There are an estimated 4200 religions in the world. That’s 4200 different ways to connect with something greater than yourself. Whether you’re a monotheist, a polytheist, or a good old fashioned dual-God-believing ditheist, there is hope. And with 7 billion people inhabiting the earth, we definitely need options.
There’s even a religion called ‘Pastafarianism’. (Not to be confused with Rastafarianism) Pastafarianism is actually a parody religion that challenges the teachings of creationism and intelligent design. There’s also an invisible flying spaghetti monster who created the universe. Oh, and pirates were the original Pastafarians. I cannot make this up.
Well played, Pastafarianism, well played.
For most, religion is not a matter a choice; it is a matter of geography, culture, and upbringing. I’ll give you an example, I am black. I am a black person who grew up in the United States. And more specifically, I am a black person from a small conservative town in Texas that happens to be smack dab in the Bible belt.
As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, I was raised under the umbrella of Christianity. Southern Baptist to be exact, which is really just a glorified name for ‘Country Christianity’. But we won’t go there today. And had I have been raised in India, I more than likely would have practiced a variation of Hinduism or Buddhism.
It is very rare that one explores a religion outside the scope of their core beliefs. One would be more inclined to change their political affiliation before changing religious views. And it makes sense. There is a deep sense of emotional, psychological, and spiritual fulfillment that is associated with religion. As humans, we naturally yearn to understand forces greater than ourselves.
For many, religion acts as a conduit to further explore and understand. There is also a sense of inclusiveness and community that religion provides. I’ve met quite a few people who solely attend church for the social interactions, security, and belongingness. And not to mention, the exploration of other religions is not exactly encouraged in most religions.
There are consequences to curiosity. One could be ostracized or excommunicated for such. Hell, you could even be murdered in some regions of the world. So I’m not too big on shaming folks for not exploring.
Exploration is not always fun. Journeys don’t always have a destination. And it can be a lonely and clandestine place. I know because about three years ago I left the church and set out on a journey of my own. One day I plan to go more in depth and share my journey with the world. My hope is to inspire those who have experienced similar religious dilemmas.
As someone who left Christianity, I have my share of reservations. More than I can express in this piece. But none greater than the teachings that suggest that Christianity is the sole “true religion.”
I can deal with the exclusivity of Christianity. Every religion has a degree of exclusiveness. But to suggest that 1 out of 4200 religions holds all of the truth and the key to salvation is not only arrogant, it is spiritually narcissistic.
It is spiritually narcissistic to believe that a single religion is applicable for 7 billion people.
It is spiritually narcissistic to believe it is your God-ordained responsibly to project your beliefs upon others in the hopes of conversion.
And it is spiritually narcissistic to believe that you are a part of a group of like-minded individuals who holds the key to humanity’s salvation.
I don’t believe that is salvation. I believe that is teetering the lines of cultism.
And as much as I want to believe that this is just a small minority of Christians, I know that’s not true. I know the average Christian believes that anyone who is not a follower of Christ is doomed for an eternity in Hell. And why wouldn’t they? It is a core belief of Christianity.
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”, answered Jesus
I think that’s why I subconsciously struggle maintaining relationships with staunch Christians. That is a dilemma that I have yet to remedy. Who wants to be friends with someone who believes that you’re half-full and hell-bound anyway, right?
Again, our religious views are indicative of geography, culture, and upbringing. I didn’t objectively choose Christianity as my religion of choice. That decision was made for me. And chances are, that decision was made for you too.
As if we didn’t already have enough precursory redlining that determines our quality of air, water, health, safety, and education. We can now add salvation to that list of amenities — since apparently Christianity is a religion of privilege and proximity that not everyone will be afforded. For that reason, I morally object. I don’t romanticize my journey.
I can’t guarantee that your journey will be smooth sails and sunshine. I can’t guarantee that your destination won’t take you to the darkest places of uncertainty. For everything I have gained, I have lost something in exchange. Journeys are funny like that, you know?
And there are even times when I wonder if this was all worth it. That’s the logical person in me who doesn’t allow anything to be for certain. But through all the chaos, all the uncertainty, all of the side eyes, and condemnations to hell… I have found a peace that I have never known before. My peace isn’t absolute. My peace ain’t for everybody. And no, my peace doesn’t guarantee me a mansion in a utopia reserved for people who think like me. My peace is for me. My peace is mine.
There may come a time when you have to find yours. I just hope your peace finds you well.
This article was originally published on Terrance’s personal Medium blog. For more stories like these, follow Terrance.