First, I feel the need to clarify that I am not an Atheist. This is a common misconception about me for some reason and could not be further from the truth. I believe absolutely and unconditionally in God and have no shame in acknowledging first-hand experience to support that faith. I define God as a supreme higher entity ultimately responsible for the creation of life, time, everything. I do not believe God is male or female, and as the primary entity responsible for birthing all creation tend to think of God more as female-ish since creation and nurturing are more female traits and it’s entirely possible for females to procreate without males (parthenogenesis) , but not so much the reverse.
That out of the way, let’s talk Religion.
Religion is humanity’s attempt to understand and relate to God. Religions have existed for almost as far back as humanity has. The longer a religion exists the more debris it picks up. What is religious debris? Religious debris is when people begin slipping politics into the religion. No religion is free of this, but it's not the religions fault. When that politicizing reaches a critical mass, or is used to outright cover up the original purpose of the religion (again, to connect to and better understand God), the religion has become Radicalized.
Radical Islam is a big buzzword these days, but most people don’t actually understand it and mistakenly blame the religion itself. Radical Islam has nothing to do with Islam, it’s literally Islam that’s been smothered under political debris. It’s a wolf in sheepskin that’s been aimed at other herds of sheep. It is not alone. Radical Judaism exists. Radical Christianity exists (Phelp’s clan, I am looking directly at you, you know what you are and unfortunately you’re not the only one). Almost any religion can be Radicalized because it’s not about the religion. It’s about fear. It’s about hate. It’s about messages that clearly run contrary to the core of the actual Faith but have been repeated enough and with enough menace to scare people into believing them, and then believing that it’s OK to feel that way because God allows it. It’s a way of writing Gods permission into hate. A way of giving sanction from God to hate.
The Bible, both old and new testaments, is both a wonderful way to see how historical people connected to God, and to see how horribly man can politicize a religion. Many people mistakenly believe the Bible is the Incorruptible Word of God, and while a nice fantasy, it can be clearly proven untrue by the simple fact we have more than one of them. If God wrote a book for us I have absolute faith it would’ve endured millennium on end unchanged and perfectly understandable. The bible has splintered into so many different versions, and Judaism itself into so many splinter branches that mostly believe themselves to be the absolute only truth with everyone else doomed it's no wonder so many are losing faith these days because anyone who can add two and two can tell that they can't all be the Only Answer and it doesn't make sense that most of the people in the world are Damned, or even that everyone is already born Damned but that's a blog for another day.
The Bible and all its forms are testaments of Man, trying to understand God. As instruments of man, particularly ones that were passed around orally for centuries before they started getting written down, and as ones that were exclusively the property of a wealthy educated upper class for centuries before Gutenberg invented the printing press and made them more wide spread and consistent, they have picked up a lot of political debris.
Don’t despair though, I am not telling anyone to throw out their Bible, their Torah, or any other religious work they cherish. I am saying to read it with an understanding that scattered in there amidst the honest attempts at relating to God and reveling in the message of His love are some things put there by rich people who wanted to make their view of the world Law and ensure they were still at the top of the heap at all times.
You can easily find those sections; They are all the ones that tell you who to hate and how to punish. If God is about love, and creation, those sections are clearly not of God. All those laws and rules and specifics are from the cultures that have touched the word, and tried to put their words, their beliefs, their culture, into God’s mouth. The New Testament came about because of a Rabbi who tried to teach the Old Ways were not always right in the modern society. That was thousands of years ago. Do you think the current old ways still apply another couple thousand years, or that the world has changed a bit since then and new things have to be considered?
Faith in God isn’t taking someone else’s word what God wants. It’s listening to your heart and knowing what God wants. It’s knowing how you would want to be treated and treating other people like that. It’s helping one another, moving one another forward. Helping one another get past fear, get past hate. Helping one another worship however they feel appropriate without judgment or condemnation because it’s all an attempt to connect to the same God. If God is Love, if God is Good, if God is Justice then God cannot the vengeful, hateful, monstrosity that some political and religious leaders make Him out to be. Even if God is a Neutral force of nature He can’t be against anyone. The only way God can be against anyone is if God, the creator of us all, actually were a hateful monster who enjoyed the suffering and misery of His creations and purposefully set the vast majority of them up to fail.
I refuse to believe such a God could’ve created me, or you, or this world, or this universe. Because live moves forward. Life finds a way. If our supreme entity were against that we wouldn’t be here, today, moving forward, growing, thriving.
God, in any interpretation, has to love us all equally. If you claim to worship and revere Him the least you can do is share in that love, celebrate that love, and respect your fellow human beings regardless of where your beliefs differ.
Find yourself a religious text or two to read. Ask yourself throughout it, “Would the God I love / a God who loves me, say that?” and mark it out if they wouldn’t. See what’s left and explore the roots of the religion. It’s an eye opener, especially if you do it with some friends and compare what you come up with.
You shouldn’t be afraid to do this, or feel blasphemous for it. As you read you’re absolutely certain to find whole sections of rules that society has already discarded. If you didn’t know about those it will be another eye opener for you into how fluid and alive religion is, how it changes with the times and how it adapts even when it’s there in written word. Don’t be afraid to make your own adjustments because in the end it’s not the book that will judge you, it’s your Creator and you owe it to yourself to a live a life worthy to what you believe based on your current understanding of the world, not what someone else said thousands of years ago.