So I was talking to a friend recently and not surprisingly (or rather I should say not uncommon) the topic drifted towards religion. She had made a comment that had really resonated with me. Without getting into details, she touched upon the idea that sometimes times people (particularly women) are taught that they have to endure, and suffer through certain circumstances or indignities (in the name of religion) and how consequently that just makes them angry and resentful. As a result, sometimes there’s this barrier and resistance to fully understanding and embracing religion. Some are fortunate enough to learn the difference between misguided cultural interpretations that aren’t really rooted in the true teachings and nature of the religion, but unfortunately many are not – and end up being turned off from religion all together, or suffering serious injustices at the hands of their oppressor.
I thought long and hard about that. How to one person, in one context, …religion is empowering and beautiful and brings contentment and relief – even in moments of hardship, and the very same religion can be interpreted in an entirely different light by another person, and consequently because of what they are taught…and the context in which they are taught it (cultural mores, etc), it can be oppressive and feel like a burden – and potentially push people away from their true purpose.
I can only speak of Islam, since that’s all I’ve ever practiced and the only thing I’ve really been taught…and while my experience has (thankfully) primarily been positive, I have seen both sides to this. I believe that through submission to God, there is empowerment. I do think religion requires discipline – discipline of the soul and of the desires – and in controlling these things, you can unleash them or contain them at will – and that’s both powerful and beautiful, as it (hopefully) frees oneself for bigger, better things. Then I look at the other side of the coin, and look at how people (usually men – sorry) in positions of power can wrongfully use religion as a means to oppress and subjugate others. Some are dictators, some are fathers, some are lawmakers, some are husbands and brothers, some are even scholars. I don’t think the intent is always to do that…but cultural perspectives and prejudices sometimes have a way of tainting even some of the most enlightened (well-meaning) minds…
Anyway, I have no real analysis here…but I do think that on some level people should find contentment and some amount of peace in religion – it’s not just there to fill our day with routine and ritual. Aside from producing good people working towards the betterment of humanity…in my mind, those are some of the main goals (contentment and peace, that is). That peace is what carries people even through the hardest of times. I just think it’s a shame when one person takes that away from someone else..and instead, replaces the peace and contentment that people deserve – that I think people are entitled to, with a bad taste in their mouth… I realize more and more it has little (if anything) to do with the actual religion and more to do with those interpreting and conveying the message. In coming across the “right” person…you might find yourself open (and loving) something you never imagined, and in encountering the wrong “messanger”…like with anything, you find yourself angry and turned off.
Anyway, may we be exposed to those who open our hearts and our minds, engage our spirit, and help us love and find peace & contentment. I think through these people…it becomes easier to “find” God and enjoy the sweetness that comes with that.