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Religious Tolerance logo

An essay donated by Diane Holder

Follow your beliefs, in love, without fear

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I was about 10 when I decided that I could not be a religious person. The only religion that I knew about was Christianity, so my real decision was not to be Christian.  There were two basic reasons that stopped me then, and still prevent me from returning to my birth faith. The first was the idea that I, simply because I was female, was born inferior to men, as a helper.  As a budding biologist, I found that hard to reconcile with what I saw in nature.  The second was the idea that good people who have never harmed another, but who don't believe as I do, would be prevented from obtaining salvation.

For a while, science became my religion, I went to college and got degree after degree, I worked and worked and then my life hit one of those inevitable bumps that forced me to stop and take stock of myself. Only in one area did I feel that I came up lacking.  I was not a spiritual person.  Older and wiser, I took a second look at Christianity and found that my basic reasons for not being a Christian still prevented me from adopting that faith, although I found some good messages that I had no problems with.  I looked to other faiths, and found something that really astounded me.

There are some definite differences between the major religions, but for the most part, the message; the essence of the message, is the same.  The basic concepts on how to treat others, especially the poor, weak and sick are all the same.  I am puzzled, to this day, that people are so ready to kill others, fight others, and fear others based on the mechanistic differences between the religions.  I find it strange, because if people truly followed the basic teachings of their religions, this should not occur.

I came to the conclusion that there are many different roads to the same place, and it matters little where you start and what path you take, the end result is the same.  I began to read about psychology and pop physics and was astounded that even here the same patterns that I found in many of the religions were repeated.

If there is a Satan, an evil sprit, or an incarnation of evil I would give it the name 'fear'.   I feel that all the actions of people of good faith that cause pain to others, happen when people are afraid.  Fear breeds intolerance, and in my view, intolerance puts up a huge wall on that road to the sacred.

If fear is the major evil, then judgment of others is its handmaiden.  We can judge a persons actions as despicable, we can even punish that person if those actions cause undue pain, or harm to others; but can we judge that person?  Can we really say that if we had walked in their shoes we would have turned out differently?  We can't for we will never be that other person.  The only person who we can judge is ourselves.  Even then, can we really do that?  Or is our energy best spent trying to be the best person we are, rather than judging the person we wished we were not? I don't know, after all I am not religious!

Yet when I see a new life start, a beautiful sunset, hear a child laugh, go to a concert, watch an athlete perform, look at a work of art, a butterfly, a kids painting, I can't help thinking that I have just caught a glimpse of the divine.  All these things come from things being fully and completely themselves and being observed doing so.  Buying something I want, getting another degree, winning a competition, while pleasurable, don't give me that same feeling. At the end of the day they don't really seem to matter as much.

To conclude, to the religious I say, please follow your faith, in love and without fear.   To the non-religious I say follow your heart, in love and without fear.  Hopefully we will all meet again at the end of that road upon which we all are traveling.  It is the only thing I can believe on a spiritual level, I guess it is the scientist in me that maintains that if there is a deity that created such a wonderful diversity of life, not just among humans but all across nature, why would that same deity then say there is only one way to reach it?  Especially when it has gone to so much trouble to ensure that the same message be received by so many religious and nonreligious scholars alike -- albeit in different forms, and through different filters -- each uniquely suited for a particular cultural condition.

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Originally posted: 2005-APR-23
Latest update: 2005-APR-23
Author: Diane Holder

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