Ramadan, church, and seders oh my. What religion means to me

My closest friends and family would certainly attest that when it comes to religion, I am definitely outspoken—sometimes perhaps beligerant. And although I may agree that I often vent my frustrations and annoyances I have with belief systems. I feel as if I have been misrepresented as to my beliefs. So this post is about what I do like about religion and about my personal beliefs.

First and foremost, I don’t hate religon. In fact quite the opposite. I find a lot a beauty in the rituals, beliefs, and traditions. I think its power to change people is profound. I haven’t traveled a whole lot around the globe, but I have been to the Vatican and seen the beauty of the catholic faith in person expressed through grand gesture, ritual, and breath-taking art. I have been to Bangkok and seen how Buddism fills the lives of everyone from the business executive to the taxi driver. I have entered the Hindu temples of Bali and seen hundreds of offerings everyday sitting on street corners, front doors, and beaches. I have woken to the beautiful prayer calls in Jakarta and watched as swarms of people make their way to the mosque. I have celebrated holidays with Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike–bonding over food and conversation. I’ve cried at funerals, applauded at weddings, and witnessed baptisms a plenty. All of these things remind me that religion is about the people who live with faith in their heart. Faith that life will endure. Laughter will always make you feel better, and love and compassion will conquer. It is this belief in people that led to me to my personal spirituality. Personal is the key word there as it is my belief and I don’t expect anyone else to adopt it.

So what do I believe? In life period. Call it agnostic, spirituality, or atheist. But to me, living a religious life is about the experience of living, the beauty of presence, the importance of reflection, and the solace of expectation. These things are what makes life rich to me. I love the message of love my mom’s pastor preaches every Sunday. I embrace the beauty and challenge of fasting for Ramadan every year with my wife. I look forward to participating in a Passover seder with friends every spring. I whole heatedly believe in the magnitude of sharing experiences regardless of my or anyone else’s walk of life. After all, I grew up Christian, became atheist in college, became close friends with a Mormon and two Jews, and I married a Muslim. I have personally peeked into many lives and seen the ups and downs religion has caused to those close to me. It’s with that experience that I draw these conclusions. I am still young, and I am open for it to change as long as it is an inclusive change. Regardless of that change though, I will still seek out experiences and human interaction throughout my life.

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