The Institution of Religion: A Convention for Love

By Anthony Johnson

Sean believes that religion causes violence and discrimination. The sad truth is that he is correct about this. Religion is more or less a group comprised of human beings. There will always be tension between those who are in different groups. One example is found right here in the city of Chicago–gangs.

Now I am not saying that religious groups can be compared side by side to gangs but they have one strong similarity. They are both groups with very strong views and opinions. This also applies to a football team, or a non- profit organization. What do all of these groups have in common?

Everyone who is a part of the organization believes in what the organization stands for and will most likely defend it to the ends of the earth. This is why there is violence and discrimination between religions. If you were raised your whole life to believe the Earth is flat, and then someone came along and told you the earth is round you’d say, “No way man, you’re crazy!” You may respond with violence to anyone who has a different view than what you’ve felt your entire life. To make this a lot more personal let’s dwell on this idea.

We are all sons and daughters, friends and lovers. We love our entire family in ways we cannot express. We belong to our family. In a sense, our family is our group that we believe in and would take nearly any means necessary to protect it. If someone disrespected your mother, what would you say? If someone hit your mother, what would you do? Anything that someone feels so very strongly about they will protect with whatever method they feel is most productive. Violence for one person may mean simply a cold shoulder to the next. The truth is, we all have different backgrounds and upbringings.

In my opinion, it depends on how you were raised. I come from a Christian household and I tell you if someone says they hate God it doesn't make me want to bash their skull with a pipe. I was told to love everyone. I was told to love hose who are different from me and those who are less fortunate. As humans we are not taught enough to love, we are not taught to be accepting and reasoning creatures. We are here to lead balanced lives and part of balance means stepping out of your comfort zone. How can you grow as a person if the only views you know are biased?

Sean argues that religion teaches us to obey our God and, if we do not, we will be punished by him and sent to the depths of hell. Frankly, Sean, this is not true. The reason why people live in fear of God or any religion is because people do not truly understand the Bible. They take the words of the holy text and use them literally or misuse them. Many people also forget the Bible was written for people in a different time. It still is written for us, but we must understand the Bible is also a historic text. If the Bible says “slay the lamb and bring its blood to my church and pray over it,” I’m sure that was a lot more normal for people thousands of years ago than now. That’s because the people were different and the times were different.

If God says in the Bible “drink my blood and eat the bread of my body,” I’m 100% sure you cannot literally do that. This is because the word of the Bible is not meant to read and practiced in the literal form. The Bible uses a lot of imagery and metaphors. In the Bible, bushes can speak, seas are parted, and miraculous miracles resurrect the dead. For some this seems impossible in life and this is why they cannot believe. Some believe these actions are literal and others–including myself–believe they are figurative. Regardless, the strongest message of the Bible is love. Love is the most important.

I am not asking anyone to believe in Christianity but I would never bash anything that a person chooses to put their faith in. I would never tell them that their faith is wrong and my faith is right. We all have a reason to be- lieve in what we believe in. God teaches us to love all of our brothers and sisters no matter what our differences may be. The Bible teaches us to spread goodwill, peace, harmony and truth. Violence and discrimination comes from when someone does not truly accept another person or understand why they want to hurt them. If we all look deep inside ourselves we see that, underneath everything, the only thing we truly want is to be loved and appreciated.

This is what God teaches us. The word of God teaches us to love everyone. All worldly and unjust things come from those who do not love. You don’t even have to be religious to spread peace and harmony. You simply must have a good heart and have a sense of integrity. Also, in the Bible it says that God will relieve us of the burden of all of our sins if we simply ask for forgiveness. It is that simple. God understands that as humans we are flawed and for this reason he gives us what is called reasoning. If anyone tells you that if you do not follow every word of the Bible God will smite you they are lying to you.

They are lying. If you are to take one thing from this letter please take this into account. Religion does not cause hate nor violence. It is those who misuse it or are not able to accept those who are different from them. Understand you can love someone without having to like them. You can love someone and accept them without wanting to ever speak to them again. You can accept what someone says without believing what they say. This is called tolerance, and the more tolerant we are as human beings the better. Love is the answer to everything and religion is not an antonym of tolerance.