Late last month, I got mentioned in a tweet from a person/organization/entity promoting Simple Islam. Not sure how or why they found or mentioned me, but they did. I followed the link and read the opening article.
I don’t like religion. I think there is something weird about sitting in a room where one person occupies a full 1/3 of the space to tell everyone sitting in the other 2/3ds of the room what to think, do, and believe. In every judgement day belief system I’ve ever heard of, we are all destined to be judged based on the merits of our individual behaviors and beliefs. And given that is the case, shouldn’t you be standing there on something you thought through and questioned thoroughly? It isn’t like there is a pastor/imam/prophet that is going to put up their hand from the back of the crowd and say “no, no, this one is mine. I told him what to do, therefore all your questions should be directed at me.”
(Note to self: if you want to know why I’m divorced, start there.)
So I don’t like religion. I find the need to tell other people how to go about living and believing baffling. But then maybe I’m easily baffled. I think it is everyone’s obligation to think things through for themselves and to tend their own spiritual garden. Worry about yourself. There’s no need to tell other people how to do it. Unfortunately, I’m in the minority. Loads and loads of people find their lives vastly improved by the systematic belief system and community provided by religious structures. And given that not everyone is content to wander an unmarked path, I like the simplification concept. Go back to the basics.
Do the details of a religion really matter that much? In Christianity, people argue and differentiate themselves over interpretations. How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Is it okay to baptize with a splash of water, or do you need full immersion? Are we born evil? What is the right day to worship on? What is the right way to worship? Does Revelation mean that there is going to be a rapture? (Did anyone else see that we’re getting a rapture movie with Nicolas Cage? Someone could have asked me and I would have pointed out, rightly, that this was a totally unnecessary addition to our cinematic history…)
Islam is equally tangled. Who was the true successor to Mohammed? Which scholar gets to be in charge? The Sufi think jihad is an argument with themselves and they dance their way to prayer. The Wahhabi think jihad happens at the end of a weapon.
What would happen if you cut out all the extras? Islam means peace. The path there is submission to Allah. The five pillars of Islam are laudable. What else do you need? Same with Christianity: following the example of Jesus as depicted in the New Testament would make for some really nice, gentle, generous people. And yet, I don’t know that many Christians that I’d count as gentle or generous. My big sister is one. After that? Yeah, not that many in my personal acquaintance.
I’m unlikely to convince the world that organized religion is weird. Could I talk someone into considering the radically simplified version of their religion of choice instead?