Friday, August 10, 2007

I Thank God I'm NOT Religious

So be honest, how many of you were shocked when you saw the title? That's what I thought. Religion has this stranglehold over so many of this planet's residents. Your friends and neighbors won't usually hate or consider killing you because you're a New York Yankee fan or a republican. But if you're a Jew and move into a Muslim neighborhood, you probably should not be making any long range plans beyond an hour or so.

I was recently asked by a very nice Catholic woman if I would like to attend Sunday Mass with her and her family. I smiled and explained that as a Jew, I must respectfully decline. She had spoken to me on a number of occasions prior to that and was extremely friendly and always smiling. But when I told her I was a Jew, she had this almost pale, ashen look on her face and commented that I was the very first Jew she had ever met. She was very much at a loss for words and excused herself immediately. We never spoke again. I assume it had more to do with my religious affiliation than my breath or scruffy facial hair.

I know a Christian girl from Brazil who recently began dating a religious Jew. There's no shortage of reasons why these two people should not even be in the same room, let alone dating. However their personality, age and life interests aren't even being openly explored. There are many barriers and obstacles being thrown up by family and friends not at all happy because they're of different faiths. We all know similar stories. Religion affects even the non-believers.

On a much more serious note, it's impossible to ascertain how many people have been senselessly slaughtered as a result of religion dating back to the beginning of man. Everyone today is aware of the civil war and sectarian violence taking place between Shia and Sunni Muslims. This is not exactly a new conflict. This religious conflagration dates back to the early 7th century with the death of the Prophet Muhammad. More widespread conflict was to take place in the 11th century when Pope Urban II sent forces into Jerusalem and other holy sights to kill Muslims so as to liberate the region from their rule.

This great separator of man has continued throughout time to justify our hatred and senseless murder of other people based solely on their spiritual beliefs. This very country was founded on the principle of freedom from religious persecution 400 years ago. What lessons have we truly learned, however? The 35th president of this country, John F. Kennedy's toughest hurdle to the White House, was the fact that he was a Catholic. Many educated and good people were scared to vote for JFK because they were worried that he would be beholden to the Pope. This happens to be my personal favorite. Everyone of you reading this can relate a story from your own lifetime experiences where an event took place that was based not the content and character of an individual, but on where he or she chose to worship or even whether they chose to worship at all.

That's right, a major issue of religion is not always what faith you subscribe to, but if you choose to worship at all. Can you imagine a political candidate announcing he is an agnostic or an atheist? That candidate might as well announce the cessation of his or her campaign immediately thereafter. People who haven't been to a house of worship in 30 years would even express outrage and moral indignation over a candidate who didn't gush and fawn over their religion. That's the hypocrisy that often mirrors religion. How many people are now, via their attorneys, settling enormous class action lawsuits because their religious pillars of the church and community were very busy molesting children entrusted to their care?

In conclusion, why does one's deep faith need to be expressed amongst a group of other people? Are some people such sheep they're incapable of praying alone? Are you exploring YOUR individual spirituality or are you getting together in a social setting where faith takes a back seat to a social event? I believe these are the same people who pray to God that the kicker on their favorite football team splits the uprights with a field goal. They're also the same people simultaneously praying that the kicker strikes the ball wide left. You good religious people feel God is altering outcomes of sporting events? He's taking the underdog and laying the points? If you're one of these people, you need to take some solid reflection time and start praying to God that you find the wisdom to think for your own increased awareness and hope God is too busy with more meaningful aspects of life outside of a sports arena....

Tell a friend: