March 17, 2016
Help: I Don't Like Religions!

Madge answers two readers who pose similar questions about being disillusioned with religions.

by Madge
Lifestyle
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Hi, Madge!
 
I'm a big fan of yours, and right now I have a burning question: Is it wrong and valueless to believe or at least want to believe in God, but not in religion? 
 
I have done some quick research, mainly on the Internet, about believing in God but not in religion, and turned out there are so many unexposed beliefs in the existence of deities (such as Theist, Deist, Atheist, Agnostic, etc etc). I have once proposed this idea to a friend and said that maybe this is the best way that suits me, but then she said she does not see the point on believing, but not worshipping. Well, to me, it's about the unseen grip we call 'faith'. But, I really hope you might want to give me your opinion from other perspective. 
 
All the love in the world, 
J
 
Dear Madge,



 
I grew up in a very religious family and surrounding. I used to read the Holy Bible every single day and was very active with the church's weekly activity. I LOVED attending the mass in the church. I believed in God with my body and soul.
 
But then I grew up, life happened, and I got lots of new insights. I saw how pretentious the elders in my church were, I saw how people were so judgmental about others who weren't serving the church like they did, and I saw how destructive religions had become.
 
Now there isn't a single thing about religion, or church, or even God, that I like. I hate them. I despise them. I hate it when people talk too much about God. I hate it when my parents ask me to lead the prayer (but what can I do?), I hate to even think about praying.
 
Now, I know this isn't right. Because if I hate them, I know I'm no different nor am I a better human being than the people I dislike. How do I stop this hatred? I really want (and need) to regain my respect for religious people.
 
Love,
M
 
 
 
Dear J and M,
 
I hope you don’t mind me combining your two letters. They are similar and we have addressed similar concerns too in the past. Read this story and this one and this one, for some perspectives.
 
First of, let me just say this: humans are equipped with brains to think, analyse, judge and eventually decide what’s best for them. Some of these decisions come from intellectual exercises, some from experience, and others from the influence of their surrounding, and yet, most are a combination of all of them.  
 
Now, J, you want to believe in something without necessarily attaching yourself to the organized expression of that belief, i.e. religion. There’s nothing wrong with that. Great people from American women’s rights leader Susan B. Anthony; authors Jorge Luis Borges, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Vladmir Nabokov and a host of others; scholar Edward Said; privacy activist Edward Snowden; tycoon Warren Buffet; to tennis star Rafael Nadal have identified as agnostics or sceptics. Others profess to be atheist, or theist or many other forms of belief system.
 
In fact, who says you can’t formulate your own belief system? Because that is what it is: a belief system, so it should be something that really speaks true to you and that fully expresses what you truly believe.
 
I, myself, have struggled with this for nearly all my adult life. Growing up religious, I found that I lost faith in anything organized by the time I was in college. I identified as an atheist for some time, but later I realized even atheism didn’t fully satisfy what I believed to be my belief system. So if you ask me now what I am, the easiest way is to describe it is that I’m agnostic, but, in reality, I may be slightly more than that.
 
There are 50 shades of non-believing in this world, so don’t limit yourself to just one shade.
 
Continue to explore, keeping your mind and your heart open. No need to be combative or confrontational with those who have different values or who believe differently than you. But by no means should you be worried that your being different from them means something is wrong with you.
 
The same goes to M. I assume that you’re still young and that the first exposure to things that open your minds must be liberating, but at the same time, confounding, with the potentials of affecting your relationship with others.
 
Look here, some religious people may think that they have the rights to interfere into others’ lives, but it’s often not a reflection of the religions themselves. What I mean to say is that as long as you have the relative freedom to exercise your own belief system (atheism in this case), there’s no reason to be all angry about religions in general and with all religious people.
 
Most importantly, your current “hatred” or dislike of anything religion should never affect your relationship with your loved ones or those who give your life meaning: your families, friends, etc. So, accept, and maybe you’ll be accepted too (at least eventually).
 
Yes, you may see a lot of “judgey” religious people, but being judgmental is not a trait exclusive to religious people. The atheists and cynics are also highly prone to being judgemental. So, if you don’t want to become the person you hate, you must be conscious of how your thoughts affect your actions.  
 
I would suggest a simple Buddhist mindful technique. Now, this is not religious. In fact, this technique is used all the time in secular settings now, stripped of its spiritual meaning, and has been adapted as part of modalities in psychological therapies. So here’s the practice:
 
When you start feeling hateful towards a religious person or a religion (a hatred that is unjustified – meaning you are not being provoked), just become fully aware of it. Feel the hatred inside of you, without analysing it or justifying it. If it helps you can just label or name the feeling in your head, like: “hate” or “anger”. Continue to be aware until the feeling loses its strength.
 
The Eastern spiritual teachings say that once you become aware of an emotion or a thought, its power over your mind erodes eventually (if not instantly). This ancient “tool” to a peaceful mind has been around for more than 2,000 years and is now being used in various forms of therapies. So they must’ve done something right then.
 
And then there’s another way of doing this also: by way of suggesting. Suggest to yourself that you respect the religious people and their beliefs (to a certain extent, of course, I’m not saying you should accept and respect the FPI people or ISIS), fake it if you have to. At the least it’ll keep you from turning into an atheist asshole. Because if there’s anything the world needs less is asshole, whether faith or non-faith based. 
 
Hope that helps y’all.
 
Peace and love
 
~M