Monday, 12 January 2015

Does religion encourage irresponsibility?

I turned to Christianity at a difficult time in my life because I thought it would help me to become a better person and make new friends. Admittedly I achieved these goals to some extent, although I have come to consider that the Church presented me with a false sense of hope. I was at a vulnerable stage of my development as a person and inevitably my attendance at Church had an influence on my perspective on ethics. I saw controversial issues in black and white and I was unable to see shades of grey (not fifty shades!). Whilst attending Church could be considered indoctrination, I also consider television, newspapers, magazines, music and social media to be forms of indoctrination. I think the extreme differences between our younger and older generations are evidence of this. Going to university has enabled me to start seeing more shades of grey (still not in the sense of fifty shades!). I gradually attended church less and less and now I no longer really consider myself a member of the Church. There are several reasons for this, but the main reason has been the Christian response to my relationship with another woman. 

The overall response has been positive, although a minority of responses were negative. Every negative or simply unresponsive reaction was a Christian one. I feel that I can no longer face this negativity in my life, so I have stopped attending Church. In some ways I feel that this was a good decision because I feel more open-minded and I have greater self-esteem. However, sometimes I also regret the decision because I am no longer part of such a close-knit community and I feel an absence in my life. Furthermore, I am unable to contradict Christian fundamentalist stereotypes of gay people and try to make change if I am not present at Church. The Church is not and never will be perfect and I don't want to give the impression of seeing myself as superior by leaving. Perhaps once I feel less resentful about the Church's attitude towards homosexuality and I have learnt to deal with the negativity, I will be able to begin attending Church regularly again. Unfortunately I feel unable to do so at this stage. Therefore whilst I still consider myself a Christian, or at least agnostic, I no longer associate myself with any denomination or Church. Nowadays the Church reminds me too much of the Pharisees in the Bible. 

Recently a friend showed me a video which has changed my perspective on Christianity. The main message that really hit home was that casting our sins onto Jesus is irresponsible. This is because it can lead people to justify simply leaving their mistakes in the past and allowing Jesus to take responsibility, sometimes without seeking a solution to the problem or showing remorse. I agree that we shouldn't become too hung up on the past, but I think it is unhealthy to behave as if some things never happened, particularly if this has the potential to hurt or confuse others. After seeing the video lots of things suddenly made sense. I initially joined the Christian community with the hope of lessening the disappointment that I felt as a consequence of being rejected or given false hope. When rejection and false hope continued, I initially blamed myself and thought that I had some kind of flaw that repels people. Recently I have come to realise that is more likely to be their inability of others to face certain issues or characteristics of people such as myself. One time I reach out to the Church for help when I had depression, and their solution was to send me a CD of a sermon through the post. Another time I decided to end my participation in a Christian activity and stated that this was due to severe family issues. When I had my final meeting this wasn't even mentioned, which gave me the impression that the other members didn't really value my contribution and didn't care about my personal issues. They can't fit supporting their community into their ‘busy’ schedule, even though they seem to have plenty of time for Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Nobody is ever 'too busy', it's just a matter of priorities. They can make time to peruse for hours over one Bible verse that is barely applicable to today's society, but they can't make time to put those words into actions.

"And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong." - Matthew 5:33-37 (MSG)

"Broken vows are like broken mirrors. They leave those who held to them bleeding and staring at fractured images of themselves." - Richard Paul Evans

"And that's the thing about people who mean everything they say. They think everyone else does too." - K. Hosseini

“If there is a God, He will have to beg my forgiveness.” - A phrase that was carved on the walls of a concentration camp cell during WWII

In my experience, a principal commonality in Christian behaviour tends to be irresponsibility, specifically giving others false hope and not committing to their word. Perhaps this is a result of people making promises they are unable to keep, overlooking a problem that arose or being unable to relate to suffering. Nevertheless, all of these reasons are unacceptable because they have the potential to hurt someone. I think many people don't realise how damaging it is to say 'yes' and then forget about it or go back on your word rather than simply saying 'no' and knowing your limits. Christian teaching emphasises the importance of helping those who are suffering, but some Christians seem unable to relate and would prefer to live in their own happy bubble whilst ignoring problems around them. Perhaps they should try walking in the shoes of those they condemn before they non-contextually reiterate passages from the Bible. If they had been through what I have, they would probably be a lot more mature and understanding. This is a big generalisation, but in my experience, the majority of people brought up as Christians are middle class often have little understanding of the suffering that they so desperately want to heal. Christians who have experienced significant suffering in their lives, often those who have converted out of their own free will, tend to be much less bigoted. Although in my experience these tendencies prevail in Christians, of course it is not only Christians who behave in this way and we all have our own flaws. Whilst I have had a negative experience with many Christians, admittedly I have met some genuinely lovely people who are Christian, although the same applies to Muslims and atheists.

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” - Mahatma Gandhi

"To believe in something and not to live it is dishonest" - Mahatma Gandhi

Some people don't have the experience or the depth in their empathy reserves to 'get' you or understand your position. It's most important to recognise your own feelings and position and to not spend your life looking for validation." - Natalie Lue, Baggage Reclaim

The recent terrorist attacks are an extreme example of religion leading people to behave in an irresponsible way which endangers or takes away others' lives. However, not all religious people are terrorists and not all terrorists are religious. The media seems to report more religious terrorism and less secular terrorism, which is probably why so many people associate terrorism with religion. Many people are against aid being spent abroad when our country has its own problems to deal with, although it can help tackle terrorism by offering employment opportunities to people who may otherwise turn to terrorism in desperation. It is also a long-term investment that may benefit us when the recipient country has advanced in its development.

Some people think they know what God thinks about humanity, but the reality is that it is impossible for anybody to fully understand God. Nobody has a complete vision of what God's intentions are for my life and nobody has the right to tell me what I can and cannot do. Nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes and have people who irritate us, but that doesn't mean we can judge someone just because they 'sin' differently to us. Christianity is supposed to be about love. The problem with the Church is that it teaches its congregation that they are some kind of superior beings and that they must go out and save humanity, which encourages dogmatism.  At present my preconception of fundamental Christianity is being progressively reinforced. I would be more than happy for this to be disproved, but I doubt there will be many Christian responses to this, which only confirms a lot of what I've said above.

"People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them" - Dave Barry

"It's not so much religion, its false certainty that worries me, and religion has more than its fair share of dogmatism" - Sam Harris

"I am an agnostic; I do not pretend to know what many ignorant men are sure of" - Clarence Darrow

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