Some people would say so, anyway.
Well, make that most people. I can’t begin to estimate the number of people outside of religion that lump all religions into one category. Not to mention, there’s a good chunk of people inside religion who have convinced themselves that all religions are equally valid paths to God, and they are much more enlightened for thinking so. When it comes to everything from politics to parenting, we’re not afraid to be the only ones who are right, and damn everyone else to hell. But when it comes to religion, well you just can’t insult something as personal as someone’s faith. You can’t presume to have all the answers, to be the only one who’s right, lest you look like a crazy person, and probably a racist or a bigot.
But I started thinking about it. Maybe all that political correctness really has enlightened us. Maybe we’re past the point where I’m right and you’re wrong, and we can all just hold hands because all our beliefs are equal.
I suggest you keep reading.
Lots of people get into religion or “spirituality” to improve themselves. I can’t think of any faith that says you don’t need to shape up, get down with your bad self…and pray. Virtually every faith will tell you that you should be a better person, be more loving, stop doing bad things. Sure, there’s differences in what each faith is going to tell you to do. But if you pick any faith out of a hat and commit yourself to following its teachings, I can’t see how you won’t end up a better person.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this. Young adults leave church. But as soon as they start popping kids out, some of them think, “I’d better get back to church, so my precious little demon crumb-cruncher can learn some morals.” I guess that’s a good motivation. Of course, God forbid the parents actually be the one to teach their kids morals. I was a bad seed as a kid, but church turned me around. I was doing things like punting baby kittens off of rooftops, until one day, I heard a sermon that sounded like it was just for me. It was about how Jesus doesn’t want us punting kittens off of rooftops.
Long story short, you can drop your kid off at virtually any church, mosque, or synagogue, and the kid will come out ethical. Sure, there may be differences in the details, and everyone knows that’s where the devil is, but unless you go to a snake handing / kitty kicking church, your kid at least won’t be scoring field goals with felines.
If there’s a religion that doesn’t have some kind of a mega reward at the end, does it still have any members? I wouldn’t think so. Everyone’s got a different idea of what heaven, or nirvana, or whatever is like. But we all agree that it’s a place where the people who picked on us in high school won’t be.
The Good Books
If there’s a faith that has a clear, concise, bullet-pointed scripture that clearly tells everyone what they’re supposed to do at all times, with no interpretation necessary, I have yet to find it. Whether your scriptures were written over thousands of years, or by an overweight science fiction author in 1950, or by a guy looking into a hat, none of them give us many clean, clear answers to life, at least not without a lot of work.
If you aren’t a creature of habit, I suggest you don’t get into religion…any of them. Sure, every faith has a different set of rituals and habits, some different combination of standing and sitting and singing and moving your hands. But once you settle into one, be prepared to do the same thing over and over again for a long time, possibly until it has lost all meaning.
A lot of people never get into religion because they say that “they” are “only after my money.” Maybe they’re just cheap, but it’s true. Religion, like every human endeavor that has ever been attempted in the history of the world, requires money. Unless your religion is sitting in the dirt, doing nothing at all, I do not know of a “free” religion.
The One Thing
You didn’t really think I was going to say that all religions are really equal, and everyone’s just as right as I am, did you? How silly.
No, for all the things that make all religions “equal” paths to wherever, I am convinced that I follow the only one that has something unique. Something that humanity simply would not have thought of if it had not been given to us by God…
…the Republican party.
Just kidding. It’s grace. For all the crap that pastors (self included) talk about and distract themselves with, the stuff that people could get in virtually any religion, grace is the one thing that matters, the one thing that differentiates us, the one thing we would not have thought of if it weren’t true. Without grace, your religion is just a self-improvement plan, or a money pit, or a harmless habit.
That’s it for me for the week. What do you think? Is there really anything else that (apart from God himself) that makes us really different from everyone else, and not just cosmetically? What are you looking forward to experiencing in church this weekend?