My mom wears a cross around her neck every day that represents her religious Faith; I wear a cross bracelet every day that represents faith, but holds no religious value to me. I was given my bracelet as a gift from the girls track team my senior year. It came with a card that said “Faith doesn’t make it easier; it makes it possible.” This message resonated with me because of the experience I had during my last track race of my senior year. It was an emotionally charged race, and it was a relay so I had a team counting on me. Moving on to the next meet didn’t come down to preparation, the girls I was racing were just as fast as I was. It came down to will and faith in my own ability. There was a group of three of us in the final lap and only two spots to the New England Regional Meet. I got ahead of the girl and defeated her mental game by passing her and running faster as my coach yelled “It’s all heart!” The feeling of crossing the finish line in that race and securing a spot for my team at the next level of competition was incredible, akin to my understanding of hierophany yet not religious at all. That is what my cross symbolizes, but to my mother it represents her Faith in God and Jesus. My mother likes the poem Footprints in the Sand by Mary Stevenson. I interpret her connection with this poem similar to mine with my cross bracelet. Last few lines of the poem read “The times when you have/seen only one set of footprints,/is when I carried you.” This is a poem of Faith to help get by in rough times, the way faith helped me in my race. I hope to build a religious sense of the word faith as I continue through my life. I admire my mothers conviction and aspire to find that same feeling and Faith that she always carries with her.
I was talking with my dad yesterday, and as a concerned parent, he was trying to make me more aware of the Ebola outbreak that exists outside the secluded world of the High Point University campus. He told me that Ebola is spreading in some western African countries because of the Islamic burial practices. I looked into it a little. When a Muslim dies, it is traditional for the family to wash and cleanse the body, then dress it for burial. However, Ebola is still very contagious from the fluids of a dead body. This has created a great risk of transmitting the disease to entire families and whoever else they may come in contact with. On the contrary, not preparing the body in the traditional way creates a great risk for the soul of the diseased no making it into paradise. It is difficult to understand the conviction of the Muslim families who have lost someone to the Ebola outbreak that they would risk endangering so many more people to carry out a traditional burial. Yet, by not doing that, I realize, they fear they are condemning their deceased loved one. Can there be a compromise when so much is at risk?
I mentioned in class that there has always been a tension between my Mormon grandparents and my nondenominational Christian parents. So when my grandparents gave me a call on my birthday last week, the first time they had ever done so, I was a little bit suspicious of their intentions and I spent almost the entire conversation on my guard against any sort of false testimonies they might try to feed me. When we said our goodbyes, I hurriedly hung up the phone and breathed a sigh of relief, like I had somehow dodged a bullet. Yet, looking back the only thing they had said regarding religion the entire conversation was their questioning if I had found a church in the area yet. That’s it. When I received a birthday card from them the next day, I was again taken aback and read it very slowly, looking for something malicious. Then I found it. They made a reference to scripture that I had never heard of, they were trying to brainwash me into their religion again, those jerks! Actually, they just had bad handwriting, the verse they referenced was in the gospel John and had no subliminal messaging at all. Twice in the last week, my grandparents had sincerely tried to do something nice for me, and twice I had shot them down on the assumption that my own grandparents might want to do me some sort of spiritual harm. I feel like there have been dozens of times over the years when they have tried to make amends with my family and we ignored them out of prejudice. This is a huge problem. If we could all learn to sit down and listen to what people with beliefs that don’t align with our own have to say, rather than ignore them out of spite, then we could really make some progress towards lasting peace and finding the truth. At the very least, this experience made me realize how important education in all of these religious practices is, because when we don’t understand something, we are far more likely to be afraid of it.
Can religion be simplified to a personality test? By answering simple questions about how we respond to certain situations, a system can classify what kind of people we are. Why not use a similar strategy to decide what religion is best for every individual to practice? The way we choose our beliefs now does not involve much reasoning or consideration for diverse cultural exposure. Most beliefs are taught to children at a young age by their parents, and the children grow up seeing the world through that lens. This makes it difficult for a child to go against a tradition that has always been a part of his life; it becomes a comfort and one of few constants in an ever changing world. In modern society, Sunday is just another day and the world is growing smaller with fewer defined cultural boundaries. With exposure to diverse ideologies and a decrease in religious orthodoxy, adolescents sometimes find themselves conflicted about values. However, it is very difficult to question hereditary beliefs or have an objective conversation with parents when there is disagreement. Religion should be a journey, a search and a more casual topic so that people are devoted because it is something they believe in and not just something they were brought up with or whatever is socially acceptable at the time. But would it be possible to classify what religion most aligns with a person’s views of life and values? This could encourage wider exploration and participation in religion. A religious personality test might consider what tradition a person grew up with, what they know of other religions, what their morals are, beliefs of afterlife and science, and lifestyle, as well as other factors to match you with your most compatible religious tradition. Would something like this make more people religious, spiritual or virtuous as a society?
I ate some cauliflower at dinner last night. I used to hate cauliflower but my mom forced me to eat it because “there are people in the third world who would kill to eat that.” When I was a kid I remember thinking that my life would be so much easier if I had been born somewhere where kids didn’t have to eat cauliflower or go to school. I mean what did I do to deserve this life? Now, I have a greater appreciation for all of things I have been “blessed” with but I still wonder why I get to enjoy this life while so many people are stuck with horrible lives. And further more, if the Christian God is real and I found him because of the circumstances I was born into, then what happens to all of the people who never get the chance to find him? There are people born every day with horrible diseases and defects that never live even close to long enough to find Christ for themselves and others are born into situations that nearly guarantee that they will never be able to find Christ. Can eternal salvation really be gifted based on the environment we are born into? If we look back just a thousand years, only a very small percentage of the world would have any hope at all of making it to heaven and all that most of the rest of the world did to guarantee damnation was to be born in the wrong location. I still believe that my God is the one true God and that his plan is good but I just can’t understand his ways sometimes. Am I following a lie because I was born into it? Is anyone on Earth following the truth? Or is there some other planet out there that was chosen to know the truth while our planet was chosen to live in humorous ignorance?
A week ago, I would have argued that the only thing that matters in life is finding the truth. Since then, I have had some great conversations with Brittany and in class, and I have come to realize that the truth is extremely limited. There are too many things that we can never know about life and then we have to look to other methods of “proof” to validate our beliefs. The movie Life of Pi makes the argument that religion should be believed, even if it isn’t true, because it is the better story. How can we go through life thinking we are an accident and that our lives mean absolutely nothing in the long run? We need religion because without it, we have nothing and we are nothing of any significance at all. One of my personal favorite arguments is Pascal’s Wager, which states that we should believe in God because that is the only logical thing to do. If there is a God, and we don’t believe in him then we get an eternity in Hell, but if we do believe in him, we get an eternity in Heaven. If we believe in God and he isn’t real, then so what? We lived a good and productive life, and the payoff for any kind of life without God is nonexistence anyways. Yes, both of these arguments are imperfect and fail to analyze how there are hundreds of gods to choose from, but the essence of these arguments is extremely valuable. When we can’t prove one hundred percent that what we believe in is true, and we never willl be able to, we have these sorts of logical analyses to back us up and to help us believe what we need to believe in.
Muslim women are often judged and criticized because they dress in traditional and very conservative clothing. The most controversial part of their attire is the hijab or headscarf they use to cover their hair and sometimes much of their faces. People cast judgement from the first glance at these women and treat them differently because of there appearance. In countries where traditional Muslim dress is not the norm, people feel uncomfortable around that type of diversity. What they fail to remember is that devout religious women of almost any tradition have similar standards for conservative dress. Catholic nuns dress almost identically to Muslim women, yet donning a habit comes with less negative stereotypes. I know that I am not entirely judgement free, but with this in mind I will try to be less rash in making assumptions about people’s lifestyle, character, and affiliations by what cultural or religious clothing they choose to wear. ~B.G.