Sorry if the following is a bit lacking in cohesion. I’m just working with some rough ideas which may or may not eventually be polished.
Power, control, and wealth or peace, enlightenment, and salvation? Which is the primary motivation for religion? I often view organized religion as the former with a little of the latter on the side for the sake of appearances. That’s my general perception based on what I’ve observed in my own experiences and in history. That’s just an observation, not a condemnation. There are religious groups and individuals that practice their faith and religion in very positive ways and I admire them for that.
I have nothing against religion or faith. Recently, I’ve found that my own faith is finding a stronger foundation. Conscientious faith, balanced with reason and intellect, can be very beneficial while blind faith, sustained by fear and ignorance, can be very dangerous. I find religion, particularly Christianity and its innumerable denominations, quite fascinating.
I think a religion should provide guidance in the search for truth rather than a set of iron-clad, no-room-for-deviation, set-in-stone rules for everything you do and for attaining what someone has told you is the truth. You shouldn’t follow a particular spiritual path just because someone else follows it or someone has set you on that path and told you to follow it while looking straight ahead, ignoring everything on the periphery.
Instead, you should follow the spiritual path that suits you. If the path you’re on isn’t leading you where you thought it would take you or you discover another path that looks more promising, feel free to change. Whichever spiritual path you choose, it will ultimately lead you to the same destination.
- “Believe nothing just because a so-called wise person said it. Believe nothing just because a belief is generally held. Believe nothing just because it is said in ancient books. Believe nothing just because it is said to be of divine origin. Believe nothing just because someone else believes it. Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true.” — The Buddha
- “Say nothing of my religion. It is known to myself and my God alone. Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life; if that has been honest and dutiful to society, the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one.” — Thomas Jefferson
- “It is a fine thing to establish one’s own religion in one’s heart, not to be dependent on tradition and second-hand ideals.” — D. H. Lawrence
Personally, I find ideas to be much more useful than beliefs. I feel that, ultimately, we are responsible for our own souls and must choose our own spiritual path. Its not a responsibility to be taken lightly nor casually entrusted to someone else.