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Reflections on Religion

Updated on September 25, 2010

Throughout history, many wars have been waged in the name of religion. Such experiences have significantly shaped the framework of our lives and culture today.

Within my own family, we are in a constant state of warring factions all stemming from differences in religious beliefs among my siblings. We were all raised in a traditional Catholic household. We faithfully went to church on Sundays as a family, and my sister, brother, and I received all the sacraments up to and including confirmation within the Roman Catholic Church. After adulthood, though, things changed.

For myself, I have strayed from the church where I was raised for very strong and deeply personal reasons related to the church's treatment of women and the arrogance of the priests. The widely publicized criminal misbehaviors of priests only cemented my feelings. I lack respect for the pompous lot of them for the most part. When I had occasion to attend a few masses this past winter at my mother's request, I was struck by the obvious lack of feeling by the priests throughout each event. It seemed pretty clear that they were just going through the motions, which I found to be a complete turnoff. Nevertheless, my personal views aside, it is not my place to judge others who feel compelled by faith or otherwise to go to mass each week. I realize that the church is a place of solace, meditation, and comfort for many, and I am grateful for that.

My sister professed to be a devout Catholic, even considering the convent at one point in her life, until she met a man of Islamic faith while in college. Though he knew she was Catholic and apparently fell in love with her anyway, she later converted to Islam herself, mostly for the sake of her children. Her current religious beliefs and cultural differences, however, have driven a strong wedge between her and the rest of her family. We have been estranged for some time now.

My brother was also a devout Catholic, even a practicing altar boy at one time. Once established in his career, he met a woman who follows the Southern Baptist religion and teachings. Again, she knew he was Catholic at the time that they met, but rather than pursue a household of blended religions, he has apparently converted to the Baptist faith, and their sons are completely immersed in it as well. The oldest recently had an emotional meltdown over the idea of possibly attending another church with his grandmother while she was caring for them on a Sunday, an encounter that was deeply unsettling.

Now, I don't profess to be an expert in religion by any means, nor do I really want to be. It is also not my place to judge anyone else. I consider myself to be a person of faith, but I am extremely skeptical about organized religions per se because I have seen them used in ways that counter the fundamental principles of human decency. What I do know, though, is that there are some basic tenets and prime commonalities among the Catholic, Baptist, and Islamic religions. Notably, and perhaps most importantly, all three support the belief in only one God--a compassionate and merciful God.

From my perspective, I can't help but think how much better we would all be if we could come together as basic, mature human beings to build bridges and mend fences with a focus on that common belief that we all share instead of allowing the differences to dictate our interactions, foster divisiveness, and fuel prejudices. But, I realize that my experiences mirror those of the ages. For centuries, civilized people have not been able to come together in harmony because of differences in theology. This is as true today as it was back in the era of the Crusades. It would be wonderful, though, if my family dynamic could be the first to succeed in rewriting history and provide a model for others to follow.

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