This I believe: Religion is a mixed bag. Religious zeal, blind faith, has compelled people throughout history to commit both great acts of charity and horrendous atrocities. From Mother Theresa to the Crusades, “God’s will” has always been a self-contradictory roller-coaster that will unleash his shocking wrath at one moment and then reveal his heavenly love at another. If God is so benevolent, why does he have such seething hatred for non-believers? And if God is so bloodthirsty, why does he encourage love for all mankind?
The majority of Religious followers fall into the “loving God” category. After all, who doesn’t like being optimistic? Charities, food drives, and uplifting support for those in need are all church-backed things that anyone, regardless of beliefs can agree are for the better. Religion at its best is religion that is helping. When people turn to God and prayer for comfort, companionship, and consolation, that is when religion is helping this world. I don’t have to believe in God to see that his presence, real or not, can make real, positive changes in people’s lives.
But interpretations of religions differ, and more often than not, people have used their beliefs to advocate and justify violence, hatred, and intolerance. An example would be groups like Al Qaeda. Extremists of any religious affiliation, intent on enacting death and destruction against others seems to completely contradict what all major religions stand for: peace, happiness, devotion to God. And yet there are many pieces of scriptural evidence that seem to back up some of these hateful acts, right alongside those that condemn them. Another, more close-to-home example would be treatment of homosexuals. Gay and lesbian people have always endured criticism from religious officials, threatened with eternal suffering, and shunned for their “transgressions” against God.
This I believe: Religion doesn’t have to be a mixed bag. If people were to attempt to reach out to different groups instead of try to destroy them, the world would be a better place. If people were to try and find the part of God that brings joy and not anger, the world would be a better place. I’m not so naïve as to think that the major religions can simply throw away the aspects that aren’t completely upbeat and tolerant. But if the followers were to leave the judging up to God and let their lives down here be governed by understanding, than this world, I believe, would be a better place.
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