"A word in earnest is as good as a speech"
~Charles Dickens: Bleak House

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What are my views on religion .....

This was a tough one as well - and may end up a very long post. My quick answer is I believe that there is a power beyond myself. I have always said I believe in a power greater than myself (I am not sure if that is God), but not religion.

Religion has started wars and caused death - the Crusades, the Inquisition, several Jihads, Jones Town, Heaven's Gate, some even argue that Charles Manson was his own religion. I am not convinced that Karl Marx was wrong when he said religion is the opiate of the masses.

Having said all that, I can't ignore the fact that all major religions believe the same basic set of laws, regardless of where or when the religions were started.

The Ten Commandments: (1) You shall have worship only one God. (2)  You can't make or worship any idol of God or Heaven. (3) Do not take the Lord's name in vain. (4) Do not work on the Sabbath and keep it a holy day. (5) Honor your mother & father. (6) Do not kill. (7) Do not commit adultery. (8) Do not steal. (9) Do not lie against your neighbor. (10) Do not covet your neighbor's wife - or anything else they may have.

 The Jewish Faith: actually has 613 laws (they call them "mitzvot"). I will not list all 613 here. What I will list (as I understand them) are the 10 categories of mitzvot: (1) belief in God. (2) rules against improper worship. (3) Rules for religious language. (4) Rules for Sabbath. (5) Respect for elders. (6) Rules against violence. (7) Rules about sexual relations. (8) Rules for ethical behavior and prohibition of theft. (9) Prohibition against harmful speech. (10) Prohibition against wanting things that are not yours.

The Laws of Buddha: We all talk about how "Karma is a bitch" but I don't think most people understand what goes with it. Some of the laws of Buddha include the Four Noble Truths (Life means suffering; the origin of suffering is attachment; we can all attain an end to suffering; the path of self-improvement will end suffering) in order to attain the path of self-improvement you should follow these recommendations (they are not laws or commandments - they are only recommendations and you practice them the best way you know how): (1) do not harm any living thing. (2) do not take things not given to you. (3) Abstain from sexual misconduct. (4) Do not lie. (5) Do not drink or do drugs. There are several more, but those are primarily for people who want a monastic life.

While a lot of people don't want to admit it, the Qur'an has many of the same Commandments as those in the Bible (I actually had to look this one up. I knew it in theory but had never read the Qur'an.): (1) Know therefore there is no deity but God. (2) Protect me and my children from worshipping idols. (3) Do not use God's name in your oaths as an excuse to prevent you from acting justly. (4) Glorify the name of the Lord in the morning and evening. (5) You shall be kind to your parents. (6) Do not take any humans life that God chooses as sacred. (7) You shall not commit adultery. (8) If you steal, you hand will be marked as punishment. (9) Those who lie are not servants of God. (10) Do not covet the bounty of others. In the Qur'an they do not observe Sabbath - they instead have Friday prayer (we have heard a lot about that in the Arab Spring - the protests usually occur when prayer is over).

Navajos do not have "religion" but they have the story of the "Changing Lady" who is their deity. She (Mother Earth) and the Sun created the world we live in. The Navajo were given the name "Holy Earth People" by the Creator. Their religion is based on their connection to Mother Earth and basically they believe that we need to give back to the earth and respect each other. While the rules are not written as commandments - the Creation Story and the Blessingway ritual have very specific rules as to how best honor Mother Earth and ceremonies that will carry you through life.

Hinduism practices 10 Disciplines: Truth, Non-violence, Celibacy (defined as not practicing adultery), Theft (or lack there of), Not being corrupt, Cleanliness, Contentment, Reading the scripture, Austerity, Regular Prayer.

Confucianism is not really a religion, but a philosophy. Confucius wrote about the Golden Rule "Do not impose on others what you would not impose on yourself." He believed that we as mere mortals could not comprehend the world of spirituality and therefore had to live a moral life on earth since we also can't comprehend what happens after death. While there were not laws or Commandments as such, there were some basics people needed follow: Respect your elders (they know more about the world than you), Respect all people around you, cultivate wisdom, be trustworthy, strive to do the right thing, live in harmony and be content with your place in life.

Shinto is said to be based on several pagan religions. Like Confucianism, they are not a religion which tells people how to live their lives by specific rules. They tell people how to live a good life and it is up to you to decide how to do that. There are 4 Basic Affirmations: (1) The family is the center of everything and it is there that traditions are kept. (2) Nature is sacred and to be in conflict with nature means you are in conflict with the gods. (3) Physical cleanliness = purification. (4) The Kami are spirits the are in all living and deceased things - you should always honor and worship the Kami and Ancestral Spirits.

Wiccans do not have Commandments and do not believe in a God. They do however believe in the mother Goddess. They believe they follow all of the Commandments that do not relate directly to God with the Wiccan Rede which states simply "do no harm."

So these are really (I mean really) brief summaries of what I have read about different religions. If all of them basically say we need to respect each other, respect our environment and live a good life ..... why can't we all just get along. So, the short answer is, I have faith that there is a power greater than myself and that has gotten me through some really rough times. Maybe it is because I don't "believe" in religion that it fascinates me so much that I read a lot about it. The only people that really know are those that have already passed on ..... and they have not given me a definitive answer yet.


  1. Wow - I'm with you on this one too.

    I once asked a Jewish friend what the biggest difference was between Christianity and the Jewish Faith, and he said that Jews don't believe the Messiah has come yet. Meaning they don't believe in Jesus. I thought that was interesting.

  2. I have to admit my favorites here are Navajo and Wiccan - since they both "pray" to Mother Earth or the Goddess. I also like Buddism. The rest are too strict and I just can't have people telling me what to do. Religion is not the word of God, the Bible is not the word of God. They are man's intrepretation of the word of God. And humans make mistakes!

  3. Food for thought Leann and yes I agree: "if all of them basically say we need to respect each other, respect our environment and live a good life ..... why can't we all just get along."