Religion is a big part of society and I know some of my followers, as well as some very close friends of mine that cannot seem to shake off certain religious teachings that hold them back from what they truly want from life.
My motivation for this topic came from an email I received today, I was presented with the following question:
"...I love your blog, however how am I supposed to live my life the way I want to, if my religion beliefs suggest that everything I do is wrong?" - Anonymous
I spent so much time constructing my response to this email, I felt I'd share it publicly because I think it may help others that also struggle with this issue. I know it's not my typical post but the essence is definitely there.
Thank you for your email and your support. Religion is such a tough topic and having been brought up within a culture centered around religion, I can understand it's burden. I have always refrained from writing about religion and its impact on my life, but your email inspired me to go for it.
I believe all anyone should truly learn from religion is how to be a good person, both to yourself and to others. I've read texts by different religions and despite the obvious differences the common theme is still centered around how to be good. I think that's how I've always saw religion, I'll live my life exactly how I choose, but I'll always try to be good.
People are very quick to dismiss religion and on the other hand people are very quick to disagree with fact. However there are things that religion has probably taught you that you can't learn in a classroom and things you learn in a classroom that dismiss things within your religion. For instance; I don't think I have ever had a lesson in my school that taught me about equality like my religious teachings as a child definitely did.
I'm not devoted and there are a lot of religious teachings that I disagree with, but I can't deny the positive impacts it has made on society either. I used to believe for the longest time that religion had nothing to offer as Science has advanced our understanding about the world and because religious extremists have completely blurred perception. Yet I look at Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama for example and other amazing people, that have done wonderful things because of their devotion. I feel the issues you face with religion lie within the final question I'll ask you.
Here's 5 questions you should think about that may help your perspective.
1. Who or what are you living your life for?
Help yourself before helping others is a lesson I've been taught numerous times. It sounds selfish but it's far from it. If I gave advice to help other people before figuring out my own goals first, it would put me in a compromising position. How would I be able to inspire others to aim for their dreams if I wasn't aiming for mine?
Take a look at major philanthropists, the majority of them worked on their own lives and dreams, putting their own needs first before having any positive impact on anyone else's. Until you're living a satisfied and fulfilled life, you're not going to be much help to any cause.
People will judge you regardless of which path you choose, the best way to ease the pressure is to take a page from your beliefs and take a page from your dreams and allow them to guide one another.
2. "God-fearing" Was it God's intention to have people fear him/her?
No one should live life with fear, it's unfair.
I put this question to a Catholic friend of mine after watching a documentary called 'Baby Bible Bashers' the debate got a little heated but it's a valid question. I'm pretty sure if there is a God out there his/her intention is not to have you fear him/her. It's incredibly stupid for someone to embrace somebody they fear, they'll forever struggle with controlling their own lives. (I came across this thought when reading about a woman who was getting battered by her husband - she used the term fear)
I feel God is how people characterize hope. Look to your hopes and see how you feel compared turning to your fears and uncertainties. Your hopes will carry you forward your fears will hold you back.
3. Does your religion inspire you to do something or encourage you to do something?
Being inspired to act comes from the heart, being encouraged to act comes from the mind. Dwell on that for a moment and evaluate your teachings.
4. If there is an afterlife, can you honestly tell others waiting for you on the other side that you lived a fulfilled life?
What impact did you have on the world? We're you happy? We're you free? Did you make use of free will and learn lessons from your mistakes?
I don't believe in an afterlife but I always think of the stories and teachings I would pass onto my future kids one day and most of them would come from my own experiences. I won't deny that I've learned a lot from my religion but it doesn't control my life, it assists it.
5. How much of your religion is blurred by outdated cultural practices?
This question I can relate to 100%. For example: as a man, my culture suggests women are inferior but it was religion that taught me men and women are equal. I'm Sikh and when I date a girl that doesn't belong to my caste, religion or even race it's my culture that tends to have a problem with it, never my religion.
You know that saying "only God can judge me" and remember what I said earlier on how I reckon God represents your hope. Put the two together and you'll realize who really is in charge of your life. It's you all the way!