I was raised in a typical Roman Catholic household. We said grace before dinner, went to church on sundays and said our prayers before bed. Even though I didn’t enjoy or understand most of the religious proceedings like the homily, they provided me with a sense of stability and belonging that I took for granted. Raising me in such a manner was, I think, my parents’ way of involving me in something greater than myself and the concerns of my immediate family. I realized this while studying for an anthropology exam… the last exam of my undergraduate degree.
The idea of religion, worship and spirituality is a universal characteristic of the human race. In one way or another, we all turn to a higher power in a time of need or uncertainty. By placing our belief in something greater than ourselves, we hope to alleviate our everyday anxiety. Unfortunately, in most cases this is the only time that people turn to their faith-based ideologies - when they need something. One of my favorite hip-hop artists, Shadrach Kabango once said that we all talk to God but we never listen. In this sense, I think that western-culture religions have something to learn from eastern religions. Muslims pray several times a day, taking time out of their lives to reflect and acknowledge their beliefs.
Personally, I’ve found it extremely difficult to going to church after visiting the Vatican in 2007. I realize the significance of the establishment, but a 50 yard ceiling with crown moulding etched in gold is beyond ridiculous. The amount of money in that little state could easily spark its own occupy movement. The phrase “for heaven’s sake” took on a whole new meaning after witnessing the glitz and glamor of a man who claims to be doing God’s work yet hoards ‘ungodly’ possessions like an obese child hoards candy from the bulk barn. The institution of the church itself is where I have problem. For me, the Roman Catholic Church is the foggy, potholed, dangerous, round-about route to connect with God. Its aversive qualities actually impede my ability to express my faith. But I guess thats what we get when human beings take charge of something that transcends their cognitive abilities.
There was a documentary hosted by the atheist comedian Bill Maher called Religulous, which was honestly a fantastic and unbiased study of the world’s dominant religious institutions. Who better to objectively study these than an atheist? His point was plain and clear: the turmoil, conflict and all supplementary bullshit associated with and caused by religion is precisely that, complete bullshit. The purpose of all spirituality is the same. The purpose of the rituals are the same. Hell, even the basic structure of the ‘savior’ story used in many religions is identical. The names and practices may be altered to fit the culture in which they are used, but so are clothes, diets and hairstyles for that matter. Its superficial. The significance is in the eye of the beholder. A muslim may express it differently than a Buddhist or Iroquois, but they all have identical intentions. Its the intent that matters. I have no doubt in my mind that there is a higher being of some kind, and I make that connection using the techniques I was taught as a kid.
John Lennon had it right, “Nothing to kill or die for. And no religion too.”