I have the right to affirm that one can lead an ethical and spiritual life without the help of religion.
Religion classes started in first grade, with most of us reciting catechism by the time we were nine and at fourteen we knew the sacraments and the ten commandments backwards and forwards. I learned that Catholics had the only path to heaven and marrying outside our own faith would bring down the wrath of parents and priests. Religion and faith were one and doubt was next to heresy.
At twenty-one, I started my studies to become a teacher and had to repeat my religious fundamentals in depth, three years of theology as part of the curriculum. And I had so many questions; questions that when I asked them – about the virgin birth, the trinity, the simplistic content of the ten commandments, Jesus’ humanity and divinity, the infallibility of the Pope, a human being –
I got nothing but angry looks and bad grades. So, my questions went underground and festered, only to surface again forty years after first grade. I became a born again agnostic.
My questions have multiplied and among them I need to know why so many heinous acts throughout history were condoned in the name of religion. How could it be that Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and other religions could all get it wrong and only Christians have seen the light? How could a loving, omnipotent God allow his chosen people to be slaughtered? Why should an eternal God care about his name and about keeping one day a week holy and not care about women being stoned for adultery, even when they were raped? How could a caring God want to chastise birth control for his starving people and declare contraceptive prevention of AIDS a sin? How could he let innocent children be starved and abused.
My ardent doubting struggle has led to the conclusion that
there cannot be a god in the traditional religious sense.
I need to trust our own intrinsic values. To be truly human, we have to accept, and love each other. We also have to raise our children to do the same by giving example of an ethical life that includes working with integrity and a spirituality of meditation, charity, tolerance, and respect for the earth and its diversity of living beings. That is my idealistic credo, but I know that history may repeat and I may get only angry looks and bad grades. Only this time, I will stand firm in my belief. I have earned that right through a long earnest and persistent search.
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