I’m using this blog post as both a way to talk about a serious subject that I believe is important and also as a slight vent session to help settle my feelings about a conversation I had yesterday with my father and his wife. I may have what you may think is a “controversial opinion.” It is important to note that it is not my intention to anger anyone or to raise controversy. These are simply, as always, my opinions. You are free to disagree with me and I will not think you are wrong. My intention is merely to, at least, get people to see religion from at least one perspective. Warning: This may also be a long blog post as I’m talking about a very complex issue and I want to make sure I’m saying exactly what I mean.
Background before we officially begin: I was raised Catholic. As a 23-year-old, I still consider myself Catholic, though not exactly a practicing Catholic as I don’t go to church a lot. My father, when I was a kid, was also Catholic. However, after he and my mother divorced, he somehow converted to a non-denominational Christian church. With this change, he’s become a bit more religious in my eyes because his religion is one of the biggest parts of his life (or so it seems to me because he feels very strongly about it). Alright, I think that’s everything you need to know. Let’s get on with it.
The whole conversation started when my dad asked me for the umpteenth time when I’m going to attend his church. This is a familiar topic of discussion with him so I just sort of rolled my eyes and told him yet again that “Religion isn’t really my thing.” He responded, “What isn’t your thing? Salvation isn’t your thing?” This kind of surprised me because he had never gotten that blatant about his wish for me to convert out of Catholicism before. Up until this point, religion was always a subject that we’d dance around and never fully address. He’d ask me to attend a service, I’d give some sort of excuse why I didn’t want to go, the subject would usually change to something mundane. However, now that he was being blatant about his wishes, it sparked a huge conversation involving faith, fallacy, God, and the Bible.
One of the biggest points of conversation was the difference between “good” and “bad,” and, by their extension, the difference between “true” and “false.” This part of the conversation started off like this: My philosophy has always been (and, as of this moment, will always be) that I don’t care what your religion is as long as you do no harm to others. I believe that as long as you’re a good person you will eventually achieve whatever form of peace you believe in. My father and his wife had a different opinion. They believe that, if one believes in a concept of good, they must believe in a concept of bad. To them, if one believes in a good form of being and a bad form of being, this must also lead to thinking about which religion(s) can be considered “true” and which can be considered “false.” Therefore, if you believe that your religion is the “one true religion” (which they obviously do), then you must believe that all other religions in the world are false.
I don’t necessarily think that they are wrong in having this opinion. It’s an opinion shared by many people about many belief systems. I just disagree with this opinion. To me, they’re saying something is plainly black and white when there’s a huge grey area to think about. To put a different metaphor to it, they’re saying the question of religion is a “true or false” question when I firmly believe that religion is a “multiple choice” question where no one answer is necessarily a wrong answer.
I’ve always been of the opinion that religion means different things to different people. One person could be turning to religion to find answers, another to find happiness, another to find comfort. The way I see religion is that, no matter what religion you are, people use it as a way to find inner peace. In this way, religion is a good thing. I believe that all religions are helpful in some way to those that believe in them. So, going back to the “multiple choice question” metaphor, I believe that, regarding religion, there are multiple right answers because each person sees one particular religion as the one right answer for them. In light of that, I want to directly address the implications brought forth by my father and his wife about the “true or false” side of religion.
I firmly believe that no one person has any right at all to say that another person’s beliefs are wrong. YOU have no right to tell ME that my view of religion is wrong and that all the things I believe in are wrong. Likewise, I have no right to tell YOU that your religion is wrong and that what you believe is completely wrong. Saying such things would be very rude and dismissive of the beliefs of hundreds, thousands, millions of people the world over.
Look, I don’t claim to have all the answers. I don’t have personal contact with any form of “god” in the slightest. However, I’m of the opinion that not one religion in the entire world has all the right answers for every single person. Claiming to have all the correct answers about life, the universe, and everything — yes, yes, 42, I’m trying to be serious here — is perpetrating a lie. Maybe in this small way I’m a bit atheist (or if you want to be more of an optimist, a bit more open-minded than some), but I cannot say that any one religion is right or wrong because there is no way to prove that your religion is somehow “more right” than mine is. If you are firm in your beliefs, then congratulations. However, I am also firm in MY beliefs, so trying to change each others minds would be a waste of time for both of us.
Ultimately, it comes to this: I’m a Catholic. I believe in Catholicism. Do I claim that Catholicism is the only correct religion in the world? Not at all, not even a little bit. Just because I believe in Catholicism doesn’t necessarily mean that I think YOU need to believe in it as well. Faith is different for everyone, and that is good. My ultimate opinion and belief is one that I share with all the Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure fans out there: Everyone should just “be excellent to each other.”