Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Expiration Dates Are Just Loose Guidelines

Life's Big Questions: March 8, 2009: Is Religion Outdated?

Okay, so we’ve covered my feelings on Talking About God With Strangers, but at the end of the day, God is kind of a huge concept, so there are at least a few dozen more posts I can write about the various facets about god. Today? His house.

The question of religion being outdated is a pretty heavy topic- it’s one of those things that people get fanatically passionate about, and it can tear apart some fairly solid relationships, or at least make them incredibly uncomfortable for a few days. But, at the end of the day, here’s how I see it- Faith and Spirituality aren’t outdated, but Religious Institutions, by their very nature, usually are.

I say usually because even a severely secular person such as myself has found multiple churches at which I feel entirely comfortable, welcome, and loved. There’s a minister (Melvin) that was based out of an outreach church in the far outreaches of Edmonton who has since moved to Toronto to begin his own outreach centre. His philosophy, loosely quoted: “If you’re not comfortable sitting next to someone who doesn’t believe in God and might never? This may not be the place for you.”

I quote this man often, because he symbolizes the part of faith that I love. The open, non-judgmental side that just wants to spread a little love around. That’s the kind of faith that I think any of our religious icons would condone.

At the same time, there are the people who, for lack of a better term, I see as total nutballs. To call them out, evangelicals. They scare the shit out of me, much like any fanatic does. Get enough blind faith and you give a religious institution and its leaders way too much power.

The religion that scares me is one of hatred, of bigotry, and of discrimination. It’s in the Pro Life and Prop 8 and, really, Pro Hate side of things. It’s the part that takes what it wants from religious texts and says, hey, it’s written here, so it must be true! And we must follow it to the letter! Because there is no possible way that changing social climates or changes in what are considered Universal Human Rights could have any bearing on this matter, because this text? It is the word of God.

So, in that way, any kind of hate based on sex, gender, sexuality, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, culture, birth place, political stance or, yes, religion, just seems outdated to me. I understand that, to an extent, there will always be people who hate other people simply because of the way they look or live their lives. I tend to discriminate against stupid people- its part of being an academic. But I’m not about to try to pass legislation limiting their rights to love each other.

Yes, here I am on my soapbox, getting incredibly pissed off about the Gay Marriage Issue for the second time in under 24 hours.

But to remove it from issues- religious institutions are notoriously traditional. I mean, that’s their whole business, right? Reinforcing one set of behaviours and beliefs that have been around for however long. So, yes, religious institutions are outdated. But faith? Believing in something bigger, something beyond, in the possibility of something better? Isn’t that what every day is spent hoping for- that today will be better than yesterday, but less so than tomorrow?

Aren’t we all just hoping to live in a slightly better place than we did yesterday? Is hope outdated? Are we that cynical?

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