As we are wrapping up our religion course and writing our final essay, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on religion. We tend to see religion in society as groups of people believing certain things, but we often forget that religion is personal for each person. It is personal in the way it is practiced and what one actually believes. We loosely group religions together and then fight over who is right, when actually, we are all just trying to find meaning in our lives. Religion though, do hold a prominent position in our world today.
I have been pondering many questions related to religion in our world. What is religion? What does it mean to be religious? Can a person be religious without having a religious affiliation? Does one have to believe in God to be religious or a part of a religion? Who defines religion? What types of rituals are important for different religions? These questions are so daunting and confusing precisely because religion is different for every person. So, let us just say that religion can be whatever one wants it to be, but I believe that in the essence of all religion, of all life, there is always love. Religion and love cannot be separated, for without love, there is no religion.
One may ask, how can religion be about love when it seems to perpetuate so much hate and injustice? These are not at the core of religion, but stem outward from misuse of religion. When one realizes that all religion stems from love, there is no room for hatred or injustice. When one embraces love as the essence of religion, one realizes that tolerance for others’ beliefs is a necessary part of any religion. I have witnessed tolerance and love in so many religions in India- in the visual images of mosques next to churches next to temples. I have seen the beauty of religion as well as the injustices, but I am able to see that these injustices are not at the core of the religions and they should not be the defining part of religions. Rather, they are introduced to justify greed, power, and control which run contrary to love.
I may seem idealistic, but I can see how love is the mission of religion. I see this through the words and actions of Mother Theresa, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad, and Gandhi who have used religion to preach love, because the essence of religion is love. These people give me hope for the future of religion, hope that injustice can be disengaged from religion, and hope that in the end, love will prevail.