This article was previously published on Wednesday, September 16, 2015 in vol. 27 Issue 16 of the Beacon. Be sure to check it out on fiusm.com!
Our world is submerged in sacred messages, debates and symbols. Religion is the way we humans – as dwellers of the earth – rationalize the vertical, unexplainable forces of our world.
We are the only creatures on the planet who are aware of our souls. Consequently, we live in the dissonant shadow cast from both the natural and the spiritual. We have instinctive, satisfiable needs such as the need to eat, sleep and reproduce, though, we also have philosophical needs. Among these exist the need to find purpose, the need to thoroughly understand our surroundings and think about the social, political and spiritual powers in our world. This elevated thought is a massive part of what makes us human.
Religion as something intangible, cannot be described in any way that is sufficient in portraying the strong, metaphysical experiences felt by its people. Humans have an anthropomorphic language – we can only explain things in human terms. Unlike science, religion is not observable, only the practices are. This, in combination with the ambiguity of religious texts, creates skepticism to those who don’t understand it.
How can they? Religion is a language in itself. To attempt to decipher something so abstract is comparable to trying to understand a language you don’t speak.
In order to comprehend these religious views of the universe, humans process its concepts through a network of metaphor, symbol and ritual. Just as a writer provides a communicative experience through the english language, the symbols and metaphors in religious scriptures are vessels to understanding the “greater truth” of human existence.
But whatever this “greater truth” is has created a lot of heated conflict about what it means to exist, or whether it means anything at all. All of this conflict is primarily rooted in the misunderstanding that there can only be one “greater truth.”
The “truth” is simply that no one is going to experience life in the same way. Life is the unfolding and folding of our individual experiences.
Some of us will live grabbing the branches that we see in front of us, some of us need to invent the branches as we climb and some may not even climb up or down this metaphorical life-tree. There is not one meaning to life, nor is there one sacred truth. There is not one interpretation to religion, but many individual ones.
Age-old tension between opinions of what the will of the greater power is has bred terrorism. Such is most infamously known to the American individual as the attack of Sept. 11. This tragedy resulted in the death of 2,977 innocents in al-Qaeda’s declaration of holy war against the United States. Families lost mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons, and the United States lost the heroes who rushed toward the chaos, not away.
Another instance exists in the way United States citizens obtained their homes. This land was not always ours, as is common knowledge, but what we don’t always think about is the murder of the Native American empires that were here first. They were forced to change their “savage” ways “in the name of God.” A god that was not their own, but in the eyes of the Christians, the only god.
It is easy to say that the Native Americans were more honorable than the Christian empires that came to build churches and plant crosses in order to perpetuate their idea of truth. These are both extreme situations where the clashing of religious truths has occurred.
Today, we live in an age where science, politics and religious pursuit continue to live alongside each other. This has proven to be a dangerous mix, especially with so many opinions of what is right and what is wrong. With the changing world and its advances, like the legalization of gay marriage, religion is also being forced to change and adapt. These social reforms will challenge the set notions of many religions. Those who struggle to broaden their views will undoubtedly resist change.
There is an ancient Native American proverb about earth’s conservation: “We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children. We are more than the sum of our knowledge, we are the products of our imagination. ”
While today, this is mostly applied in terms of environmental preservation, it is important to consider it in terms of communal preservation as well.
The earth has seen its share of religious war, either side arguing that they, and only they, know what is divine and right. That their truth is the only truth. We have seen political conflicts arise from the clashing of religious, cultural and social values. This is the climate our parents left for us to work with. We are living on the brink of cultural reform. As college students, it is our duty to make our visions of a better world a reality. Whether we manifest this as a smile to a stranger, voting, or action through campaigns such as the “It’s On Us” movement, it is our turn to meet the world with open eyes and minds. The conditions we breed will pass into the hands of our children, and they, in turn, to their children; for we all can only borrow the earth.