I was born and raised Catholic. When I was ten years old, I believed in heaven, I feared hell and I went to church every Sunday. As a child, my father once told me: “Whatever career path you choose, always give 100% effort in everything you do.”
I have used this philosophy my entire life. Religion was no exception.
In my pursuit to become the best Christian I could be, I asked questions.
Questions such as: What happens if you’re a Hindu? Do you go to hell, even if you’re a good person? Why would God put us on earth to “test us” even though is omnipotent? Who created God? Where is heaven?
I had so many questions, but few satisfactory answers. I talked to my parents, to friends, to siblings, even members of the clergy. Ultimately, the one answer I got over and over again was: Because God/the Bible said so.
That answer was not enough for me. Whether it’s my upbringing or some inherited traits, I have never been one to follow any dogma blindly.
I’m not against following. I just have to know and understand exactly what I am following.
So, I started drifting away from religion. First, I stopped going to church. Then I stopped praying.
After I stopped praying and going to church, I still called myself a ‘Catholic’ when asked. Then, I referred to myself as an agnostic/atheist.
Finally, I began despising religions altogether and the concept behind them. I even went as far as looking down on some of my religious friends and family. I often thought to myself: How can they believe such nonsense?
As I was drifting away from religion, I discovered science. I delved deep into physics, chemistry, biology and even psychology (which I studied in college).
Science was AWESOME. Science deals with facts. Science makes sense. Science doesn’t tell you to believe in something just because someone said so. Science encourages you to question everything. I loved it. I still do. Science was perfect. Until it wasn’t.
See, about five hundred years ago, many scientists believed the earth was flat.
Over a hundred years ago, scientists thought the atom was the smallest particle of matter.
The point is science too, has its limitations.
No matter what we do, our knowledge of the universe will always be as good as the tools we use to observe it.
Furthermore, studying psychology brought me face to face with the evils of science.
At school, I learned about the many unethical studies conducted in the name of science. In some studies, animals were physically tortured. In others, humans were psychologically tormented. All of this was done in the name of science.
The limitations of science, along with the unethical studies I learned about, lead me to question my relationship with science.
In the process, I began re-evaluating my relationship with religion. I asked myself what the point of religion was.
It was evident to me that the purpose of religion wasn’t to explain how our universe works.
Then, it hit me! I realized that science and religion weren’t so different after all. I just had to find out what made religion important. I needed to know what the purpose of religions was, and I found it!
Religions teach us values.
The Catholic religion, for example, teaches values such as hard work, determination, & faith. I use some of these values today, and I have used them for most of my life.
Additionally, most religions share common values. Whether you’re Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, religions are all about being kind, respectful, honest, loving one another, being generous etc….
The reason it’s important to learn and teach is simple: They can help us all be better people.
Everyone knows that the only constant in the universe is change.
We’ve evolved greatly since the stone ages. Today, we can travel from North America to Europe in a few hours. We can instantly communicate with loved ones thousands of miles away.
Some things, however, don’t and should not change.
The bible for example was written thousands of years ago. We need kindness, generosity, love, hope, faith, today, as much as we needed them then, maybe even more so.
We’ll more than likely need those values thousands or even millions of years from now. These values never go out of style.
Science and Religion are not mutually exclusive
One of the biggest issues I had with religion was that I did not know its purpose.
The role of science is to explain how our world works. The role of government is to protect its citizens. The role of the media is to hold government official accountable.
When it came to religion, I could never quite figure out what its role was. Then, I stumble upon a quote that helped me figure it out.
The quote was from Jeremy England. England is considered by many to be the next Charles Darwin. In short, England said that science helps us acquire information, religion tells us what we should do with that information.
That’s when I understood that religion and science were not mutually exclusive. My scientific mind was finally at peace.
Religions are imperfect, not broken.
As I said before, religions are imperfect.
Sometimes, religious fanatics misinterpret religious teachings and commit heinous crimes.
However, governments aren’t perfect either. Sometimes, governments fail in trying to protect their citizens.
Sometimes, the media doesn’t report stories accurately.
No matter what industry you’re in, no matter what you do, we all make mistakes.
Governments should not be done away with each time they fail to protect their citizens. Media organizations should not be done away with for failing to accurately report a story or two. Religions should not go away each time a lunatic misinterprets its purpose.
I am not quite ready to take that leap of faith and go back to practicing Catholicism or any other religions.
Religion can help many people. I’m not one of those. At least not now at this point in my life.
I already believe in kindness, hard work, determination and other such values that help us be better people. For me right now, religion would only add all the rules and traditions, which I’m not a huge fan of.
In this beautiful soul-searching journey I call life, maybe one day I’ll practice religion again. For now, I’ll continue to practice kindness, respect, honesty, & love towards others. That is my religion.
Someone once said: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it”. I agree with the idea behind the statement. As humans, we don’t always have to agree with one another. I still disagree with many religious ideologies, but I will defend people’s right to follow their religions, for all the reasons listed above.