The religious pulse of the planet

I’ve just finished watching an excellent documentary series on TV called Around the World in 80 Faiths. Anglican minister Peter Owen Jones took a year off from his parish to travel around the world and to, as he puts is, “Take the religious pulse of the planet.”

If I were still a Christian, I would have been shocked by his willingness to participate in some of the rituals. He did everything from drinking ayahuasca in a Brazilian rainforest to joining in naked at an urban witchcraft ceremony. As an ex-Christian, I have no judgement whatsoever to make on the man. In fact, his willingness to participate made it all the more fascinating.

The documentary looked at the major religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, various branches of these, cults, and other little known faiths.

I came away from the series with the realisation that you could end up as anything, depending on nothing more than where you were lucky or unlucky enough to be born. I finally started to appreciate what people mean when they dismiss Christianity with words like “Everybody has their own beliefs.” When you have an appreciation of the sheer diversity of religions on Earth, and the sheer commitment that all these people have to their own way being the true way, you start to see how incredibly tiny your own religious experience is in comparison to the experiences of others.

I feel a sense of sadness that the world is in this state of diversity, because if the idea of objective truth has any validity, then something somewhere is true. Of course, as soon as I say that, all of those religions are raising their hands claiming, “It’s us!”

Sadly, religions seem happy to survive and advance by presenting only a single version of reality to the young (indoctrination) and encouraging the herd mentality in all (social conditioning). Some also back that up with terror tactics – viewing life in an alternative way results in immediate damnation. Rarely does the subject of evidence come up.

If I’ve learned one thing from the mammoth task of finding the real truth in the haystack of religion, it’s the sheer improbability of finding it. And that, for me, means that I simply cannot take religion seriously.

You pick your religion (although usually it’s picked for you) and you bet your life on it. You hope that your way is the true way, and that your faith will see you safely through the mystery of death into the arms of God (or to your next life, or whatever).

I refuse to be indoctrinated and conditioned. I refuse to assume that the religion of my birthplace is the one true way. I cannot take seriously any threats of judgement without some serious weight of evidence to back it up.

The cure for religious indoctrination and conditioning is to reclaim your right to think your own thoughts – to always ask the question “Why?” when you don’t understand or don’t agree, and to never let yourself be guided by so-called “truths” dictated by nothing more than strength of numbers. Only then will your thoughts and decisions be your own, and only then will you have a hope in hell of discovering any genuine truth.

3 thoughts on “The religious pulse of the planet

  1. I think the same can be said of anything we do as humans really. And even applies, at least in part, to animals too.

    Pretty much everything we know and do, is controlled by faith. It can be good and bad. I’ve never put my finger in an electric socket, but my parents told me not to, because it was dangerous. And even when i grew up, i listened to what scientists had to say about electricity, and figured it was probably still best not to test it. I’d never seen anyone get electrocuted, so i took other peoples judgements, on faith.

    The problem, really, is that people on the whole can be corrupt and unworthy of our faith. One child might grow up in a Christian family, where the parents believe that all men and women are equal, in the sight of God, whether they are Christian or not, because we are all sinners, yet only through Jesus are some saved, nothing to do with their own merits, etc.

    Another child might grow up in a Christian household where the family believe that by accepting Jesus into their life, it makes them better than non-Christians. And bestow a certain arrogance on the child, making it think it should look down its nose at other people, who haven’t made the same decisions.

    Yet another child might grow up in a Christian family where the parents believe that not only are they better than non-Christians, but anyone who doesn’t follow their belief, or certainly walks against it, ie. homosexuals, is deserving of nothing less than death and damnation in hell.

    And none of us are without faith, in something. None of us have got to where we are, without having faith in some of the people and some of the things we’ve heard them say.

    We’ve all read books, heard people put across their own ideas and beliefs, and we take certain things in, leave others out. Even as an agnostic, i still have some beliefs, in what i think is right and wrong, what i think is important in life and whether i even think right and wrong matters. And i’ve learned each one of them from someone else, along the way.

    Religion is much the same, there’s so many levels of Christianity now (taking Christianity as an example). Because so many people have decided to only follow certain parts of the bible, or read it differently, or just plain don’t like parts of it. And that’s the reason i don’t see Christianity (or any religion) as a bad thing. Merely a vehicle, which can be used for good or bad, depending on the person driving.

  2. naomihamilton

    I actually watched that documentary. I didn’t know what to think of it at first. With me being a Christian, I thought some of the religions were wrong. But that’s just my opinion because of what I belive is true. I have no problems with anyone questioning what they do not understand, in fact I think it’s just the way it should be.

    I found it very eye-opening how that guy who took the journey, had the guts and the logic to question his faith, and experience others. It’s something I’m going to think about.

  3. Naomi,

    I would only encourage you to follow whatever course you think is right. As long as you are the one doing the thinking and the choosing, that’s what’s important.

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