Anything in extreme is dangerous: exercise, food, sex, rules and of course… religion.
I want to make it clear that I support everyone’s choice of religion and spirituality. However, I have an issue when religious beliefs are put ahead of kindness, rationality, and most importantly, love.
I was scared to write this article for many reasons. One, religion is a complex animal. Even calling it an animal has already pissed ten people off. Two, religious belief runs deep: belief is part of a person’s core. The practice of religion, even within the same denomination, can be very different. So down the path I go. Don’t persecute me (pun intended).
I was born and raised as Catholic. We don’t choose the religion we’re born into. Dogma and doctrines are handed to us as we exit the womb. You follow the rules, at least until you’re old enough to make your own choices.
I went to Catholic school. I prayed. I followed most of the commandments and generally abided by the ‘rules’. Personally, I don’t think religion provides us with the ultimate definition of morality and integrity, but it often gives us a good starting point.
My mother was born in Ireland, and raised in a devout Catholic environment. My father, born in Alberta, Canada, was raised in a more flexible belief system with no specific denomination. They married for love and combined their belief systems. As I grew older, my parents were open to and encouraged me to explore more than just Catholicism. It was interesting what I began to see.
The first time I was exposed to the choice of religion over love was the story of my parents’ wedding.
My dad was previously married and had an amazing daughter (my sister) from his first marriage. When my Irish grandmother heard about his past, she wasn’t supportive. She was a devout Catholic, the kind that believed divorce is very wrong.
When my mother and father were married, arguably one of the most important days in a woman’s life, my grandmother chose not to attend. My father’s past was enough for my grandmother to judge his moral character and find it seriously wanting. Her church disliked divorce and single fathers, so how could my grandmother like my father or support her daughter’s marriage to him? Because of my grandmother’s religious beliefs, she dismissed one of the most important days in her daughter’s life.
Not attending a daughter’s wedding is hurtful, but more importantly, what is the mother’s message? That religion is more important than support and love?
Eventually, my grandmother met my father and was overjoyed when she discovered he was a tremendous man. She became open to a bright future despite missing some of the past. Everyone moved forward with a clean slate.
Understandably, it’s great to choose a partner of the same denomination so that we don’t have to explain all our beliefs and traditions. But sometimes we make choices just so we don’t rock the boat. Sometimes it seems easier to do what everyone else wants. That’s not a life for me. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be the life for someone else.
Since my parents’ marriage, I’ve seen many sad examples of choosing religion over love. I have a friend whose family disowned him because he was gay. Another friend’s family didn’t support her marriage because she married for love instead of accepting an arranged marriage (culture and religion often coincide). I have many friends who won’t marry outside of their religion for fear of their family’s disapproval.
This saddens me. It’s easier to find a human you connect with on a soul level than finding someone you connect with on a soul level who MUST be Catholic, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, or Buddhist. But if a religious or culturally compliant marriage is what you want, I do not judge you.
However, if you judge others for choosing love and disown them, hurt them, or treat them with anything other than love and kindness, I invite you to consider a different path.
I invite you to choose acceptance and love.
I invite you to look at this world and all of its conflict and disharmony.
I invite you to examine how these choices that lack acceptance and openness are just micro versions of why we fight wars on a macro level.
We all want to be loved. We want to make babies and be accepted for who we are.
Stripped of the dogma we are born into, we are all one.
It’s really just Us.
As humans, first and foremost, love should be our first choice. So let’s choose love.
I know I do.
My question to you:
“If you met the man/woman of your dreams, who treated you amazing and had EVERYTHING that you wanted and you loved them from the bottom of your heart, would you turn them away because they believed in a ‘different’ God?”