Why Religion has Made You a Jerk

By Brooke Kiewitt

The late, great coach Jimmy Valvano was delivering his ESPY speech back in 1993. He was also battling bone cancer. During his speech, he said on cancer research, “it may not save my life. But it could save my children, and it could save someone you love.”

Say you were dying of cancer, you wouldn’t discourage people from donating to the cause just because it wouldn’t help you, right? To me, the same works for prayer. You may not benefit from it, but it could help someone else. Don’t scoff at that.

I am not religious. In fact, I consider myself agnostic. But I am deeply fascinated with religion. My brother is a pastor, and I have always enjoyed his sermons. I have always enjoyed church services. But I don’t pray and I don’t remember the last time I have been to church.

On the one hand, it’s hard to believe in a supreme being that allows such horror to occur when there is supposed to be a plan and that he/she/it loves us. On the other hand, I look at nature and think there is no way I could have thought of that. I guess I believe in the existence but to think God has a plan is a joke to me. If you happen to believe that, I apologize.

But I am fascinated. I am fascinated with how it all started. For example, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are all under the Abrahamic faith. They’re all pretty similar but some parts are different. The stories are also beautiful to me. I own a Bible, Bhagavad Gita, and some Buddhist literature simply because I am drawn to the stories. I am hoping to collect more.

Recently, I have come to realize the one major thing that makes someone a jerk when it comes to religion. If someone has had an experience where they have seen or felt something, you’re a jerk if you try to discredit that. If someone has deep faith in God, Buddha, or whatever, and you try to denounce that, you’re a jerk. If someone takes comfort in prayer or meditation, and you try to deny the power of it, you’re a fucking prick.

Someone could be mired in depression. Someone could be going through an addiction. Someone could be grieving. Someone could simply be going through a stressful day. Someone could have been through a life-changing experience that involved seeing something that is not supposed to be there. I don’t know. And guess what, you don’t know either.

No, I won’t go over the usual “religion is the root of all evil” or that “religion has been misinterpreted and has made people hateful.” We have beat that horse to death for an exhaustingly long time. This has been a discussion since Plato wrote his dialogues.

Same goes in reverse. It’s not your place to chastise someone for the way they live. If they find deep joy in it in spite of everything being so fucked up, don’t try to take that away. But I am fascinated with your story and where you find solace. Where do you find deep joy? I would love to hear your stories! That matters to me more than what you believe in. Take care, and I hope you find deep joy in your day, and start again tomorrow.

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