Does Your Religion Define Who You Are?

by Lauren Martin

Did you know Abraham Lincoln was Jewish? He was shot in the temple...

Religion is heavy. It's a constant buzzing that many of us are numb to, forgetting it exists as a defining part of our lives. It weighs down on us individually and collectively as an unopposed force. It's been ingrained throughout our society, sweeping over us like a plague.

While non-secular countries may feel and see the physical effects of their religion, secular countries are not immune to its symptoms. While the United States claims to be separate from the church, the vary basis of our country is "founded under God." The US dollar bill is marked with "In God We Trust."

If we were such a secular state, why would we have a religious inscription on the very foundation of our economy? The basis of our survival.

It's because, at the very root of it all, religion is always there. Religion is the foundation of our very existence. The minute man learned reason and was hit with the impossible perplexities of life, the only explanation that could sooth our constant bewilderment was that there must be a force greater than all of us.

We found something to believe in an effort to keep going. Man had to find a reason for being: a purpose to life.

And that's good and fine. Religion is not a bad or evil thing. It instills a sense of morality in us, where without it, we'd be damned. It keeps us grounded, rooted in what's right and what's wrong. However it has developed into forms of itself that have become diluted and misguided.

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. -Mahatma Gandhi

Rather than a guiding force of good, it has become a wall for people to hide behind as they let their true evils and biases pour out. They created a scapegoat for their actions. Every war and human injustice can be traced back to religious ideals.

We continually watch our world torn apart by religious differences in the name of what is holy. Racism, hatred and bias are all byproducts of religion. Do you live your life based on what you believe to be right or what the church tells you is?

Because the church says gay marriage is wrong. But is it the church saying that or what people going to the church say? Religion is a broad entity that should add some higher purpose to your life and keep you grounded, but it is not a set of rules and teachings that you must devote your life to following.

The words in the Bible are no more legitimate than the words on this website. They were written by men millions of years ago who had their own views and opinions and ways of looking at life. Their word of God is really just a compilation of stories, observations, thoughts -- as any religion is.

And God loves all his children, is somehow forgotten. But we paraphrase a book written thirty-five-hundred years ago. -Macklemore, "Same Love"

And these stories are fine to live by. They are the code of ethics that defines right from wrong, that keeps us from killing people. They keep people from stealing from their neighbors and cheating on their wives, the same way the guiding principle of Karma keeps people from committing unjust acts, for fear of retribution.

It's what you take from religion that's important. The teachings of love, peace and unity. It's about living together in good faith and as the best humans we can be.

But religion has evolved far past simple guidelines. It has become a cult of the masses. The idea of worshiping gods has become the bane of existence for many who spend their lives chasing an abstract notion.

Today it seems that religion breeds hatred more than it fuels love. It's become a stomping ground for bigotry and malice, the very evils that religion is supposed to dispel and keep out.

You may not be a hardcore religious fanatic. You may not martyr yourself in the name of your God. You may not even go to church. But religion still has a hold on you. Whether you grew up attending church with your parents, or just synagogue on Rosh Hashanah, there is still a strong religious presence in your life and you must decide how that religion defines you.

Because it's always there. Silently making you condemn people of different ideals and religions and morals. Like the political notions of our parents, we grow up with an inbred sense of what party we belong to, what position we seek. We see the world through the eyes of the biased.

The world needs to live in a place where religion is a small part of our lives, a tiny notion that keeps us going, but nothing more. It should be something to believe in, but not something to define our very actions and thoughts. Because once people stop letting religion define them, we can be at peace.

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple: The philosophy is kindness. -Dalai Lama

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