18 April 2014

"What the Hell is Religion?"

A Reflection of my Religion 101 Class, with a rather pretentious but honest-as-possible ending.
As soon as I started registration for college, I asked the counselor if there was a Religions of the World class. I was eager to take it because I plan on serving an LDS mission in the fall. I wanted to know as much as I possibly could about what other people were thinking before I went out and told them my way was better. The two most memorable phrases Dr. Anderson has ever said to me came on the first day of class. First, “What the hell is Religion?” I thought it was witty and ironic, and I liked to think I understood witty humor and was cool enough to nod in comprehensive laughter. 
Religion is a system comprised of people with similar belief, with rituals to enact those beliefs. Religion is a community, a therapist, and an inspiration. Religion is controlling, violent, and destructive. These are all things Religion can be, and have been. Learning about all these denominations and connecting them to real people has been impactful for me. Seeing the sacred value of family in Shintoism is so beautiful, something that wouldn’t be as significant without the religion. Then, seeing the violent, even murderous rites of passage and rituals in other religions shocked me and broke my heart. But that’s something about humans I learned. We have incredible, extreme capabilities when motivated by fear, love, or family. 
A lot of religion is about perspective. In learning about all these religions, I see that our actions are totally dependent on our situation and even beliefs about consequences. That brings me to Professor Anderson’s next little quotation. “If you no one, you know none.” This one really smacked me in the face and reiterated why I was there all throughout the course. If you’re happy 100% of the time, and never sad, you aren’t really happy, you just are. The opposition is necessary. Opposition is also necessary in knowledge. To know what a prime number is, you also need to know what it isn’t. This especially became significant when we discussed Religion’s role in the world. 
If I put on the close-minded, Mormon girl bubble glasses, I’m not going to think very highly of other people, and especially other Religions. This class has influenced my view of Religion by enhancing my perspective of people. People like certainty, and I think that is one thing Religion does really well for some people. Death is the one thing that happens to everybody that nobody knows everything about. When searching for a Religion (if they have the opportunity to do so) they may go with the one that gives them the best feeling and most satisfying answers. 

Most people are also essentially obligated toward family in some way. In families all around the world, Religion is absolutely foundational.  Religion can guide many significant stages of life, such as birth, puberty, marriage, death, and many in-betweens.
      More than anything, my Religions of the World class has confirmed and clarified by desire to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I am very young, not very smart, inexperienced and probably still rather naive. However, now I know I believe what I do because I personally want to and feel very happy about it. I can honestly say I have a respect for all other people and their way of life, because my way of life isn’t the only one. I would love to share the Church’s message with anyone with a desire and willingness. Religion, as illustrated by history, has enormous capabilities; which means people have them. I’m happy and grateful to be able to choose what I am a part of. I hope, someday, everyone feels like that have been able to do that, too.

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