I’ve never had much use for organized religion. If my mother were still alive, she would be the first to tell you I fought church, bible study, Sunday School, and all things impressed upon me that had to do with my parents desire to raise eight kids to be good Christians. All their efforts taught me was there seemed to be no standard agreement among Christians as to what constituted being a good Christian.
As a kid, all I learned about being a good Christian was it doesn’t do you any good to ask questions, point out flaws, or argue hypocrisy unless you are prepared to spend eternity in Hell. I thought it odd my “teachers” would use the fear of being sent to Hell as their defense to a kid who questioned whether or not there was a God or Heaven. I have yet to hear or read a satisfactory answer as to how a Jew is my Christian savior and died for my sins when both Christianity and I did not exist at the time Christ was executed.
So it is written in the Bible, BFD. If you cannot explain to me why the Bible is not infallible when some of the books in the New Testament do not fully reflect the entire writings of some of its authors nor are backed up by universally accepted methods of research, then it is not much more than a book of suggestions, as are the Ten Commandments, many of which our “Christian” leaders fail to abide by.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do not have a problem with Christians, only those who call themselves one while blindly living a life counter to what we know Jesus lived. In fact, I believe you can be a Christian simply by living your life as he did without having to belong to any particular church. At the same time, attending a church, demanding we put God back into our schools, and desiring to fight a war against the evil empire of Islam does not make you a Christian at all.
While there are plenty of nice words and ideas expressed in the Bible, there are just as many words to loath in my opinion. Consequently, I do not place much weight in a book the Roman Catholic Church fought like hell to have mass-produced. You see, the concept of getting the flock to attend church every week so they will be brainwashed into handing over their minds and money goes back centuries.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not have a beef with Christianity. No, I have one with all organized religion. It’s simply proof of man’s desire to stamp out free thought because it is easier to rule over others who only know how to think as you have taught them. Consequently, I look for other ideas, or words and thoughts, to try and live by knowing full well I fall short from time to time just like any true believer. The difference is, I choose not to live in fear of my failings or sweep them under the rug by going to confession or proving to my church my commitment by tithing more than I can afford.
Not that I am trying to convert anyone to my way of thinking, you’d be boring if you were all like me, but I thought I would toss out some of the words I try to live by. Feel free to reject them as the work of Satan if you wish. I have no desire to convert anyone. However, it is not going to hurt you to ponder what I am offering up.
The golden rule is a great place to start. I say this because it seems to be the one common belief that connects all of the world’s major religious and philosophical beliefs and yet we do a pretty good job of failing in this area. Does anyone not believe if all of mankind treated each other in the manner they want to be treated, this world would be infinitely better to live in?
It does not mean we all have to think alike, but simply comes from the idea that we all desire to be respected, valued, and cared for as humans. It does not place restrictions on who you can or cannot respect or be kind to. It simply places the onus on us to act as we want others to act toward us.
The problem is, we tend to think we are justified in mistreating others because of how they treated us. It is this eye for an eye mentality that gets in the way of people going to greater lengths to accept those who are different than us. It’s our license to do as we want and not as what is best for others.
This brings me to my next concept I hold to be true: Actions speak louder than words. You can call yourself a “Christian,” you can claim, “I am not racist,” or any other label of unacceptable behavior, or insist you are “pro life,” but it is your actions that carry a greater weight with me than your self descriptions. I am sure they do the same in others when they make conclusions about me.
We are seeing this play out in real time. Liberals want to be seen as the party of peace, but when they become violent when they demonstrate against what they claim is a speaker of hate, their actions out weigh what they tell others, particularly if it is a group who seeks to push your buttons to bring out your worst because they have no real defense for their own.
All politicians are salesmen. I do not care who the person is or what his or hers political beliefs are. Dictators, Democrats, Republicans, and Anarchists are all selling us something and like any good sales person, the best lie. A car is never the price you are quoted. That house you purchased is not what you think it is. That product you purchased from QVC was not as advertised. What makes you think our leaders are any different?
How bad has it become in our country? Now it is the norm for our leaders to claim the news being reported is not real whenever it paints a leader in a negative light. We no longer expect, we now accept that our leaders are liars and it is only a matter of degrees to which they are lying to us. And because we do, we have become the very flies they are selling shit to and from where I am sitting, too many are eating them up as if they are being sold the truth.
We have ourselves to blame for this because our politicians have been rewarded for far too long with our votes while we fall for the crap they sell us, usually lies about their opponent. A recent example is Trump being elected on the promise of getting rid of Obamacare without having an actual plan to replace it. Now he is saying it might be another two years before there is a plan. Let’s face it, there never was a plan. If there was, eight years is enough time to have come up with one.
Einstein said, “Peace can not be kept by force: it can only be achieved by understanding.” Now has it dawned on Americans the more we refuse to actually understand Islam, the closer we get to all out war? Just think, a war between two of the world’s major religions all in the name of peace. You can’t make this stuff up.
When you are able to understand sometimes people are different than you, it becomes easier to accept who that person is. It does not mean you agree with their religion or their life style, it just means you understand it and are accepting to their right to be different than you.
However, when you cannot do this, it becomes easier to be guided by hate or fear, which coincidentally are being sold by many of our political and religious leaders who seek to profit off of you. They have no problem sending others off to kill despite their claims to be God loving people who see value in all life. No, they convince you your life is actually more important than the lives of men, women, and children in some far off land you have been deprived of learning about. All you know is what they want you to know. Just remember, it is the pawn who gets sacrificed to save the king and queen and not the other way around.
According to Tai Sheridan, “An open mind isn’t attached to thinking or belief.” So you see, our nation, economy, and beliefs are tied into maintaining a closed mind, so closed that there is no chance for actual alternative leaders, economic strategies, or religious beliefs. We are taught to discredit others rather than defend our beliefs. We think we are defending them when we wage war, but all war is is the ultimate form of attacking our enemies. Our greatest enemy, some would have you believe, is free thought.
We think we are free when in actuality, we are simply free to choose from among what others have deemed acceptable. For example, college is painted as being more acceptable to pursue after high school than a trade school, apprenticeship, or the military. However, what is not mass accepted is to choose to go live off of the land in peace with nature. It may be allowed, but most frown upon those who make that choice over what we have been told is the right thing to do.
If that open mind you think others in your life have is really an open mind, ask yourself how would they respond to you if you were to tell them you were choosing to do something they see as radically different? My father wouldn’t speak to my sister in the 70s because his open mind could not accept two people living together in sin. Today, that thinking seems archaic.
sIs your church accepting to you telling them you are leaving it because you now believe in something else? Will they wish you well or damn you to an eternity in Hell? Will your open minded parents accept you if you come out as gay? Will your liberal dad talk to you if you tell him you think Trump is the answer to our problems? Or will they feel all betrayed by you?
Mahatma Ghandi said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” So it becomes our responsibility to forgive those we feel have wronged us. If mom or dad lacked the open mind they claimed to have had when you grew up, it is up to you to forgive them for the hurt they caused that resulted in you needing counseling as an adult. ust as only they can choose to change who they are, only you can choose to move forward in life.
We are either strong enough to move forward or too weak, which causes us to remain stuck in the past. It is why you see some churches change their philosophies on some issues as society changes from its past.
Others remain locked in a more rigid system of thought which in the long run hurts them. Political parties are no different which is one reason why we see one with a more progressive agenda while another seems more tied to a traditional past. The end result, unfortunately, has been an unwillingness to accept any form of compromise while both continue to bring up old hurts.
We will claim revenge is sweet or that payback is a bitch, but only the ability to forgive and move on is what allows us to keep from drowning under the weight of past hurt or anger.
That great philosopher, Anonymous, is credited for reminding us, “If you can’t determine right from wrong, then you lack empathy, not religion.” And it was Aesop who noted, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” And it was Jewell who sang, “In the end, only kindness matters.”
If you can not feel the pain, hurt, anger, confusion, or suffering of others because they have committed the massive sin of being something or someone you have been taught to hate or fear, whether it was by your parents, teachers, clergy, or leaders, then you fail to be truly human. When we become so one dimensional in our thought and beliefs that we can turn our backs on the sick, homeless, and targeted, there is indeed something wrong with the government, church, or family you choose to align yourself with.
Maybe it is time we all did a little more self-reflecting and less finger pointing. Take advantage of living in a nation where you are free to think and expand your mind beyond the borders society has placed upon it. Take a chance and try to study other perspectives by doing your own research, talking to those you have been taught to avoid, and asking those questions that might make others a bit uncomfortable. You really are free to think for yourself or you can continue to allow others to do it for you.
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.