Being raised Christian, I asked a lot of questions when I was young, and never received satisfying answers from other believers. But I thought that it was because I was young and couldn't yet understand the complex adult world and ideas, as there were many other things I didn't understand yet - calculus, politics, and football, for example.
When I arrived in my early adulthood, I was learning a lot in school, and yet, I still had questions. So I joined a Christian study group, and asked them there. I did not get answers. Instead I got silence. And the SMH response. Obviously, I didn't "get it."
Well, I didn't get it. And over time, I searched elsewhere with my questions. And I found answers but none of them were from believers. And because they cannot be answered by believers with any sound reply other than, "Because that's what I think, and so what I think must be true," they are questions that I think we should all ask about the religions that we believe in. Maybe it's time to be honest with ourselves. These questions could be used for anything, really. But for the purpose of this conversation, we're talking about religion.
1. If God exists, how do we know the religion we believe in is the one God wants us to believe in? In today's world, there are 21 major religions, and that's not counting all of the branches of each religion. Over the course of human history, there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of different religions and branches. A good number of them claim to the be "one" religion or the "right" one. How can we possibly know that our religion is the right one?
2. Why are there people in the world who have never heard of religion at all? If believing is required in order to get into heaven, for example, why would God condemn so many people over the course of history simply because they don't live in an area that has religion? How is that their fault?
If people who don't have religion actually don't go to hell because it's not their fault, then why would any religion encourage the spreading of their religion? If not having religion at all is a guaranteed path to heaven, wouldn't it be better then that nobody have religion and to keep everyone in the dark about it so they won't be stuck in the life-long trap of knowing about it and then running the risk of going to hell?
3. Why does believing and worshiping God trump being a good person? Not all religions have belief in God as the deciding factor of acceptance to heaven in their belief system, but of the ones that do, why is that the case? Why isn't simply being a good, moral, person enough to get someone into heaven?
4. Would my belief stand up to scrutiny to someone who has no idea what a religion or God is? Would my belief stand up to scrutiny to someone outside of your belief group? One of the major problems I had with what I was taught in bible study and Sunday school, is that in my child-like brain, I was seeing things through a "newbie's" eyes, and it didn't make sense when looked at that way. I had to believe in order to understand what I was believing. That didn't make sense to me. Not all religions do this, but many do. This is one reason I became Buddhist, because it was a "religion" that makes sense from the outside, even to non-practitioners.
5. What if God and my belief system is wrong? I took an American Indian Religion class in college, and I was immediately struck by how many of the religions "worked" even if it was totally and completely wrong. For example, one of the tribes believed that their ancestors came and gave them guidance and supported them in the after life. Even if they were totally wrong, and their ancestors were all in their heads, they wouldn't have to change anything in their practices. People could be non-believers and still be worshipping the memories of their ancestors. I didn't see this possibility in what I was taught. Leaving Christianity to live with a non-christian world view is a major shift. Major. That woke me up when I realized that.
6. Does my belief system make other people out to be a bad guy if they don't believe? That is a self-reflection that I couldn't reconcile. Not only was I taught that those who were not Christian weren't as good as Christians, but that if I didn't abide, I'd be a "bad guy" too - and God knows even if I *think* about being a non-Christian. That is a recipe for dysfunction I there ever was one. Perhaps, there's a reason some religions teach this.
7. Does this religion allow for new truths that we learn as the human race advances? I asked many times how could the bible and today's science be compatible. The answer was usually that the bible was allegories, yet at the very same time, they would do bible study as if what they understood at that time is still true today.
Perhaps if we ask these questions more often, the dangerous and dysfunctional religious will die out faster, and be replaced with ones that don't require blind belief or a disregard for the current state of society.