Throughout my life, I have been attacked – yes, attacked – by people trying to force their religions on me.
It happened the first time on Halloween when my friend, Kathie, and I, who were probably around 11 years old, were trick-or-treating. We knocked on the door of a woman who lived probably five blocks away from our homes. Though we were suspicious of her invitation into her home, we were also TOO respectful of older people, so when the woman invited us inside, we reluctantly followed her into her living room prison.
For two hours she lectured us on Jehovah and then admonished us for our evil actions (trick-or-treating) on Halloween. We were angry that we had been bullied into spending two hours listening to a fanatic force-feed us her rigid views on religion. Trick or treat? Definitely trick.
Our parents were infuriated that we had come home so late. We couldn't tell our parents exactly where her house was located, but we avoided her entire block forever after that day.
The second time I was pressured into listening to a "witness" ramble on and on – during a time when I had no escape whatsoever – was when I was hospitalized for three weeks with an asthma attack and an upper respiratory infection. I could barely breathe, let alone talk, when the woman in the bed next to mine inundated me with questions: "Have you been saved? Have you chosen Jesus as your personal savior?" She played religious music continuously and unrelentingly asked me questions I was unable to answer as she droned on and on about sin and salvation, evil and Armageddon.
After several days I wrote a note to the doctors begging them to either find me another room or find one for her, because I felt that the stress of having to listen to her incessant ramblings was contributing to the length of my illness.
From door knocks to street handouts, unsolicited advice finds its way into my ears and into my hands where it is promptly disposed of. And I despise – repeat despise – being browbeat into listening to one-sided conversations that are actually coercive conversion tactics.
However, I enjoy learning about various beliefs when I invite people into my home for spiritual discussions. Organized religion is just not for me, not because of all of the taunting I've been subjected to over the years – but because I have yet to find a religion that includes EVERYONE and EVERY FAITH.
I can’t understand why religions are so divisive. Is one religion really better than another? Don't we all hope to be united with the ONE we call God (or whatever we call the Spirit that unites us all)? We are all ONE people on ONE planet in ONE solar system.
I've seen devoted people who are comforted by their religion, but many of those people live lives void of any spiritual meaning, living contradictions – Christians bashing Christians because they're different somehow (gay, black, whatever), for instance.
We learn in our religion classes that we have Free Will. With that free will, we make our own choices. We should neither judge our fellow man (or woman) nor expect or force others to believe what we believe.
Yes, I am not religious, but I am spiritual. I believe, on my deepest level that we all KNOW we are spiritually aware of our connectedness to the Great Spirit, God, or any of the other names we call the Supreme Being, and that we KNOW God resides within us, that God is everywhere, and that God is the consciousness and the loving spirit that permeates all of us and connects us with each other.
And yet, I've known atheists – people who didn't believe in God at all – and they were beautiful souls who treated their neighbors with dignity, respect, and love. They are as worthy of sharing this planet as is anybody else.
Some people, deeply enmeshed in their religion, crucify those of different faiths and judge them for being black or gay or Jewish or Polish or (name a different ethnic or religious group). I myself have been criticized by people who call themselves Christians because they judge me for not going to church.
Some ignorant religious people and those who call themselves leaders believe their religion is the best religion and that everyone else is going to Hell. Some Christians believe that if you don't believe in Christ or if you don't believe in exactly what they believe in, you will never go to Heaven. I find it hard to believe that half the planet is going to Hell, though I must admit, many of the actions taking place by corrupt politicians and people who abuse their authority have me wondering about the future of this planet.
Belonging to a religion means following ceremonies, practicing your faith, and worshipping a Supreme Being. To be spiritual is to recognize your spirituality and act according to your conscience. You can be both spiritual and religious or you can be spiritual or religious. Being spiritual also means abiding by the Golden Rule: treating others as you would want to be treated.
When you are spiritually aware and conscientious, you know that you are living your life with a clean conscience, void of judgment. You are aware that others are different and you accept them as being part of our planet.
When you are spiritually corrupt, you judge others and crucify them for being different. You are no better than those who crucified Jesus, and you may find yourself on that final judgment day in a glass house where, on the other side, is a reflection of you casting stones upon yourself.
Only that in you which is me can hear what I'm saying. ~ Baba Ram Dass