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google image search for "religious harmony". good times.

As someone who never had a social bubble or religious community to reaffirm my beliefs, as someone who discovered religion through comic books, as someone who was raised to value pluralism and diversity over “my way or the highway”, I find myself at odds with many people in this country (world?) that consider themselves “religious”.

While I don’t harbor the repulsion towards religion that many atheists in America have today, I find myself increasingly sympathetic towards their sentiments. Hordes of Americans vote based on religious views. This would be fine if we didn’t hear so many stories about closet homosexuality, infidelity, sexual harassment, and the like regarding politicians running on a religious platform. What blatant, mind-numbing hypocrisy! It’s as though no one needs to actually be of high moral character, just say that it’s theoretically an important thing.

And that’s what religion means to A LOT of people. Just believe it. God said so. Scholars smarter than you said so. Your parents were good people, they said so. If we can’t find support for evolution in scripture it can’t be real.  You don’t need your brain, use your heart. Oh we have access to legitimate educational facilities, but we’d rather limit our children to the only book worth reading. Science is a conspiracy.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. If we weren’t equipped to use it, if we didn’t need to use it in the incredible ways that we can, we would not HAVE one.

Religious beliefs are not a substitute for intellect or wisdom. Unless reaffirmed through one’s life experiences and active realization, of course. I don’t give a shit what you’ve read or what you believe unless you’ve “walked the walk” and are evidence of how those beliefs have aided in your betterment. Don’t you dare speak out of convenience and lecture me on how unfortunate it is that not everyone sees that your way is the right way when your religion cannot be evaluated as “objectively” right, or more right, or the new and improved version of something else now too “archaic” or “uncivilized” for your liking.

please teach us your ways, white man

Religiousness is now frequently associated with the judgmental, smug, and illogical. And it doesn’t have to be any of those things. But I quite honestly see how that has come to be.

There is a place for religion among the educated, the intelligent, and the logical. There is, however, no place for blind faith and suppression of progress among the educated.

I’ve elucidated my religious beliefs in previous posts and while I never really cared to label them so much in the past, I find myself wanting to in more recent months. Having met enough people who snicker at “my backwards people” and carelessly define me as something as hurtful as “infidel” and unwittingly painful as “other”, I finally accept it. I’m Hindu.

I’ll drop the hippie shit. We don’t live in a world where we consider one another equals. My parents raised me to — and perhaps the universe gave me no option but to — discover severe, soul-crushing disappointment. You don’t respect me if you think my culture is backwards and I’m going to hell. We are not friends. Tolerating my right to be wrong is NOT respect.

Here is what I (tentatively) will propagate to my children, which is partially motivated by a sense of responsibility to my family and heritage, but heavily reliant on principles that resonate with me as “true” and that I believe go towards the making of a “good person”.

1. Religious principles that parallel natural laws — even if by extension. The cyclic nature of reality; the idea that our universe was once before and will be again; that we are very much the products of our environments but we come with predispositions, talents and inclinations that I personally feel comfortable attributing to past lives. Everything is accounted for in this closed system, and everything is a consequence of our actions. “Justice without judgment”, should be my religion’s motto. Over time, as chaos in this closed system increases, so too does the difficulty of our lives due to the burdens of our previous actions.

2. Luckily, the mind is our most powerful tool. There is hope yet! Learn to harness it. Google: spirituality, secular spirituality, meditation, Vedanta, Art of Living, etc.

3. Truth is that which can be realized sans scripture or messenger, in theory. It will never be lost forever because it is within us. (See: self-realization, enlightenment, etc.) It is within all religions, no matter how badly people have distorted it over time. If you want to worship, worship God, not your religion. Religion is a vehicle that you find in this world and that you leave in this world. If there are different lines you stand in while awaiting judgment after death, that are based on worldly religious labels, my bad. Thought God was better than that.

4. God doesn’t need your prayers, buddy. You pray for your peace of mind, for your own sanity, for the simple reality of a chant’s soothing nature, to feed off the positive energy in a room full of people singing the same song. Prayer is a way to show gratitude and ask for things worth asking for — courage, humility, patience, compassion. Maybe someone’s looking out for you, maybe not. But if you put the thought out there, maybe you’ve already helped yourself. The placebo effect is grand. Thank God.

5. A belief is a belief. None of this might be true. But before that freaks you out, let’s discuss feasible alternatives. Let’s rationalize why these beliefs of mine fit neatly with my scientific mind. Fluidity of thought is essential. Others might say believe with every fiber of your being, but I say you’re better off expending energy on questioning, rationalizing, and contemplating. Stop talking for a second and just think.

6. I never cared to call myself Hindu, but the world around me served as a constant reminder that I am. My name in and of itself would define me before I popped a word out. How silly. But this is how people are. This is especially how religious people are, as they seek a united front under the name of a religion with the expense of labeling everyone else as “other”. Group behaviors are natural, and clearly I am not overcoming them by accepting imposed labels, but there are more appealing things than rejecting organized religion. Like…

  • Being able to defend my heritage and my ancestors effectively — definitely didn’t know how to do that in elementary school when I didn’t know I was Hindu.
  • Not letting religion fall into the hands of the senseless masses — organized religion is always in need of intelligent, well-intentioned leaders! Thankfully there are many silent heroes enacting positive social change through the medium of religion, but we can always use more in the world. We need more, even if only, to neutralize the images of the corrupt who utilize religion for all the wrong reasons.

In summary, use your brain; be kind, generous, patient, humble, grateful, and respectful; take responsibility for your actions and move forward.

Life is really like math. You don’t get credit for the answers. You have to show the work to prove that you got to the answers yourself. And maybe your answers were off by a little–or maybe a lot–but calculation errors happen and you have time to prove yourself. All paths, crooked or straight, eventually lead to the right answer. There had better be multiple lives to look forward to because I have so much more to learn and accomplish than is possible in one life. But I’m very much aware that it’s possible that I, me, and my essence will end with my last breath on this earth. I am allowed my delusions/beliefs/religion. They keep me sane and optimistic.

Your superstitions are no greater than mine, sorry.

I apologize for anything and everything that may have offended anyone; these are active emotions and thoughts that are likely to evolve over time, but this is what’s brewing at the moment.

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EDIT: Okay, so I wrote this in a heated moment. Here’s a little epilogue, or P.S. That I might eventually feel deserves to be followed by another P.P.S, but I will refrain.