I wasn't going to talk about it, being as my mind is somewhat incoherent due to my cold. Still, I think I need to let some of these thoughts out before I explode. Okay, here we go. Religion. There, I said it. Yeah, there's more, but that's the crux right there.
Before I get into further detail, let me give a little more information on this. I was raised Catholic, and I was actually headed to the priesthood at one point, if you can believe that. I was very devoted to God, yet not in an arrogant manner. While I didn't know anyone who wasn't Catholic for a long while, I knew I couldn't be hateful of others who may have different ideas and beliefs. My own church disagreed with me, of course. Several issues started popping up in my community -- such as prayer in school, homosexuality, etc -- and I often found myself at odds with my faith.
By high school I had started meeting people of other faiths, and I found myself quite curious about the differences between people. I believed then, and I do know, that we can only come to truly love that which we understand. I claimed a great love for all people, hence I tried my best to understand others. I could not support Christian prayer in my school because it would not be fair to those who were not Christians. I think the end for me came when I found my church telling us to "love sinners, hate the sin" in regards to homosexuals, yet the actions of my community always seemed to support hatred. I just could not grasp that hatred, I refused it and tried to help others understand different people, so as to avoid hatred and instead find love. That blew up in my face of course, and I finally found myself alone. What was so difficult about "do unto others as you would have others do unto you"?
Finally, I could no longer mentally tolerate things, and decided to leave my church out of frustration. I still considered myself Christian, but not Catholic. I spent much time on my own reading about other cultures, nations, faiths. I still wanted to do my best to understand others, to share love instead of hatred, to "love thy neighbor". I think that time alone, however, made me finally realize that my chosen faith wasn't really chosen, it's just what I grew up with, and I had followed it because the world around me did too. At that point, I realized I didn't know what I was anymore. I still held highly certain teachings of Christ, son of God. In my mind though, I realized that, as God as our creator, we were all his children. It wasn't a sense of pride that I felt with those thoughts, but rather, humbleness. I wanted to understand what God wanted from me, what I was supposed to do. At this point, I did what Catholics are generally not supposed to do, and started reading the Bible.
(In case anyone is wondering. Roman Catholics are not really supposed to read the Bible. Supposedly, the common man is too dull to fully understand the Bible, and so it must be interpreted to them by the priesthood. Of course, different sects of the Catholic church might have different ideas on this. All I know are the views that my own church took.)
I must say, I was quite appalled at the Old Testament. After everything I'd been taught in catechism, I couldn't believe the atrocities described there. I couldn't believe this was the same God that supposedly loved everyone. Oh certainly, I understood that Jesus came to change things, but I still felt very uncomfortable about the old books. I kept reading of course, and though there were definitely moments of wisdom therein, I realized that there were definitely many things that didn't sit right with me. This isn't really when I decided to leave Christianity behind me. I mean, already I didn't think that Jesus was God, only his child (as we all are) and a great teacher. I still respect Jesus very highly to this day for his work, though I do not worship him. But this was that point in time when I started looking for a different philosophy for peace and understanding, which I felt compelled to follow.
I touched many faiths in my journey.... Buddhism, Taoism, Shinto, Islam, Wicca. Once again there were moments of wisdom I found, but I never really stood anywhere for long. I suppose at this point I really lacked a great sense of focus. I think part of me was still working on understanding others, instead of focusing upon myself. That was always my nature, is all. I followed shamanism and pagan paths for several years, since I greatly loved the natural world and also found in this a way to reconcile with my ancestors, but as time passed I just felt myself growing distant from every faith. I took the philosophies that melded well and moved on, as I did with all the others. I'm presently studying Buddhism again, but I doubt I'll stay there for long, either. Really, I just stopped believing in... anything, really. It's not that I actively disbelieved, it's that, after so much searching, I finally came to the conclusion that the proof simply didn't exist. Eventually I found a word for this: agnosticism.
As an agnostic, I don't claim to know whether God exists or not. There simply is no proof of his existence. Similarly, it's terribly difficult to prove that God doesn't exist. There's just no real evidence either way. I'm not saying that those who believe one way or the other are somehow wrong; not at all! Rather, I just don't feel confident, based upon the evidence at hand, of making such a claim either way. For me now, much of philosophy is poety, a way of talking about things we can't really understand, a way of working with what we do know to better ourselves and the world around us.
If you're still reading this, you're probably wondering just what the heck this is all about. I was going to make a point, then got sidetracked with this story. Sorry about that. Anyway, to get to the point....
I like to consider myself a very tolerant person. I've spent much of my life reading up on other cultures, faiths, and so on, in an attempt to understand. Yet even now, sometimes I still can't help but feel anger toward certain religious groups. I've looked deep within myself to find where all that come from, and have come to the conclusion that my anger is just a reaction to fear. I fear certain religious groups, because I do not wish to be hated. I do not wish to be misunderstood.
For many years, my naive ways have guided me to believe that a world peace is possible, that people can learn to get along together. But then I read about hate between two countries, and more often than not, it seems to involve religious matters. From everything I've read, it often seems ingrained within these faiths a certain level of arrogance -- "we are right, you are wrong, you're going to <insert your favorite horrible afterlife experience here>." I guess I'm just uncertain if it's even possible for these groups to ever get along. While individuals may tolerate -- and maybe even come to truly care about -- one another, on the larger whole I just don't think a lasting peace is possible anymore.
Am I wrong?