America and religion

By Jeff Smith

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In a recent interview comedian Aziz Ansari said he has never liked religion because his first experience with it was being told not to do something he really liked. This was eating pork.

He was raised Muslim but didn’t understand a lot of the reasoning behind not eating pork.

It seems odd to me for religion to be seen by Ansari as some type of  weird quirk.

But religion shouldn’t be something that is seen as a customary quirk, or even as a tradition that runs in the family.

Many people will form religious beliefs just because their parents told them to do it and that is how they were raised. People might not ever be challenged on what they actually believe and why.

Religious beliefs have to carry meaning and give you a sense of purpose. In a way, it should affect every part of your life.

We are blessed to live somewhere where we are free to express our beliefs and are allowed to have our beliefs be a fundamental part of our lives.

Yesterday was the Fourth of July, it was the day we celebrate having our inalienable rights.

Our founding principles were actually based on reason and not religion. But a person doesn’t have to look far in order to see religion and in particular Christianity influencing daily life. “One Nation under God” is in our pledge of allegiance, “In God We Trust” is on our currency and 75 percent of polled people in 2015 identified as Christians.

Did Christianity played a part in America’s founding? Depends on who you ask. Those who established and approved the Declaration of Independence were protestant in nature or held some type of Christian beliefs but they didn’t want to go back to religion having authority over government. In most parts of the country today, in my opinion, Christianity has been a unifying force rather than a polarizing one. There are few places a person can go today and be welcomed regardless of age or the amount of money they have in their wallet. I think any good church on Sunday is one of them. It should be seen as a beloved right to be able to express belief in any God and to go to a mosque, a church or a temple.

Our religions are meant to carry us through hard times. When I am going through a difficult situation or trying to make a difficult decision I will always pray.

Prayer is something that has been taught and re-taught to me but I don’t just do it because someone told me to do it. I have seen it work. I have used it to protect myself and others.

It’s easy to pray in the hard times but it can be a challenge for me to pray all the time.

In a way I am religious but I am also not. I do believe that God can get me anything but I don’t believe that following a systemic set of procedures will get me to heaven.

I believe religion is personal but also should be shared with others if you want it to grow. That has been the toughest part for me, actually taking ownership of it. That means not just going to church every now and again, but going to church as a necessary part of my life. This is not just for my faith to grow but also for my personal growth. It helps me get out of my comfort zone and prepares me to look at my week differently.

Men and women have died so we could go to church. People should understand there are people in other countries who would really enjoy going to church. It’s also OK to not go to church or to have no religion at all. Around the holidays I think of the many people who don’t have religious beliefs. To me, holidays and times with family is when I am most grateful for a creator for orchestrating everything in my life.

At the same time I believe in the Thomas Jefferson quote of “it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

I do want people to believe in God I just don’t think religion should be seen as something that is forced upon someone though. I think it’s perfectly acceptable if someone wants to believe in scientific principles and reason over religion.

But there needs to be a coexistence of the two. Both reason and religion is important. It’s possible to be nice to your neighbor and still be a follower of Jesus or anyone else.

I think there is a lot of correlation between those who are religious and those who are moral. But some of the nicest people I have met have never been to church.  Most major religions have the belief of reaching out to other people with kindness. Sometimes I think that needs to be preached more so it could be practiced more.

Be kind and compassionate to one another. Eat bacon, or don’t. Realize there are reasons families want their children to grow up Christian or another religion. I know religious beliefs are a key component of someone’s identity and America’s identity.

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