Why Are We So Devoutly Divided?
We all find ourselves in this same experiment, practically thrown into this strangest of dreams, without much clue of its nature, without a compass to navigate its landscape, and without the power to decipher with certainty what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’, and without the ability to gauge whether such concepts even exist. Are we of the mind, or of the body? What is real, what is our past, what is the present, and what does the future hold? The age-old quandaries have a way of stripping away those creations of artificiality that have piled up in our physical lives with the passing of time. Contemplating our mortality flings us into a very vulnerable state of helplessness and fear, a fear of the unknown.
We, as human beings, have a seemingly irrepressible need to classify and organize our ideas and beliefs into very neat, specific details. But life proves to be far from neat, and far from being clear-cut. The tendency we exhibit in the importance we place on specifics when it comes to religion, by taking religious scriptures literally, and by becoming polarized from fellow human beings over details we seem to be so sure of, but that are quite debatable, does us no favors, but plenty of harm.
What we know as ‘religion’ in our age seems to paint a vivid picture of hypocrisy and of a desire for power, or control over people. I realize there are leaders within religious organizations that do a great deal of good, who are many times the sole source of light in the life of individuals who find themselves unable hold on to life with confidence or to hold on to life in general, and that these leaders are the beacon of hope that grants them enough strength to go on. I feel these organizations may give back to an extent, but in my experience, both by what I’ve personally witnessed and by all I’ve read and learned through talking with others, there is so much more they can do. They do not do enough of that which they ask of their followers, and of those they look to shine their light on. If these established organizations were truly altruistic and concerned with the well-being of its followers, of their communities, and of this world, far fewer people would go to bed hungry each night in cities where churches reel in hefty profits that aren’t taxed, less people would be having children they can’t afford to raise because they perhaps would have chosen to use the birth control methods their churches have condemned, and less people would tolerate their government’s corruption and would choose to fight for the rights all humans are born with, instead of being sedated into submission by their churches, the churches who have urged them to withdraw opposition and who have urged them to turn the other cheek instead of standing with them and lending the help they’re quite able to, but unwilling to offer.
There may be unity within each church, within a ‘denomination’, but the polarization that has existed through history because of religion has caused endless wars, violence, and hate—and applicable to all these is death. Murder in the name of religion, in ‘god’s name’, the idea simply boggles the mind, and makes one think that perhaps the institutions that have come into existence, and who have each crowned themselves as ‘the’ representatives of ‘god’, are just as much a creation of man as corporations are, as much a creation of man as government is, as much a creation of man as these sectioned off pieces of land we know as countries are. Rather than dividing us, organizations that pride themselves on being founded on concepts like love, humility, peace, and understanding could do a whole lot more in uniting people, regardless of faith, or lack thereof. The image which these institutions build, of a rigid, vengeful, and unforgiving creator resembles an earthbound leader much more than any idea I’d ever have or want to have of a merciful, all-knowing, and understanding being, or force. The attention to mundane details in narratives, which sometimes exclusively focus on names and seem to almost forget the overall message they’re supposed to exemplify points to our obsession with mundane details or trivial human-driven specifics, which I believe are of no true consequence. We tend to become fixed on those things which serve as tools to relay a sensibility, as if those tools were the sensibility itself.
The message, of unity amongst all, of love, of wanting to understand each other, of learning to forgive, of selflessness, that sentiment, to me, is what is to be sought. The spiritual traditions of the world are overwhelmingly identical in their message. It’s like we, as human beings, begin our lives on the shore of an island, alone, but with view of land across the body of water that divides us. There is a raft near us, which looks fit for the trek across the body of water, much like in our world, where a spiritual tradition or personal philosophy can serve as a vehicle to transcend that condition we find ourselves in. We set off on that raft, seeking an awareness, an enriched consciousness, but many of us wind up forgetting of the journey we set off on, and that the raft was simply a means, not the ends. We become focused on the raft’s appearance, which has nothing to do with attaining that new understanding we set off for.
The call I make to those devout followers of any religious affiliation or personal philosophy is to seek those concepts of benevolence that intrinsically bring good to humanity, which help to build-not destroy, which unite-not divide, which garner selflessness-not selfishness, which preach peace-not war, which inspire us to share-not begrudge, and which allow us to forgive and understand-not to harbor resentment and breed intolerance. It’s not a call to adopt or reject religion, it’s not a predilection for one practice or tradition nor is it a condemnation for any either. It’s quite the opposite, it’s a call to surrender insistence on steadfast commitment to the mundane in the spiritual, for I feel the message being delivered is much the same, and it really does remain true, regardless of the messenger. It’s a message which applies as much for the survival and well-being of the earthbound humanist as it does for the devout believer, and that realization should help unite us all more than we’d ever believe possible.
J. González Solorio