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Columns and Reflections

Life Is My Religion

from Totally Fushed, April 2002

We don’t have to look beyond our immediate existence to solve our problems. Religion, the belief in a reality greater than human reality, has existed in many forms since the birth of man. It has been used as a guide to life, and told us how to live it. But life should not be about the afterlife. It should be about the here, the now. Why do we have to look beyond ourselves to enforce our humanity? Why can we not be liberated and free to live within our own existence? Why must ‘true freedom’, as the religious say, come from a ‘Higher Being’? What about faith in the human race, in humanity? Spirituality can exist independently of religion, and just because we don’t believe does not mean we must live soulless lives.

A devoutly Christian friend of mine once opined that humans are reduced to the level of animals by not embracing religion. This is typical of the arrogance of humanity. The fact is, humans are animals. We’re just another species on this planet. We may have concepts such as society and religion to help us believe otherwise, things that other creatures don’t have; but that is simply because it suits our existence. Humans have a need to cling to something outside themselves; when in fact, I think, our true reality could be found through introspection. So what if we have greater ‘intelligence’ than all other species? Most of the time we use this as an excuse to kill each other, just like we use our ‘beliefs’. Other animals fight for survival; we fight to annihilate people who don’t agree with us.

My aforementioned friend also claims that his branch of Christianity is the ‘One True Faith’. Now, my friend is possibly the least egotistical person you could ever meet, but it is arrogant to believe in a ‘One True Faith’. No doubt believers in all religions regard theirs to be this. It is arrogance such as this that breeds the intolerance which leads to things like the Inquisition, Nazism, and eventually genocide.

It must be noted the difference between ‘religion’ and ‘organised religion’. The connection is more tenuous than some people may think. Religion is an ideal, a belief. Organised religion is a power struggle between conglomerates, a political weapon. The proof of this is the hierarchical nature of most religions, whereby it is decided that ‘this person is closer to God than this one’. Martin Luther’s original idea of ‘the priesthood of all believers’ was to abolish this. Somewhere along the line, Protestantism lost the plot. Also proof is the petty bickering that goes on between denominations – ‘this day should be a holy day’, ‘no, I say it should be this one’; ‘priests should be allowed to get married’, ‘no, they shouldn’t’. The Catholic Church remains one of the most powerful political bodies in the State, notwithstanding the moral bankruptcy it has demonstrated in recent decades.

In my darkest hour, I lay in hospital, in great pain on so many levels. I was bitterly lonely, in need of love and something to love. I did not need God to get me through. I was loved by my friends and family; and I had my love for life. A short while ago, I was privileged to get a look at photographer David Stephenson’s Hunger. This collection features photos of those who went to find comfort at the Relics of Saint Therese, which recently travelled around the country. Looking at Hunger, I thought, who am I to judge such devotion? But equally, why should I be condemned for having life as my religion, living it as my practise, and my friends, my family, my emotions and my thinking as my spiritual leaders?        

I don’t believe in the afterlife, but I believe in life.

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