Date: Monday, November 03, 2003 11:06 AM
Well, I was raised as an Episcopalian. And I know a little about a lot of different religions. As far as my own beliefs go, they are sort of a mixture of all that I have studied. Certainly I believe that there is an ordering in the universe and in the creation of life, but I sort of have my doubts that there is some omnipotent, omniscient, and compassionate guy with a long grey beard out there running things. If there is, then he has a very sick sense of humor. I believe that there is value in repentance in that it helps prevent us doing the bad thing again. I believe that we are punished for doing bad things, and that more often than not we don't have to wait for the afterlife to receive that punishment. (something akin to the concept of karma) Circumstances usually work out in this life so that we reap the rewards for the bad stuff we do sooner or later. I don't have a strong opinion on whether there IS an afterlife, but I would say that I tend to think that we can expect to move on to some other form of existence after we depart this life. If there is an afterlife, I'm pretty sure those that exist there have better things to do with their time than float around on clouds playing harps or laying around drinking milk and honey while being caressed by attractive young women (as some in Islam believe -- I always wondered what the women had to look forward to). I also think that, if there IS an afterlife, the way to get to heaven instead of hell has a lot less to do with confessing our sins or reading certain prayers out of a book than it does with living the right way by treating those around us and the world that we have been given stewardship of in the right way. Most religions, once the details are taken away, are generally in agreement on what is the right way to treat each other : with respect, tolerance, honesty, and compassion. If living that way to the best of my ability makes me miss out on going to heaven because I didn't say enough 'Hail Marys', then at least I know I will have a lot of company where I do end up. But, just to be sure, I have a Get Out Of Hell Free card.
I don't believe that membership in any religion gives one person a right to go around telling other people that what those people believe is wrong. When it comes right down to it, no one can prove in this life that their religion is the right one and another religion is wrong. Half the wars in history got started that way, and the other half were started by greed that could have been avoided if the instigators had listened to what ANY religion has to say. I don't think it is wrong to eat meat, and therefore by logical extension I have to believe that it is not wrong for me to kill an animal in order to eat, so long as I do so in a way that is not wasteful and is conscious of the sacrifice made by the animal for my continued existence. But I don't get any enjoyment out of hunting for 'sport'. Though I do enjoy shooting guns from time to time at inanimate objects it is more out of interest in the machinery than out of a desire to kill something. Would I kill to protect myself or even others ? Maybe, probably even, under some drastic circumstances. But I would far rather take steps to avoid matters coming to that. And I would like to think that if the situation ever came to it I would be willing to accept some personal pain or injury to avoid being in a position where I felt like I had to kill or injure others.
There you have it, the structure of my religious belief in one page, and probably more than you ever wanted to know. All this reminds me of a true story that happened just last week. It will follow shortly.