Defining Religion Religion is not a straightforward concept. It is not the kind of subject that human beings choose to sit and discuss over a cup of tea in the afternoon nor is it the kind of subject that individuals easily come to an agreement on. Religion is not a universal truth that people simply accept, but rather a complex matter that tends to bring out the best, and occasionally the worst, in people. In a world that is continuously revolving around controversy, it is no wonder as to why religion is such a popular topic. For some, religion is their reason for life.
Everything they do goes back to their beliefs and where they stand in the world of religion. For others, religion is important, but it is not the center of their existence. They have their own set of beliefs and abide by them, but it does not dictate their entire life. On the other hand, however, there are also some people who do not believe in the idea of religion at all, seeing no importance in any component of it. There is no right or wrong, but due to how different people view the topic, it can be difficult to fully comprehend.
In fact, I have yet to completely comprehend the concept of religion myself. There are many, many different religions out there and whileI may be aware of them, I do not comprehend them in a way that makes them palpable for me. Through the different textbooks and lectures that have been incorporated into this class, I have been introduced to a lot of different religions around the world and have been taught the basis of the different beliefs that make up these religions, but I have not been able to understand them in a personal way, which I believe is important.
With this being said, however, I believe that my own definition of religion has been changed, which may be even ore important than the previous point. Religion is something that I have struggled with my entire life, sometimes more than others. Since before I was born, my great- grandparents have owned an Apostolic church, a church that my grandmother has faithfully attended for way longer than my nineteen years. While my great-grandparents are no longer here, their church still stands, as well as their beliefs.
Due to how much their lives were influenced by their religion, my grandmother has attended church every Sunday since the day she was born, her children continuing the tradition until they urned eighteen. With this being said, however, most of them no longer attend, including my mother. Despite how religious my grandmother is, and even my grandfather more recently, my mother never made us attend church nor has she ever really discussed the concept of religion with us, which has really impacted my own perspective on the topic. Being so close with my mother’s parents, I have always been made aware of religion.
As stated earlier, my grandmother has attended church every Sunday, occasionally bringing us along when possible. The occasional Sunday mornings spent at my reat-grandparent’s church have introduced me to the idea of there being a God, but it was not enough for me to ever form a relationship with Him. While I have essentially always had a choice when it comes to attending church services, it has never been an easy one. Having a mother and father who never discussed religion, aside from my mother occasionally telling me about having to attend it when she was young, I have never felt comfortable talking about it myself.
Being aware that there may be a God, but never discussing it put me in a difficult spot. Questions or thoughts could always be directed towards my randmother, but it never felt acceptable to express them. Her entire life, she knew that there is a God and she has never had to question her religion. She believes in the bible and she believes in what her parents taught her, and somehow, I always found myself questioning why I couldn’t believe in the same things. Whenever I felt like I was in a place where could ask these questions or where I could believe, there was always a reason not to.
When my parents went through their divorce, when the fighting was so bad that I actually wanted the police to come, I never found myself praying to this God that I had heard bout. When my grandpa, the man who means more to me than anybody, was diagnosed with cancer, I was not praying to this God. Even now, when these bad things keep happening in my life, when I feel more helpless than ever before, I’m not praying to this God. I’m praying to my own God, and I didn’t quite realize that until this class.
I did not realize that it was okay to have my own God, that it was okay for everyone to have their own God. My understanding of religion changed after reading the novel All That’s Holy by Tom Levinson. This book follows the author, Tom Levinson, on his journey of religious identity. By interviewing individuals from numerous different religions, he learns more about what it means to be religious and how people interpret religion in their own personal lives, all while forming his own understanding of the concept.
While I did not realize it at the time, the ideas expressed from the different interviewees changed my own understanding of religion and has helped me recognize the relationship that I do have with God. In the beginning of the novel, Tom interviews a young, Catholic woman who introduced an idea that many people tend to do in today’s time. I guess people would call me a Cafeteria Catholic, because I kind of pick and choose what T want,” (Levinson 22). This idea, while it may be a little controversial, is something that has really changed my perspective on my own religion.
While I have never wholeheartedly believed in everything that is outlined in the bible, there are specific ideas that I do believe in, and I have learned that this is okay. I do not have to believe in everything that my grandmother believes in to be able to identify myself as a Christian. In addition to this, I have also learned that it is okay o believe in more than just religion. A young boy makes a comment to Tom that has really remained with me. “Because maybe I believe in myself more than I believe in anybody else,” (Levinson 209).
While this quote may seem irrelevant, it actually carries a lot of weight when it comes to the conversation concerning religion. Identifying with a specific religion and having a belief in God is important, but so is having a belief in yourself and understanding where you stand as an individual, which may be one of the most crucial things that I have learned from this class. These interviews featured in Tom Levinson’s book, All That’s Holy, have come together to help me comprehend my understanding of religion more than I ever believed to be possible.
The different ideas introduced through each interview has helped me understand that my own beliefs do not have to match anybody else’s and that it is completely acceptable to create my own, individual religion. I have learned things that I never would have before–I have learned that I am allowed to believe in God on my own terms. I have realized that each individual person has unknowingly created their own God, whether they want to believe it or not. In my mind, I believe that we are all praying to the same God, but that we have created our own forms of Him.
Different religions exist and with each religion, comes a different set of beliefs, and while this is okay, it is not what it is important. The most important aspect is each individual person’s own relationship with God and how they choose to live their life. I have learned that it is okay for me to question my beliefs every now and again, but also that it is okay to form my own path, which is something that I am thankful for. My own definition of religion has changed after this lass, as well as my own understanding of what it means to me.
Religion is a complex matter. There is no right or wrong, and it is not a black or white concept. It is not an easy subject to discuss, and it shouldn’t be, but that does not mean that it should not be talked about. In today’s controversial world, it is possible that religion will never be a comfortable topic, but that does not mean that it cannot be comprehended. People don’t have to understand what it means to the world, they just need to understand what it means to them, and for me, religion means hope.