I sit in the pews of my older sister’s favorite church located on her college campus. I, a kid who has never devoted myself completely to any specific religion, enjoy the uplifting songs and cheery atmosphere that surrounds this place. I am all for religion. In fact, I think it is very important to many people’s’ identity and sense of purpose. Although I grew up in a religiously casual house I have always known what I thought to be the core of most religions. My father is loosely Jewish, meaning we celebrate the major holidays and I know the Hanukkah prayer almost by heart. My mother is Christian but often explains to my siblings and I that religion is a decision you make for yourself. This was the setting I grew up in and continue to learn about the wide world of religion. My beliefs have always been my choice. Still sitting in the sturdy benches of the church, I listen to the pastor that is preaching about the lack of love in the Christian community, the idea that hatred is unholy and acceptance is necessary. He goes on to explain that their God is the only way to heaven. Repent and you shall be saved! I wonder if he too is chuckling at the hypocrisy of this statement. The notion that his God can accept all yet deny those he deems unworthy. This obvious contradiction, and others, happen to be some of my issues with what organized religion has become.
The pastor continues speaking about the overflowing love of his God and his people. This love being one of infinite joy and safety. This love being open arms for everyone to run into. But what happens to this love after death? He follows his love lecture stating that we, the churchgoers within these holy walls, will all go to heaven. We will be saved because we have saved ourselves. Those who chose to stray have no place in our sanctuary. What happened to that effervescent love he spoke about only a few seconds ago? This kind of hypocrisy has always perplexed me. The idea that a god can love you so much and deny you all at the same time. One foot in heaven, one foot in hell. It is confusing for someone who is still learning about all religions to understand this. I understand that religion can leave unanswered questions and a plethora of confusions, but I have noticed much more hypocrisy when I read between the lines.
I’m not stating that organized religion has always been troubled, merely that the new generation of Gods that seem to have been shaped just the way we need them to be to feel like good people. Deciding your religion seems to be more of a shopping trip to see what looks best on you, rather than finding it within yourself. There is nothing wrong with exposing yourself to multiple ideas to decipher what you believe, the issues arise when religious groups begin selling themselves to gain a bigger following. Personally, I don’t think that religion should be massively advertised. There is no shortage of awareness for religious groups therefore if someone would like to check out what one has to offer, advertising is unnecessary. Religion is not a selling point to gain money, nor a twitter account to gain followers. Religion should be an inviting space that does not drag one in against their will.
The foundation of many religious groups lies within saving others, converting nonbelievers in order for them to reach their full glory. My issue with this idea is, who is to decide what I need to reach that ultimate happiness? To some, a strong relationship with a god results in the highest level of joy. This is not to say that all people require this same relationship to reach this same amount of joy. I have always struggled with the idea that people believe that only people in their religion will reach true happiness. As a child, I was always concerned about my parents due to this statement. The two of them have different religions, so who would ultimately reach this idea of pure bliss? We have been taught since elementary that we are unique people. Humans with different colors, creeds and mindsets. Therefore it is only reasonable to state that we have different ways of reaching happiness.
Although I have my issues with the evolutions organized religion has made, I admire those who can devote themselves to something so completely. Religion is the answer to the questions many people ask themselves constantly. The hypocrisy that lies within some ideas of religions, the aggressive advertisement of spirituality, and the notion that we all must find true happiness in a god results in confusion for myself and many others. The foundations of religion appear to be pure and holy but it seems that, as our world has modernized, religion has adapted in some negative ways.