Friday, May 10, 2013

#77- Relationships and Religion

I will never forget watching a show or a movie that had a heartbreaking scene.  A young man was telling a woman, who was either his mother or girlfriend-I forgot, that she would never see him again.  He joined a religious group that demanded all of his time.  They were his new family and he just wanted to say good bye.

He walked away and the woman was shattered.  That scene stayed in the back of my mind.  In my private journey I had witnessed similar situations where a person's religion changed them so much that it caused a rift between their old friends and family.



"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."- Jesus (Luke 14:26)



The following are short examples of how religion affected some people I know:

In middle school a super Christian was so adamant about being pure that he destroyed his older brother's hip hop tapes.

My best friend's older brother joined the up-start church called "South Florida Church of Christ" in the late 1990s.  He stopped going to his old family Episcopalian church and slowly started to get involved in the activities of his new friends from the South Florida Church.  This led to bickering with his mom who told him that this new church was a "cult".

Another friend that I grew up with moved to north Georgia in the early 90s and became a super Christian. His parents were not religious but supported him in his new found interest in Jesus. I could tell that they found his zeal from Jesus uncomfortable and obnoxious but they kept it to themselves.

At my old church there was a young lady who was a prominent member of the choir who suddenly stopped coming to church.  When the church held a picnic at a local park I went along to play football.  The young lady showed up surprisingly.  There was an obvious discomfort around her.  I asked a mutual friend why people were treating her so strangely and I was told it is because they heard she joined a cult that "took her head".  I eventually agreed to visit this cultish group. That  encounter ended up furthering my path towards atheism.  I did not know that would be the result at the time.



34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn
“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.  37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
-Jesus (Matthew 10:34-37)
 

I have a half-sister in New York who is an avid Jehovah's Witness.  The JW's are known for their shunning techniques if you decide to leave them or disagree with them openly.  I made the mistake of bringing up religion when she and I first met and that caused her not to talk to me for over a year.

I had a friend who was of Nigerian descent who was in a relationship with a guy who was also Nigerian.  Her father approved of him which never happens.  But there was a problem:  he was Muslim and she was "rediscovering her Christianity".  They were the first couple that I knew of that religion ruined.

Before the experiences I assumed that God and religion was about love and overcoming obstacles.  But the reality is that religion is a divisive agent.  It also serves as a glue for communities as long as you are a member in good standing.  I know of no religious group that actively solicit challenge to their doctrine or way of life.

I've heard that some Jews active urge their people to marry within the Jewish community in order to keep the Jewish race alive and active.



"They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.”
Ezra (Ezra 9:2)

I was told that Muslim men are able to marry non-Muslim women but not vice versa.




"Do not marry unbelieving women (idolaters), until they believe: A slave woman who believes is better than an unbelieving woman, even though she allures you. Nor marry (your girls) to unbelievers until they believe: A man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever, even though he allures you. Unbelievers do (but) beckon you to the Fire. But Allah beckons by His Grace to the Garden (of bliss) and forgiveness, and makes His Signs clear to mankind: That they may celebrate His praise."
Muhammad (al-Baqarah, 221)



What happened to love?  Well, later I found out that there is plenty of verses in the popular holy books that support division among people of different creeds, races, and cultures.  This was never covered in church like I read it.  Allusions were made to dating Christian or trying to persuade the non-Christian to become Christian just to date.

Jesus said to hate everyone in your family to follow him.  Ezra forbade mixed marriages with Babylonians and made women and children walk out to the desert without their husbands or dads.  There was a couple that got killed in the time of Moses because the woman was a Canaanite.


Moses was a hypocrite and not only married a foreigner who saved his life from his god but married another.

These events each had their impact on me but the show/movie had me wondering what I would do if one of my loved ones decided to join a group that I was not comfortable with.  Being that I am very liberal I did not see me as holding them back from pursuing their interests.  I would tell them what I thought of the group and attempt to see what possible dangers their may be.  At the same time, I wonder if I should be more adamant about my children's critical thinking about any group.


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