FREEDOM OF CHOICE
Have you ever thought about why you have the religious beliefs you have? What made you choose to be a Callithumpian rather than a Vulcan? When we choose our partner we look around a fair bit first, we try before we buy. There is an expression: "Hobson's Choice" meaning that you take what is offered or nothing at all. I have heard that this expression came from horse lender Hobson, (rent-a-horse), who would not allow riders to pick and choose among his horses, but offered them the first horse in the stable or none at all.
What has this got to do with religion? Quite a lot for most people! Children who are brought up in a Christian family usually become Christian, those who are born into a Muslim family usually become Muslim, those born into a Jewish family are automatically Jewish. And so it goes. You are, it would seem, born into the "one true religion". Where was your choice? You were given Hobson's choice. Did you ever examine the other religions/ philosophical beliefs without looking through the eyes of your religion? Did you ever consider another religion from an unbiased viewpoint?
People belonging to Christianity will often talk about other religions, but what they are talking about is other denominations of Christianity, that is Catholics, Protestants, etc. The same holds true of Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists.
Isn't it odd that we take more care in choosing our car, our house, our partner, our job, our hair colour than our core lifelong belief? We do not accept the hairstyle or the clothes that we were given as children, yet we usually keep the same religious beliefs WITHOUT QUESTION. Something wrong here?
To make matters worse, our family have often handed down our religious beliefs for perhaps hundreds of years without change, and these are often also based on which country/ society we are born into.
Of course it would be difficult to examine every philosophical / religious group but since this is a core part of our values then maybe we should spend a few years looking.
So often each religion claims to be "the one true religion" and that all others are false, or worse ... evil. Fortunately this attitude is starting to soften -- well, among some believers anyway.
Not only do we "sign up" for our religious beliefs at birth, we also --- it would seem --- sign up to them for all eternity! Those who do not follow the "true word of God" can be outcast for ever and ever, perhaps even punished for ever and ever.
Hmmm. What sort of a God is this? If you say to these religious leaders that you can only conceive of God as being compassionate, they will answer that just as a father has to be firm with his children, and even punish them when they fail to do his will, that is what God is doing. His punishment is for our own good.
There is another view:
1. All religions have part of the truth, none of them have all of the truth.
2. A man's God is himself at his best, and his devil is himself at his worst.
3. Priests and prophets invent things which are pleasing to God and things which are displeasing. But these are just projections from their own minds. Many of the old rules from The Bible were relevant to the times they lived in. But when you consider them from today's viewpoint they are sadly lacking. The old testament has a lot to say about the treatment of slaves, and yet there is precious little about condemning owning slaves. It is more about looking after your slaves as you would your pigs.
Turn to Exodus 21 "And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death." Turn to Leviticus 24:16 and you find this beauty, "And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him." Execution is the punishment for many offences including profaning the Sabbath, take a look in Exodus 31:14, adultery: Leviticus 20:10, and prostitution, Leviticus 21:19.
But if you look at these laws in their historical context, and not as the eternal word of God, then they make a lot more sense. Some people claim holy books are the direct word of God, and yet if this is so why do so many priests interpret them differently? One would have thought that if God had something important to say She would have said it in such a way that there was no argument about the meaning.
Oh yes, for some reason God is always a man.
Many of these religions also divide the world into those who have been "saved" and those who are to be punished for not being born into the one true religion, or worse still, have rejected the one true religion.
On the contrary, Yoga philosophy teaches that every day is a holy day, every place on Earth is just as holy as every other place, the whole Earth is holy, and every person on this planet is the handiwork of God, every animal, every tree, every thing ... each thing is a fragment of the Universal God.
So why not consider that there might be more than one true religion?
And maybe it is possible that we require different religions at different times in our lives. We might outgrow religions, just as we outgrow things we loved as a child.
© Marcus Clark Nov 2003