I was raised to think for myself. Novel idea, right? I was not indoctrinated, brainwashed, or pushed into a moral or religious model but instead left to find something for myself. After all, the most valuable treasure is that which you’ve worked hard to find, not that placed in your lap.
What I’ve found after 36 years is that religions are in the business of polarization even though their core messages are so very similar. Organized religion has always, to me, been composed of two disparate parts. Like oil and water, the dual organizational goals of inclusion and exclusion must exist for an organized religion to survive: you are welcome and, once you’re in, can tell those people they must be in the club or they’ll suffer. You see, to be right, you have to show how someone else is wrong. In this crowded marketplace, is there still room for morality?
Raised to think for myself, I look at the religions as one would browse competing brands of laundry detergent. They all make claims, but what are the ingredients? How could one be bleach-free AND promise to remove stains? How does one brighten colors without brightening the color of stains? How does soap know what is fabric dye and what is ink from a leaky pen? How can the religions all be right, or how can they all be wrong?
The conclusion I’ve drawn is that there is no impediment to living a moral life. I feel a great sense of peace when I imagine sitting under a tree and having a cup of tea with Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, and other religious progenitors. I imagine they’d be a pretty interesting and loving group of people. What a laugh we’d have over the nutballs who’ve usurped religion as a mouthpiece for their petty hatred! Just imagine this group of simple folks gathered together to talk about the things that matter: love for one another, compassion, kindness, education, social equity. This is a group that would be able to laugh at itself and understand the value of simple pleasures. This is a group that would celebrate diversity along with inclusion. And most of all, they would celebrate the moral life.
As I prepare to bring another life into the world I think my role should be like that group of holy men under the tree—to provide fellowship, foster independent thought, and emphasize the value of leading a moral life. Leave the details and hatred to someone else.