I need to believe in something. For the sake of my sanity, I need to believe that there is something bigger than me that keeps life from merely being a series of random accidents and coincidences. Something from which I came and will come back to again. Something that encompasses yet is part of everything. For lack of a better term, I call it God. It may differ from how other people see God or maybe they don’t even believe in the existence of any kind of God but it does not matter to me. I believe in what I believe and it’s up to others to believe what they will, and that’s alright.
Or at least in a perfect world, it would be.
But we know that the world is not perfect; and in the midst of this imperfection, accepting or even tolerating differences is much easier said than done.
Reminiscing back to my elementary school subjects, we were taught that Indonesia is not a secular country nor is it a religious country. It’s a ‘Pancasila‘ country, believing in one God but not one particular religion. It’s easy to discern the good intentions of the leaders who formulated this in the first place but as we all know, intentions and actual practice don’t always walk hand in hand or even see eye to eye. Indonesia’s days has always been and still is filled with religious conflicts and as socially unaware as I wish to be, somehow I just can’t seem to not care.
The way I see it, religion is a way for people to get closer to God. It’s a personal relationship between you and whatever notion you have of God and, therefore, is ultimately a very personal choice. Yet human beings are social creatures and, people being people, most of us need others to share and support our beliefs. This is where organized religion comes in, institutionalizing this faith as a collective to strengthen each other and work together for certain goals. Again, a noble concept of good intentions; but how exactly is the practice?
The world isn’t perfect, and as much as we would like to believe otherwise, neither is any one human being. Hence even the noblest of our intentions are often tainted by personal agenda, egotistical desires, and impure motives. And you know what? Religious leaders, no matter how hailed or touted, are people too. We make mistakes and bad decisions, cast judgments and prejudices, and so do they. Most of us think they shouldn’t; but where exactly does ‘should’ stand in life? Which is why religious teachings, which in essence teaches love – of self, of others, and of the Almighty referred to as God – can and are easily diverted or manipulated whether on purpose or otherwise. Especially in matters of faith, where right or wrong can only be endlessly debated without ever reaching a logically definitive conclusion yet ultimately decided by whatever dogma we happen to believe in, it’s too easy to forget our conscience and follow the lead of a charismatic, influential, or persuasive voice.
I don’t see the point in religious conflict because I don’t believe that any religion is better than others, just as I don’t believe that any particular lifestyle or belief system or personality is better. More suitable, perhaps; but not better. There’s no benefit that can be gained here from the old method of compare and contrast. And what and who exactly are we defending? Our faith? Our way of life? Our ego and how we think people and the world should be? It’s a pointless battle where nobody really wins at the end. As far as religion is concerned, it’s time to put God back into the equation and stop using the same God as an excuse.
I’d rather follow a clear conscience than any reward of heaven or threat of hell.