This I Believe
I know that you have been wanting to know why I don’t go to church with you, and although I’ve been wanting to tell you, it’s difficult to find the right words, so I thought I would try to write them down. Hopefully, this will satisfy your questions.
To begin, let me say that I have absolutely no problem with you and your mother attending church and worshiping God. I believe that everyone has the right to follow whatever faith they choose, and to worship whatever God they choose, as long as their faith does not encourage them to force others into their faith, and does not encourage them to harm people of other faiths. In fact, I am pleased by your decision to attend church. You’re at a stage in your life where you will be making more and more of your own decisions. These decisions will determine what path your life will take. So far you have made very good choices, but I’m sure that you look at some of the people at your school and can see that they are making very bad choices, and will surely have problems in their lives that you will be able to avoid. I am very proud of you for your ability to make the right choices.
I believe that what happens in the next life is not decided by what religion you follow, but by how you live this life. I believe that if you are a good person, and do the best you can to have a positive influence on the people around you, the next life will be good for you regardless of whether you attend church or not. There are places in the world that are so remote that the people who live there have never had any contact with the rest of the world. These people have never heard of Christianity, or Islam, or Judaism, or any of the other major religions of the world. God surely can think no less of these people simply because they follow their own religion.
I believe there is a next life, but I’m not sure what it will be like. Some people believe that when this life ends you go to heaven or hell. Some people believe that when this life ends you are reincarnated (reborn) as another person or even an animal. These people believe that it’s possible we may have had many previous lives, but have no memory of them. Some people believe that we go on to some higher level of existence that we can’t even imagine, and still others believe that this life is all there is, and that there is no next life. I do not agree with those that think that there is no next life, but I’m also not sure which of the other possibilities to believe in. There simply is no scientific evidence that conclusively supports any of the theories. Perhaps in time there will be.
I believe that religion is a creation of man and not of God. Since the earliest times of humankind religion has served two purposes. One is to explain the world around us. Before the age of scientific thought, people still wanted answers for their questions about the world around them. For instance, we now know that rain is caused by a cycle of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. We also know that rain and other weather patterns can be tracked and predicted with varying degrees of accuracy. Thousands of years ago we had no such scientific knowledge, but people still wanted an answer to the question “Why does water fall from the sky?” The most sensible answer at the time was “God makes the water fall from the sky.” Religion has also served as an early form of government. The power to govern others can be obtained in three basic ways. It can be granted by the people through elections as in the United States, it can be taken by military force or through the use of terror as in a dictatorship, which is the way most governments throughout history have ruled, or it can be granted by God in a theocracy like the current nation of Iran. I believe that the easiest way for early leaders to gain power was say to their people “Do what I say because it was told to me by God.” Democratic forms of government have not even existed until relatively recently, and simply saying that God gave you power is certainly easier than using military force to take control.
I believe that the Bible and other religious documents are the words of people, not of God. Even if they originally contained the words of God, they have been edited and rewritten and translated so many times over the centuries that most of the original meanings have surely been lost. These documents have been changed and approved by secular rulers to serve their own political needs, rather than the will of God. I believe that religious documents such as the Bible should not be accepted as fact, but rather as a guide which is open for interpretation. I believe that it is appropriate to use the bible as a guide for living your life, but not as a rule book which must be followed without exception.
I believe that there is no “One True Religion.” Humankind has existed on the earth for hundreds of thousands of years, and has always practiced some form of religion which at the time was thought to be the one true religion. The major religions of today only go back a few thousand years, yet each would like their followers to believe that theirs is the one true religion. Who is right? If there is one true religion, how is it possible that everyone else throughout time has been wrong in their religious beliefs? I don’t believe that any of these religions are right or wrong, they simply have different beliefs which were appropriate at the time.
In closing, if going to church improves the quality of your life, then I encourage you to continue going. But please keep your mind open to other possibilities and ideas, and continue to make your own decisions about how you wish to live your life and what you think is right and wrong. Do not allow anyone else to tell you how you have to live your life or what you have to believe
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