By Sergey Grankin, OUTSpoken Radio
In the last couple of weeks my head space has been filled with conversations I’m too afraid to start. My brain has kept rhythmically cycling through ideas and memories labeled “WARNING: Explosive”. Some nights these thoughts flood my consciousness, preventing any escape, and barring the road to quality sleep. As I lay in bed battling the world problems on a scaled level in my head, the idea of religion broke in and robbed my attention. Now I’ll warn you right now, if you’re so devout to your one form of religious practice, this may not be the blog for you. If there is no space for beliefs you deem as an antithesis to your existence, then stop reading here. Of course, if you choose to ignore such a warning and proceed, you may find yourself berating me and my opinions in the comments section of whatever social platform you find yourself on. In that instance, I want you to stop and consider what you are doing and why it’s so imperative you be right. To those of you not yet ennuied by said matter, I welcome you to the dissentious conversation about religion.
Let’s begin by understanding that religion isn’t what you think it is. Religion isn’t a blessed pastime or occupation which transforms any human into a righteous, loving person. Religion is a man-made and humanly influenced institution, often founded for the goal of pursuing a faith, god or spirituality. You may believe with absolute certainty that your god created religion, and through divine intervention and inspiration, your god has created it all. In reality, mankind has created those temples, mosques, churches and cathedrals; it is men, and fewer times women, who lead religions; it’s people who make up the faith and decide on all matters. Now I’m not denying any higher power or spirituality but I want to be clear, religion is man-made and religion is what we’re talking about, not any god, spirituality or faith.
While we’re clarifying details on the touchiest of subjects, I’ll make another point. This country was built on the permanent foundation of freedom and liberty and the freedom to religion was and is a top priority. Colonists sailed to the 13 colonies to escape from the rule of King George III, and a foundational reason was religious liberty. This simple historical fact is often taught in grade school and then ignored and forgotten but its impact is important to note. The U.S. was founded on ideals and principles of religious refugees, essentially seeking asylum for their faith.
Now that we have those few points established, we can delve into the meat of it all. Religions often praise themselves for being true and honest, founded on love and compassion, yet more often than not that love is a curtain, masking the fear and shame found inside. Fear is a bigger player in religion than love is. Many churches and services are founded on inflicting the correct amount of “fear of God” in you. Hell and eternal death rings through the halls on Sundays as a warning for a sinful life style. In Islamic and Jewish faiths, judgement and fiery deaths are just as prevalently used to instill fear. Even religions of the Far East and Hinduism contain an element of punishment in the afterlife for bad deeds in this life, and going as far as convincing that this life is your punishment for the previous life’s failures. Nothing motivates like fear, especially the fear of living your current life as the punishment from the last.
In religion fear often comes as a built in, widely accepted fact of faith. It’s forced on you by parents, mentors, youth group leaders, and pastors. Many times this fear is used to discourage, or put bluntly, control certain actions. In Christian households, the fear of government and authority is very present and ironically is the reflection of the accepted fear they experience and feel in the church. The leadership at church serves as a role model for most other outside leadership and they more restrictive the church gets, the more suspicious you seem to get of the outside world. This fear based structure can lead to distrust between people and government officials and at times forcing the decision between law and faith upon you. This fear of religious authority bleeds deeper into followers, sinking into a very personal level.
The terror of being wrong lives alive and well in many faiths. People naturally are uncomfortable being wrong, especially when it comes to their life choices. Devoting your entire life to one single way of life, one single faith and following this path well into your life is not a thing you’d want to be wrong about. The fear of being wrong is a driving force behind millions of people. It becomes rooted so deep that no other answers or ideal can be considered right. This fear blocks any outside beliefs to protect from the chance we might actually be wrong. People become subconsciously reliant on this fear, without it, they’d again be vulnerable to equally powerful thoughts, opposing views and opinions that they may actually choose. This fear keeps their faith bottled up, protecting it from leaking and being altered with. It also keeps all the dirty secrets, the little lies and conflicts from coming to surface, tying them closer to their protective fear of being wrong.
I’ve just made religion into a monster, exposed what I see as some of the bigger flaws, and turned it all inside out. This is the same thing Christians, Muslims, Hindu and other religions have done to minority groups such as the LGBT, colored people, women, impoverished and opposing religions. These minority groups have been exposed, turned inside out and made into the enemy countless times, with millions of lives at stake. My goal is not to turn anyone against religion and treat them as the enemy, not at all. What I wish we could do is change what religion is and not turn it into the enemy. If we want to keep it around, we definitely have to make some big changes. Religion is based in fear, and if it were based in love, well, the Middle East would be a lot safer place to travel to, wouldn’t it?