually come up with something good. Having studied from over half of them myself, it was my hope that they would have tried to respect my efforts, at the least; but alas, they did not.
I hope that people will not take me to be a complete jerk on this topic, though I am sure many will. I am just hard on these people for one real simple reason. This is so because faith is so much deeper than just the obvious trust in the divine nature of god. True faith does not just show itself in how well you can recite words from a book, nor does it just show itself in how well you perform ceremonies, or in how hard you can pray; but rather it shows itself in how well you treat others. Faith also has a great deal to do with how you trust people. You have to be willing to be let down. You have to be willing to endure pain delivered to you by those whom you are supposed to love and trust.
Faith is not just a divine calling. Faith is also a terrestrial calling that humans must develop with each other in order to function normally in society. Without it, we die. When old bonds of faith are broken we build new ones, when old bonds of faith remain intact, time only makes them stronger. When your god is talking to you about building and spreading the faith, this what he means, true human connections that create a peaceful world for everyone to live in. This pollution that has been created that either you believe things our way or you are going to hell; it just is not supposed to work like that. This is why everything is breaking down. You have created a system that is severing all of the ancient faith networks that humans have been building throughout history.
So, in comes religion to mess up the whole game. Further, I said imagine, if you will, that religion is a tool that the rich have used for all of human history to control the poor. They take the faith built by the people and build a religion around it, and this helps them to keep the poor deluded into believing that their dilapidated condition is part of the natural order of things and that they should accept it and be happy. Further, I repeated them that the bible that they so fervently quote from is one of at least forty plus translations that have come out since the collapse of the Catholic Churches’ control over Europe during the Middle Ages, and that that translation was built on even older texts that came before it.
I then went into a deeper rant. Further, you should count yourself lucky that you can even read your holy texts now. It is an abnormality in human custom for the general population of an empire to be able to read the holy texts of its religion. That is usually the job that is kept solely for the priestly caste of that society. So, if you want to get technical, you are the ones that are wrong here. After saying this, I thought to myself, they probably haven’t even read it anyways, so they are pretty much in the same position. This thought, true though it may be, made me feel horrible.
Having finally gotten off on my rant, I walked off for a little while. After I cooled down, I came back and asked them for a simple favor. I said, I know you don’t believe me, and that is okay, but you need to understand something about me. I am not the kind of person that is going to just come to you, unprovoked, and say that what you believe about your religion is wrong. What you believe is your business. So long as it is done peacefully and dose not harm anyone, have at it. We will only begin to have problems if your belief system requires that you spread your faith through hatred and violence. If you cross those lines, you can expect to see my angry face, accompanied with a strong fight.
All I ask in return is that you give me the same respect. I am not interested in your Great Commission. You can pray for me all you like; in fact, I welcome it. However, I am still perfectly happy with who I am. I have spent my entire life on my own spiritual journey to get to where I am, and I am proud to say that I am a Zen Buddhist that also prays to his ancestors. I also do believe in God, just not in the same way you do. The Earth is my Mother. She gives me life, and she can take it away. I am one with her flesh, and my flesh shall return to her when I die. This gives me comfort. Further, God is Universal, and my spirit is one with the Universe. Just imagine how vast that must be. God is all around us. God is everything. God is within us. So, my spirit will eventually achieve immortality. How conceited must I be to attempt to restrain such a consciences to a single name or a single set of holy texts?
The confrontation ended mildly enough. So I ended with; so, if you could, you be you, I will be me, and we will be friends. How about it? At that point, they looked at me as if I just blown their minds, but at least, they each shook my hand and the deal was made. We shall see how it goes.