I’ve been on a spiritual journey of late. I’ll spare you all the details—they’re scattered and frankly hard for me to corral—but in the last few years I’ve been trying to reconcile my feeling of connection with a higher power with the seemingly arbitrary (and sometimes hypocritical) boundaries of organized religion. I think we all have that connection, actually; I think a spiritual longing is a deeply embedded part of the human race. It’s part of us, the want for a connection with God. Some call it Christianity, some Islam, some fishing. Even atheism is a form of faith—such a steadfast belief that the only things that exist in the universe are those we can perceive with our limited human senses takes more faith than most religions, in my opinion.
But for years now, I’ve asked myself, “why this religion?” Can it really be that a single set of rules and regulations is the one way, truth, and light, and all others (most of which are shockingly similar at their cores) are flat wrong? What a coincidence it would be that the religion I was born into is the only one that counts. I’m already white and male. I can’t be that lucky.
That’s always seemed unlikely to me, that only one religion is the true way. They’re all man-created, after all. So if we’re to acknowledge that—that it’s unlikely the slim set of rules of our birth is the single path to heaven—then we walk into a whole bundle of other questions. Namely, how can all of these religions coexist? How can any of them coexist?
A few months back I was perusing audiobooks (I can’t read) and I ended up downloading this one: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. The book was fascinating to me because it pieced together the historical record of Jesus the man (as opposed to Jesus the Christ), a figure on whom there is curiously little information available. The author, Reza Aslan, is a scholar of religion who has spent time as both a devout Christian and Muslim. This blew my mind—he had been behind enemy lines for two different armies. Few people can say that. So I’ve been seeking out more of his work, and stumbled upon the following YouTube clip.
It’s only five minutes, but it might be the most profound thing I’ve ever heard on the difference between faith and religion. It’s one of the only things that has come close to articulating an answer to my question. Please watch if you’re at all interested in the matter.