30 Day Challenge: Day 24

24. What religion, outside of your own, is the most fascinating to you? Why?

I’ve already spoken a bit about what I believe, which doesn’t fall into any religion because I basically made it up. But I was raised Southern Baptist, you can read more about that in this post if you’re interested. I stuck with that until I reached my breaking point when North Carolina voted for Amendment One. I had a big Aha! moment and vented to Maggie about it, it was a pretty big deal for me. And for a while after that moment, I hated religion. I held a grudge for all that I suffered through over the years, from being told as a child that I’d go to hell if I didn’t believe or if I “chose” to be gay to hating myself in high school when I was dating a girl. That’s a whole other story that I won’t get into now. 

Basically, religion was the enemy for a long time. But I’ve grown and forgiven over time and I’m able to look at religion objectively now. And there are quite a few religions that I find fascinating and interesting. There are even aspects of religions that I dislike that I admire. I’m really interested in Buddhism. I like a lot of the ideologies behind it. I dated a guy early on in college who was a Buddhist and even left college for a semester to become a monk. Yes, I have strange taste in guys. Trust me, I’m aware. I don’t know that much about the religion except for what I’ve learned about it in a few of my classes. One thing I regret about my time in college is not taking a class on world religions. 

I’m also really interested in Islam. When I was in high school and still going to church, I went to a class that was supposed to teach us about other religions but instead, the guy teaching the class spent the whole time telling us why other religions are “wrong” and I specifically remember that he called Islam a cult. I was shocked and angered, even then. But he did teach us a bit about the religion itself and I found it fascinating. I remember for a few weeks after that I would go online and read about Islam, I really enjoyed it. Then in college I took a class about Arab American literature and film and we learned a bit more about Islam, which was nice. I absolutely hate the treatment that Muslim people get in our country after 9/11, it’s despicable and stems from ignorance. 

Lately I’ve been watching the Shaytards on YouTube and I adore their family. They’re Mormon and that’s a religion I’ve always found sort of ridiculous, but I really admire how Shay and his family don’t try to “convert” their fans. They’re just good people and a good family with good values who are accepting of others no matter their race, sexuality or religion, and I think that’s awesome. If all religious people were like that, I know that the world would be a much better place. I have so much respect for them. 

I was watching Catfish yesterday and a girl on the show, who is a lesbian, got her heart broken immensely by someone who did something incredibly awful. Now, I typically feel bad for the people who are doing the catfishing, but this girl flat out said that she was using the other girl for money and had absolutely no interest in her. It was heartbreaking to watch. Anyway, she was extremely upset but when they got in the car, she said that she was going to pray for this girl who did such awful things to her and lead her on for a year and a half. Max, one of the stars of the show, was baffled. “Wait, you’re going to pray for her?” he asked. It was just a small moment, but I could tell that Max was feeling the same way I was. This is one thing I admire about people who are religious: their ability to forgive. This kind of forgiveness is pure and beautiful to me, because not only is she forgiving the girl, she’s saying she’ll pray for her. Taking time out of your day to pray for someone who did something terrible to you takes a lot of strength, and some people would say that it’s stupid, but I love that. I could just tell it’s sincere. Now, I hate it when religious people say, patronizingly or in a judgmental way that they’ll pray for people who are gay or non-religious. Because they’re doing it for show and most likely aren’t actually going to do it. It’s sort of their way of being judgmental without outright saying “your lifestyle is wrong and you’re going to hell.” But this girl meant it. She said it out of forgiveness and out of love, and I respected that. 

So that’s my simplified take on religion. I kept this post positive because I could have easily taken it in a whole other direction and been critical of religion, but that wasn’t really the point. And I think that it’s important not to stoop to the levels of the ignorant and the bigots (and I’m not saying that all religious people are, not at all). Sometimes it’s nice to just focus on the positive things that come from religion. If we want acceptance and tolerance, it’s important that we give acceptance and tolerance as well. It’s about being the bigger person. One thing that bothers me is when religious people look at gay people as just being gay, that one aspect of their life being the only thing they notice or care about rather than seeing them as a whole person. In the same way, you can’t look at a person who happens to be religious and dislike them simply for that quality, because that’s not all their is to them. To quote the Doctor, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vise versa the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant. 

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