Thoughts on Religion...

Derek Sincavage By Derek Sincavage, 10th Jul 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Religion

An unbiased view at the cult or culture that is religion...

Thoughts on Religion...

I pride myself on being educated and knowledgeable. Just ask my fiancee. If the two of us are having a discussion, of any sort, whether it be intellectual or completely absurd, and there is something I am unsure of, I am quick to research it. If I am unsure about anything, I do not pretend to know what I am talking about; I simply listen, take in what I have heard, and then do my own research on the subject later. Because I actually prefer to know what I am talking about before engaging in any sort of intellectual conversation or debate. It's one of my favorite things to do. But when I am forced into a discussion or debate by someone who obviously has no clue what they are talking about, cannot back up their "facts", or repeats only what they have heard from others, I get a little annoyed. If I do not know something for a fact, I will not pretend that I do. I absolutely love it when someone wants to argue with me about a certain topic, claim that they are right, but then cannot back up their arguments, so then their only option is to go into 'defense-mode' by saying (sarcastically, of course), "Okay, fine. You're right, like always. You know everything." No. I just knew more than you because I do my research, ask questions, and am able to provide support to back up what I say.

One of my favorite topics to discuss is religion, because so many people have so many strong, differing opinions. When I worked at a radio station, I was told there are two taboo subjects that we should never get too heavily into, for fear of "angering or offending" listeners: politics and religion. As if politics and religion haven't angered or offended enough people on their own, or weren't the cause of many of history's biggest blunders. I think religious discussion or debate, when done respectfully and with an open mind, can be very rewarding. Unfortunately, too many people are not willing to go into such a discussion with an open mind.

When I was younger, I attended church, not always regularly, but I did have a stronger interest in it and believed, without any doubt, what I was taught. Sunday school, Wednesday evening youth groups, even confirmation classes. Then at some point I began to notice inconsistencies with some of the teachings, as well as certain practices and rituals that weren't exactly mentioned in the Bible. Although my father grew up Catholic, my sister converted to Catholicism around the time she married, and I have numerous other relatives in the Catholic faith, my experience with and understanding of Catholicism is limited, aside from what I have seen on TV shows and in movies (and, occasionally, on the evening news.) I have only been inside a Catholic church on a handful of occasions, mostly for weddings, funerals, and baptisms. From the time I was a young child up until now, there have been many aspects of Catholicism that are not only confusing to me, but just seem to be either completely unnecessary or in blatant opposition to what the Bible truly teaches. I could never wrap my head around the practice of sitting in a cramped booth, confessing one's sins, not to God, but to mortal man through a partition. Likewise, I never understood how those sins could be washed away simply by reciting a memorized prayer a certain number of times (again, not prayer to God, but to Mary, "Mother of God") while holding a strand of beads. But don't get confused, as Catholic teachings make it clear (or do they?) that, even though one prays to Mary, the prayer is not actually answered by Mary, but is instead answered by God. Still, the question that should be considered by any "true" Christian is this: Should prayer be memorized, or recited directly from the heart?

While attending my father's mother's funeral, it struck me as interesting that the priest was swinging around a golden pot of smoking incense (called a "censer"). Why was he doing this? I have heard numerous explanations for this ritual, such as the smoke being symbolic of prayer rising up to God, or that the fragrance of the incense helps to pull the believer into the solemnity of worship. My mind never made such a connection. I only watched the smokey censer being swung back and forth because, to me, it seemed silly. Few believers are willing to admit that maybe the burning of the incense is just a largely outdated ritual, most likely with pagan roots. There is no evidence to suggest the burning of incense by early Christians for religious purposes. In fact, the use of it was a mark of paganism, and incense is still used today by many who wish to contact "supernatural beings." And what about the large statues, beautiful stained glass pictures, and largely constructed intricately-designed architecture, such as cathedrals? Are these representative of the modest life that Christ lived, or examples of the worldly riches he condemned? I began to notice these different rituals and characteristics, not just in Catholicism, but in almost all of Christianity. I also believed that some of what I was taught in church was being misinterpreted from the Bible. So, looking for answers, I began to ask questions. I was amazed at how quickly my questions were dismissed, as if I was some sort of heretic. I decided at that point I wasn't too fond of organized religion.

I am not an atheist, just as I am not a theist; as both claim to hold knowledge of that which is unknowable. And the truth is, I simply don't know. I am, however, open to ideas. I have taken multiple classes on world religions in college, and own numerous texts on all major religions. I had the privilege of meeting a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks who (despite the language barrier) shared with me many valuable lessons. I still have a handmade Tibetan bracelet that was given to me as a gift. Of course, this doesn't mean I am a Buddhist, but I believe the religion teaches many valuable virtues that many people can learn from, just as I believe a lot of other religions can hold a bit of "truth" and value. Unfortunately, when it comes to religion, many people are quick to put on blinders and refuse to hear any difference of opinion. And that's when religion starts to become destructive.

"Religion is dangerous because it allows human beings who don't have all the answers to think that they do. Most people would think it's wonderful when someone says, "I'm willing, Lord! I'll do whatever you want me to do!" Except that since there are no gods actually talking to us, that void is filled in by people with their own corruptions and limitations and agendas. And anyone who tells you they know, they just know what happens when you die, I promise you, you don't. How can I be so sure? Because I don't know, and you do not possess mental powers that I do not. The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is not the arrogant certitude that is the hallmark of religion, but doubt. Doubt is humble, and that's what man needs to be, considering that human history is just a litany of getting sh*t dead wrong."

-- Bill Maher, "Religulous"

"“Do unto others…” is a good rule of thumb. I live by that. Forgiveness is probably the greatest virtue there is. But that’s exactly what it is -­‐ a virtue. Not just a Christian virtue. No one owns 'being good'. I’m good. I just don’t believe I’ll be rewarded for it in heaven. My reward is here and now. It’s knowing that I try to do the right thing. That I lived a good life. And that’s where spirituality really lost its way. When it became a stick to beat people with."

-- Ricky Gervais, comedian

Jesus was a man…a man whose wise words many other men would still follow thousands of years later. His message was usually one of forgiveness and kindness. These are wonderful virtues, but I have seen them discarded by many so-called "God-fearers" when it suits them best. They cherry-pick from their "rulebook" and interpret the scriptures to fit their own personal needs. There are so many different denominations and sects of Christianity (approximately 34,000 worldwide, according to the World Christian Encyclopedia), that even fellow Christians have a hard time agreeing with one another about what Christianity is or what it should be. As a result, it is very easy to understand how Christianity, claiming to be the "one true religion," can be confusing to an outsider. How does one determine which of the 34,000 holds the most truth? And wouldn't that mean all the others are not exactly what they claim to be?

I have seen such hypocrisy, cruelty and prejudice performed in the name of Christianity (and many other religions, for that matter) that it makes me wonder if maybe there has been a bit too much selective reading and reinterpretation of the holy teachings. God or not, if I could change one thing for a better world, it would be for all mankind to adhere to this little gem: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." I assure you, no more stones would ever be cast…


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Meet the author

author avatar Derek Sincavage
A former office temp, overnight warehouse worker, morning radio show co-host, and pharmacy technician, I now spend most of my free time as a freelance writer. I attended university, majoring in film and media production, with an added interest in scr...(more)

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