I am not sure God is angry with you because many of us have thought, said, and done unspeakable things yet we haven’t experienced any divine retribution like in the old testament stories.
For some people, religion feels like mere history or folklore that has little to do with modern society’s development. Others may doubt their faith in the face of dreadful and unfair circumstances. As a result, they decide to abandon it.
Furthermore, science and technology seem to be lowering the effect of religious systems in some parts of the world. This is usually because it’s easier/better to
- use reason,
- plan our lives based on facts, and
- do what others are currently doing.
Science can destroy religion by ignoring it as well as by disproving its tenets. No one ever demonstrated, so far as I am aware, the non-existence of Zeus or Thor — but they have few followers now.— Arthur Clarke, 1917-2008, British Sci-Fi writer
However, no matter what, religion is one of the strong foundations of human civilization. Not even an attack on history can wipe out its significance from our experience. It’s not just ingrained in societal structure, but also a long evolutionary process in our consciousness. It manifests in our behavior to the benefit of our race.
- It has prompted sociable connections within societies (through encouraging peaceful coexistence).
- Help people cope with difficult life situations ( through the practice of praying, telling stories, and recalling testimonies in the holy books).
- Provides guidelines to live by (i.e. ethical codes, values, devotions, rituals, and so on)
- Receives any person, despite their background – past, culture, or even race – and units them with others under a single belief, custom, or moral codes.
- Leads to a meaningful life philosophy (since rewards are often promised and hoped for in this life or the afterlife).
- Inspires gratitude and awareness of human interaction with their physical environment ( just as the Daoist teaching holds that harmony with nature rids us of ego and anxiety).
There are so much more you can think of (or just feel in your heart; assuming you are religious yourself).
Despite the numerous benefits, when you try to keep up with all of its rituals and teachings – as you try to balance your resistance and attachment to its demands – you may (often) encounter some sort of conflict.
What Is a Religious Dilemma?
Religious Dilemma is an internal battle between your opinions and religious beliefs, ideals, and codes. It usually manifests itself in the form of vulnerable or emotional questions. Consequently provoking you to extreme behavior.
- You may believe in a loving God but find it hard to justify that love when something horrific happens to you or the people you love (e.g. the loss of a loved one or career).
- When karma doesn’t work. Yes, you may question the certitude of your faith when you see bad people go scot-free from their crimes (e.g. bad cops and corrupt politicians).
- You might have been offered a certain kind of meal, pleasure, or opportunity (which according to your senses – eyes, nostrils, and brain – is savory), but declined it because your faith forbids it.(E.g. pork as with Jews).
And so on.
My Once-upon-a-time Experience of a Religious Dilemma.
I had consciously accepted Christianity as my faith. So it was expected of me to put away my “sinful nature” and never repeat “transgressions of the past”.
The good news was I didn’t have much of a sacrilegious history save masturbation (which in my defense is natural and even healthy).
Anyway, the conflict was stronger because jerking off was also my survival mechanism against insomnia and anxiety. (Even for Christ’s sake), I couldn’t imagine giving up the one thing that made me sleep at night and be calm during the day. It is no small struggle and I can assure you, billions of people transgress in this regard.
How can you deal with such a dilemma? Biology and reason against faith (or fear?)
As a Christian, you are meant to quit such “an immoral” act, but as a person who finds relief and comfort in it, you desire to continue.
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”– Apostle Paul; (Romans 7:15)
Is It Possible To Stop Sinning? (Why do you have religious dilemmas?)
It’s no news that, repeatedly, people go against their religious standards (both intentionally and unintentionally) as they go about their daily lives. For example, business owners have the inclination to exploit customers for gains (and sometimes it gets excessive). This is known as Riba – and is highly condemned in the Islamic religion. And, the temptation to sin – to do something wrong – is a slippery slope (and it doesn’t take much for one to forget they are sliding, or how much they’ve slid).
Humans are bound to err but few amongst us are likely to acknowledge this publicly. Mostly, because they don’t want to be perceived as unholy, unclean, depraved, immoral, or a borderline evildoer. Hence, they keep it a secret. The fear is justified, because sinners get punished (and depending on the religion and gravity of sin, it could mean death).
Besides, everything you believe today, including your most cherished doctrines, will eventually be challenged and proven to be erroneous (or only partly correct) someday.
There were times,
- Jewish people had strict rules about how men and women are to dress (Tzniut) and what to eat or not eat (Kashrut), but today such regulations hold little or no weight at all.
- Many religions have laws on how to sleep with a woman or man (but those have little weight today).
- The Roman Catholic Church once banned forks, Some Hasidic communities still consider forks a modern excess.
- Christianity once (and still largely) consider gay marriage a sacrilege. But today, some factions bless such unions.
- Polygamy was once commonplace (in many religions) but is now gradually declining and getting frowned at.
And on and on. Laws and precepts twist and transform with time.
What is sin today may not be sin tomorrow, and vice versa. But that’s not all.
Religious contradictions mean everyone is sinning at all times (depending on the religion you judge from)
How Do Religions Contradict Each Other?
Countless religious ideals contradict each other (sometimes even within the same religion). For example, Christianity upholds the belief in Jesus as “the Son of God”, yet maintaining God had a son is a blasphemy in Islam.
To help you understand what I am trying to say, there is an Indian folklore about five blind men and an elephant, frequently used to explain religion:
All five blind men were invited to describe what an elephant is like. As each man touched a different part of the elephant, they assumed that the whole elephant was like the part they touched.
The one who touched the side of the elephant announced that the elephant was like a wall.
The next one who touched the tail said that an elephant was like a rope.
One of the men who touched the leg said that the two others were crazy and that an elephant is like a tree trunk.
Another who touched the ear loudly declared that an elephant was similar to a banana leaf.
Afterward, the fifth man touched the tusks and said elephants were like swords.
They all touched one elephant but had several contradictory experiences of it.
The tale was meant to illustrate that religion conveys different explanations about the nature of the world and that many people would have different views about certain truths; and are likely to insist that every other person is wrong.
Considering the complexity of the world (and the societies we’ve built and are building), it’s unlikely that religious people would escape the turmoil of religious dilemmas regardless of the strength of their conviction.
Hence, to lead a peaceful and harmonious life, you are tasked to find ways to resolve or live above religious qualms.
But I fear, even such an idea as I have described above is blasphemous to certain religions and may as well result in internal conflicts if considered (hence they won’t).
There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it.— George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950, Irish writer, Nobel 1925
How To Resolve Religious Dilemmas:
If religion is perceived like the proverbial elephant (although I must admit, it’s an oversimplification), then what? If we dig deeper into the story, we might discover that half of the problem lies with the blind men and not the elephant.
It could be that the blind men were not aware that they were blind. How can we explain their ignorance? They were naive about their limitations, which is one of the very reasons they were not able to recognize they were wrong with the description of the elephant.
We are often in a similar position when we are unaware of our oblivion and limited perception of things. It becomes impossible for you to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong, as well as your own thoughts from those of others (or reality itself). This results in anxiety, confusion, and eventually interpersonal conflicts.
The journey of finding yourself amidst the countless information and opinions fighting your attention – that’s what Self-discovery means. And you need to go on this journey, to see what is real, rather than solely depending on the interpretation of others (about the proverbial elephant).
This will be more beneficial to yourself and society. This is because this process will help you overcome hypocrisy, self-doubt, and anxiety. Therefore, developing a character that is based on truth, hence authentic and strong (not mere sheep-like or based on naivete and fear).
You may ask, “How can I discover myself?”
Well, consider that the blind men were not curious enough too. Had they been, they would have walked around the elephant and felt the other parts of it.
Rather than absorbing information based on its popularity or who is behind the message, you must be determined to find who you are, what you believe in, and your priorities.
Question and try the teachings you’ve heard. Are they valid and worthy of practice? Do they resonate with your experience and human values? Are the demands justifiable or ridiculous? On what rationale are they established? Was it really God or the ideas of some ancient (underdeveloped, uncivilized, confused, or even cynical) mind? Is it helpful?
Answering these questions is a huge leap into resolving religious dilemmas.
But remember to stay humble and honest in your journey. Arrogance doesn’t lead to genuine enlightenment.
“Self-discovery is a process of solving your own problems – from shallow to deep – until you reach the point where you can act from a place of authenticity.”– Dan Koe
Also Read: What Is The Truth?
Finally, What Experience Taught Me About Religion:
In its true sense, religion isn’t rigid like most people think it is. In my opinion, its ultimate purpose is to guide and help us become better. To master our emotions and impulses. To help us resist ‘the devil’ that lurks in all our hearts. There was no intention to be judgmental or tyrannical in it.
Yet, in its dealings, you must accept that life/nature is never limited by your religion or beliefs. Nature doesn’t choose who to or not to favor. It can throw a little bit more than you can handle. Sometimes, making you act rashly, bitterly, and even cynically.
The good news is that you can manage (if not completely resolve) your religious internal conflicts when you take up the cross (responsibility) of self-discovery and development – when you go in search of God, the truth, or some greater ideal by yourself.
Perhaps the world will be much better when people start choosing love and empathic actions over mere/flawed laws.
Recommended Content: Finding Harmony Within Chaos: 3 Steps to Resolve Your Internal Conflict.
A mindful self-help writer and photographer