Religious interpretations should be determined freely by oneself

The end of my spring semester welcomed a slew of Facebook statuses, Tweets and chain e-mails filled with “warnings” and “reminders” of the impending “Judgment Day,” which was set to occur on May 21, according to Harold Camping, a Christian radio broadcaster. Camping has gone on to further claim that Oct. 21 will bring the end of the world.

Many of the messages I received via the Internet advised me of the activities I should spend my last few days of normal life doing. These same messages also reminded me of the lifestyle I could now be free from. Hoping I could get out of some inane tasks, such as cleaning my room and washing the car, I was mildly disappointed when the Saturday passed like any other and was, in fact, a beautiful sunny day.

Still, the social media implosion, while mostly filled with jest, reminded me of an unfortunate conversation I had in middle school. An acquaintance told me that when Judgment Day comes, I should not accept anything from the devil. She would also miss me terribly while she was in heaven and I was still on Earth. At the age of 12, I was mildly concerned that my family’s monthly trek to the temple was simply not enough to save us from this “Judgment Day.” I also wondered why my straight A’s and perfect conduct in school were not enough to get me to heaven too.

At the experienced age of 19, I now know not to take middle schoolers seriously, and that includes some parts of the 12-year-old version of myself. Additionally, my view of religion and its role in interpersonal interactions has evolved, bringing up a few important points that are applicable far beyond the age of 12.

First, pushing one’s personal spiritual or religious views on others is offensive and unnecessary. Extremists in every spiritual sector take to the streets not only to praise their own religion, but also to question the validity of others. Feeling strongly about one’s own beliefs is important and justified, but undermining the beliefs of others and demanding that they accept different beliefs are offensive acts.  In a country, such as the United States where each citizen is entitled to free thought, people can decide for themselves what form of spirituality they choose to take.

Additionally, many people base their spiritual beliefs on their individual experiences. While many judgments about others’ beliefs are made without a deeper personal understanding, the few that are made with respect to the individual are unjustified as well. It is not anyone’s job but your own to judge how your history shapes your spirituality.

Second, one should not let the extremists of any one school of spiritual thought taint their view of other followers. I do not respect those who take to the streets with picket signs about why their religion is the best. I do not respect those who block other religions from their homes, their schools or even their entire nations. I do not respect those who kill others for not supporting the “right” religion. If I automatically lost respect for an entire demographic of believers on the basis of my opinion of one of their followers’ actions, however, I would have no respect for anyone, including the followers of my own religion, Hinduism. Ultimately, each religion hosts a wide range of potential interpretations, all of which should be left to each individual.

Most important, however, is that the actual “truth” of spirituality is unclear. Does Judgment Day, or any sort of equivalent, truly exist? Does a higher spiritual entity exist? Does it matter if we are in active pursuit of wisdom, charity or goodwill? The answers to these questions are all unclear, so time spent supporting or refuting religious arguments is wasted.

In general, claiming what one’s religion considers to be the “truth,” while denouncing all other spiritual views without a thoughtful discussion and expecting everyone else to automatically accept this conclusion of events is childish, harkening back to the age of 12, an age at which few people should be taken seriously.


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