I saw a Facebook post today about how the problem with violence in our society isn’t guns, it’s that we’re a “Godless society.” It irritates the hell out of me when things are so ridiculously simplified. Religion can be comfort, but it doesn’t solve the root causes of violence, such as mental illness, drugs, poverty, despair, etc. However, when really set me on edge was the implication that people who “do not have God,” so to speak (one can assume that Hindus and Muslims, who do technically believe in gods, are not included here as it isn’t the “right” god) are the root cause of violence. That if we just went to their church (whatever specific sect of Christianity that happens to be to that person) that we’d live in Utopia, because people who claim to be Christian have never hurt anyone, right? …Right? Anyone?
(A quick aside about me. My family has guns. I’m a decent shot myself. I’m not opposed to people owning weaponry, but I do think that requiring training and background checks is fair. I want the people who have guns to be sane and responsible. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. My religion and my stance on guns have nothing to do with each other.)
I know a great many people from a variety of religions. My friends range from Evangelical Christians to Atheists. I don’t know a single one who has ever shot somebody, or hurt someone in any other way. How do we explain this? By the “reasoning” of the Facebook post, only the Christian should be a kind person. Yet, they all are. Every single one.
I was once talking to a neighbor who asked me where I went to church. When I replied that I was a Buddhist, she said, “But–how can you be a good person without God? What keeps you from killing people if you don’t believe in hell?”
I’m a good person because I was raised in a loving household with kind parents, loving family and good role models. I was taught–without religion–that injuring people, stealing, telling lies, and wreaking havoc would make me into an unpleasant person. It would be hard to make friends and find love if I behaved like that. I was taught to leave the world better than I found it if I could, to fight for things that are valuable, to give to those who need it, and to treat others with respect. I didn’t need God to punish me if I didn’t; the world has enough consequences on its own. I find it strange that people think that without their religion, they’d be raping and pillaging. What does it say about a person that they need to be afraid of divine retribution in order to show common decency?
I’m a Buddhist. I chose that path because it made the most sense to me and provides comfort when I need it. I believe in Karma and reincarnation. I don’t care if you like that or you don’t. What I believe about my own soul has no direct impact on your life, just as what you believe about your soul has no impact on mine, so leave me to it. However, just for my own amusement, let’s measure my life by the religious right’s standards.
Married? Yep, eight years, and still as happy as the day we met. Children? Two. I stay home with them, because I’m fortunate enough to do so. House? Yep. Fenced yard and all, we’re just missing the dog. Job? I’ll go back when my girls are older, but my husband works hard to take care of us. We have barbeques with friends in the backyard, go swimming with our kids, take daytrips in the car to see local sights and eat ice cream on the curb. We’re as (Japanese) American as apple pie, but we’re just….godless. And totally okay with it.
Apparently to some, that means that success and happiness are a cover for something vile and dangerous. To some, this happy family and smiling little girls are a ticking time bomb. To some, the people that write and share these sorts of ridiculous things, no person could ever find peace in a path that isn’t theirs, and they’re not shy about spreading pain. It does hurt to be told that your beliefs make you dangerous, even if it’s untrue.
There is a Buddhist saying: “There are many paths up the Mountain, but the view of the moon from the top is the same.” A Buddhist monk once told me that to him, it meant that people may need help to find a path–meditation, God, Allah, Krishna, Tao, etc, or maybe they don’t need a guide and they walk alone, but the destination is the same. People, he said, try to find a niche in the world, try to find love and belonging and peace, and that’s the moon. How you get there is your choice. And, he cautioned me, don’t walk on someone else’s path without permission. They know what’s best for them.
That’s what made me angriest about the post. They were trying to tread on my path. It makes me livid when others try to tell me that if I was just Christian, or just an Atheist, or just…something else, I’d be on the right track. But I’m already on the right track. I have what I want. Walk with me or walk alone, but I know where I’m going.