This I Believe

Ruth - Hayesville, North Carolina
Entered on March 1, 2007
Age Group: 65+

Religious dissent has reached a fevered pitch throughout the world, affecting the rights of all, especially women and children, and resulting in the death of many. My essay follows:

I believe as members of the human race, we are innately spiritual beings who seek a deeper meaning to our existence, a guiding force to live by. Our individual human circumstance, advantages or limitations, may influence the extent or depth of our search but despite our worldly obstacles, I believe the spiritual quest of the soul is embedded in each of us.

In fulfilling this spiritual quest, many of us turn to a religion for enlightenment, seeking a body of like beliefs, a source for answers and a refuge for inner peace. But frequently these religious organizations can become elite communities, practicing religion subjectively while imposing their beliefs upon others. Within that like body of belief, members often feel compelled to question outsiders who stray from what members perceive as the chosen path. Judgment is a common flaw, a preoccupation. In seeking to find our notch or link in the natural order, we believe we must define those about us. If we are truly born into sin, our rush to judgment is perhaps the most enduring sin of all.

I believe the quest can become complacent, fixed, when we reside within these comfort zones; our misguided faith can become a security blanket to ward off all difference, a rationale for injustice or violence: “Praise, Jesus, for saving us” or “God has his reasons for this tragedy.” Their mantra often betrays a vengeful, omniscient god, whose agenda purposely gives or takes away.

Ideally, if we turned to religion to nurture our individual spirits and to our communities to realize our diverse and physical needs, perhaps our communities would be less biased, less elite, and more diverse. A church would become a place to pray, to meditate: a place for the individual to grow spiritually; a school would become a place to educate; and our communities would become arenas for the extra-curricular activities once covered by our churches and our schools, joining and celebrating our communal diversity. In a true separation of church and state, the rules of our religions would strengthen us as individuals and the laws of our communities would recognize the rights of all.

Though each generation continually views itself as the most advanced in civilization, a critical comparison to the past might lead to a far different conclusion. Aside from our advances in technology and science, our human behavior and our humanitarian ideals lag behind and we frequently become bogged down in our petty vices of human nature. Violence is still our most common response when communication breaks down, and we spend far too much time dwelling upon our sexuality and our physical needs than with any metaphysical exploration of our existence. Materialism and consumerism occupy a large part of our daily interactions.

In many religions, the laws of patriarchy have invaded and in some cases supplanted the goodness of god. All around us women are suffering from the abuses of power; the daily news brings new evidence of this inequity. For most of us, men and women, the God we seek is a god who seeks our common good and nourishes our common spirit. We should study, seeking the origins of our beliefs, questioning those rules that ignore the rights of others, that assume to judge when we know that judgment should be left to the auspices of a higher power. When we leave behind our base instincts and reach inward for the higher instincts of a just and loving presence, I believe we become closer to the nirvana we seek.