- Published on Wednesday, 06 March 2013 06:23
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 2816
Muslims truly believe that they are right and that only Muslims will go to heaven/paradise. OK, so I should become a Muslim. But Catholics believe that if you commit just one mortal sin in your life you will go to hell if you don't see a priest and confess before you die So I should become a Catholic - I need a priest! Fundamentalist Christians believe I need to be "saved" to end up in heaven. I don't think I'm "saved" so I should join them. Others believe that I just have to be a good person - whatever that means. Who decides what's good? Can I have sex outside marriage? Can I skip prostrating myself towards Mecca 5 times a day? Hindus and Buddhists and various other groups have quite complicated beliefs - which one of all these is right? And how do I decide?
Assuming I do decide - how do I know I chose right? Do I take the imam's or priest's word for it?
It seems there are two schools of thought on this. Apply one's "God-given" rational mind and use pure reason - but if you do that honestly and without emotion, you'll certainly end up at least agnostic and probably atheist. The other approach is to go with your feelings - use your emotions to decide. After all, they are part of you just like your rational mind. Right? But then how do you know that emotions will get you the right answer? They often don't - many emotional choices of a spouse don't work. Many choices of "lucky numbers" don't work even if they feel right. But rational decisions work every time unless there is an actual fault in our logic or we don't have all the facts to start with. So that would be best.
But wait a minute, that tells us we should have no religion so that can't be right. Anything that comes to the wrong answer must be wrong - right? Seems like we are going round in circles. But if you think (believe) you must have a religion, no logic is going to convince you otherwise. You are already prejudiced to believe you need one. OK. So which one? Seems there is no clear way to decide. So how do religious people decide? It's obvious that most decide because they were born into it but we have all seen examples where people change. Why do they change?
If in the course of your life, you discover that something you believe seems wrong - maybe because it has unpleasant consequences - you could easily look for another similar belief system (religion) that believes something different - something that negates the part you didn't like. Maybe there is a motivation of some kind.
My father was raised as a strict Methodist but unfortunately for his parents, he went to Engineering school. There he learned to be rational and to expect that everything had a reason. And then he met my mother, a strong Catholic who said she would only marry a Catholic. So he checked it out. As he told me some years later, the Catholic Church has all the answers! He obviously didn't check into all the answers but he was motivated to believe a different version than he had been born to.
However, most of the people I have come across don't change their religion to another one (although they may change pastor) - but very many water it down. They believe only the parts they can stomach. They adopt what I call a custom religion.
In fact, even bishops are like that. A recent BBC program included an Anglican bishop whose idea of life after death was not what your local priest will tell you. His ideas are so far removed from what he must have been taught in the seminary that he is clearly struggling - he is trying to reconcile his faith with his logic. If his career was not so wrapped up in the Anglican Church, he would probably be an atheist.
Here's the video.
Originally published March 2011