It never occurred to me as a teen going to church, or later as an adult who no longer went to church (but still believed many of its doctrines) that it was not necessary to believe everything I was taught. I was under the assumption that the bible was absolutely true, every bit of it, and that the pastors and elders were above reproach as “God’s anointed.”
I believed these things because that’s what I was taught. I never questioned it. But I should have, because it turns out that it wasn’t all true and that some of the books of the bible are actually complete forgeries and some others were written anonymously.
This is something that is taught in many theological schools, yet you’ll likely never hear a preacher say a word about it. And unless you do your own research and learn to think for yourself, you’ll never know the difference. You’ll go on believing everything you’ve been taught. (This doesn’t just apply to the bible or to church by the way. That may not be your world. This applies to everything.)
So now I find myself in a place where I have to unlearn many of the things I was taught. Now I have to question everything.
Without educating ourselves, or at least the willingness to think deeply, it is quite easy to surrender ourselves to a fallacy. Especially if it is said with a lot of confidence or charm. We are mostly lazy in our willingness to think things through or do our own due diligence. This is why it’s so easy for political and religious leaders to fool the public (and many of them are fools themselves).
It’s okay not to attach your identity to a particular religion. You don’t have to call yourself a “Christian” (a derogatory name given by non-followers), or a “Buddhist” or something else. You don’t have to identify yourself as any of those things. Jesus did not found the Christian religion or its many doctrines, other people did. Buddha did not ask and probably didn’t want anyone to worship him (as some of his contemporary followers do). Jesus did not say or imply that we should canonize saints and pray to them as intercessors. Other people decided to do that.
You can follow certain religious doctrines if you wish, but you don’t have to. The message of any great spiritual teacher is that we need to go inward and find the presence of God within ourselves and from there we will find a peace and a grace that enables us to love others the way God loves us.
As far as Jesus being the “Messiah,” or that there even needs to be savior, is questionable. The idea that God became flesh and lived among the Jewish people in first century Judea, though not impossible, should be treated with skepticism. Particularly since we are reading about it through a historically unreliable set of documents.
The same goes for the virgin birth, water turning into wine, thousands of people being fed on only a few fish and some bread, and the beloved resurrection and ascension narrative. We have no way of knowing if these things actually happened, or if they are just really great stories that illustrate a deeper truth. Is it really necessary to believe those things in order to be acceptable to a loving God?
Many religions have been formed based on various different ideas of who or what God is. Even within each religion there are various sects and denominations, because we all have such different ideas about God. It’s okay to have differing views about God. The problems arise when we become so entrenched in our ideas that we believe all others are completely wrong. We end up (without realizing it) worshiping our ideas about God.
Who do we pray to when we pray and why do we pray when we pray? Is it our ideas about God that help us or is it God who helps us? When we are in need of help, is it our theological or doctrinal beliefs that we turn to, or do we seek a God of compassion?
In this sense don’t we all pray to the same God? Isn’t it our ideas and beliefs that get in our way and become our Gods when we are not able to get along with each other in matters of religion?