So I realized that in my post yesterday, I talked more about my own personal life than what I feel/think about religion in general.
Like I was saying in previous entries, I am a Christian, and follow the teachings of the Bible. However, I also have a religion degree and I am so glad I slaved over four years of university to get it. I learned so much and it opened my eyes to the different beliefs in the world.
My interest in religions started when I was in high school. My school offered a world religions class in grade 11, and I was thrilled to take it. My debate coach was the teacher for the class, and I probably (make that definitely) goofed off in class more than I should. But it awakened this drive to learn more in my heart and I am so thankful for that. That year is when I really fell in love with Asian religions, but for the final project, my teacher assigned Scientology to my partner and I. That was an interesting assignment. We did a lot of research online and in books, but we still had to go and have an interview with someone from that faith for our presentation. We were lucky enough to have a Scientology centre in our city so we went down there one day after school for our appointment with someone in their office. We had a tour, and then we sat in a little dark room and asked our questions. The answers we got were very shaded and not really a solid answer. The vibe from the place set us both on edge. I’m not saying this would be the same in all Scientology offices, but for a Christian and an Atheist to have the same creepy feeling by the end of the interview made us both realize that we would not be going back there, even though we were invited to a service or something later that week. Our presentation wasn’t the best in the class since our questions weren’t really answered, but the teacher was nice enough to realize that we had done the work, we just couldn’t get the information we needed to really present a comprehensive overview of the religion to the class.
After that class, I was so intrigued by religions. I knew my own view from being submersed in Christianity for my entire life, but I was really enjoying learning about others beliefs and how that applied to their lives. At the end of the year, we went to houses of worship for all 5 main world religions (Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam). For 17 year old me, that was amazing. And also the reason why I chose to study religion in university. At one point I think I wanted to be a pastor but I moved away from that.
In university I wanted to expand my mind as much as possible. I took the required classes in western religions like Christianity and Judaism, but spent most of my time immersed in religions more unknown to myself. I think I took every single Buddhist class I was able to take. One class was a novel study, where we read secular novels with amazing religions undertones and connections. My suggestion for anyone who wants to really discover their feelings for fundamental stories in Christianity to read the book “Not wanted on the voyage” – it’s based around the Noah story, but completely destroys it….just like the movie “Noah” that came out a few years ago starring Russel Crowe and Emma Watson. The disappointment I felt at the end of each I don’t think I have ever felt before. I also took a class on religious art – all we did was look at paintings and sculptures and buildings, and with the knowledge learned in the class classify them into religions and narrow them down to sects. I learned all about the various Hindu gods and how they are portrayed. One class I really enjoyed was on a religion I had never heard of before – Baha’i. It’s a subsection of Islam, yet they are persecuted. The best way I can describe it is, they are the Christian split off of Judaism, but for Islam. I know that it’s not the best way to describe it but its how I kept it straight in my head. Christians believe that Jesus is the son of God, the messiah that that Jewish community is looking for, just as the Baha’i believe they have proof of the twelfth Imam (I apologize if I got that wrong…it’s been about 6 years since I took that class but that’s how I remember it).
In all of my studying, I heard a lot of people say that after their first year of religion courses, they lost their previous faith for something else. I can say that it made my faith stronger. I now understand the backgrounds of other cultures and their belief systems, not perfectly but I can have a conversation around the topic. I can see how the media portrays things completely wrong or right. I find myself more tolerant of the actions of others, but I have never lost the belief that Christianity is the right one. I’m not going to tell you that you’re faith is wrong or anything like that. You can believe whatever you choose to (I would not make the best missionary that’s for sure). But if you ask me, I will share my opinion. Hopefully in a way that makes you feel safe to ask questions or offer your own opinion.
I do think there is some merit to the saying “all religions are basically teaching the same thing” but in a different way. From all the religions I have studied, they all teach to follow God, or gods, with all your heart. To fully trust in whatever definition of a “higher power” you have. To not pollute your body with toxins (alcohol, drugs, tattoos, bad thoughts, anger, hatred), to have compassion to those around you and who are less fortunate that yourself. To support your community (church or otherwise). To love each other. To share the gospel (or whatever term you have for it) to others. To buy, use, consume things in moderation.
In this way, I don’t think it’s wrong to compare religions. Each one, and even each sect within each religion, will have differences that make them special within themselves. It is important to respect these differences, even if you don’t personally accept them to be true.