life hack

A letter about religion to a young friend

I’ve had some time to think about your questions about religion. These questions you asked are those of maturing intelligence and it pleases me greatly to see you growing so.

Understanding where you stand on religion, or in your belief in something greater than yourself, is very important in your life. Not so much so that you can label yourself one thing or another. It follows that the better you can come into your own understanding as to why you are here on earth, the better a person you can become.

What religion are you? A lot of your friends might be saying they are one religion or another. Some may be more vocal than others. Some might be more insistent than others. Certainly, if you are invited to accompany them to their churches, then that can be a good thing too. The point is, go with your mind and eyes wide open, but remember a church or religion is not what your friends tell you it is, it’s what you make of it for yourself. Your decision to choose a religion, or choose not to choose a religion, is completely up to to you.

I think it’s important to first understand that religion and church are not necessarily one in the same. What I’m saying is that just because you go to church, doesn’t mean you are religious. And just because you don’t go to church doesn’t mean you are not religious. And doing one or the other doesn’t make you a good person or a bad person. The test of whether you are a good or bad person is not so much in what you believe, it’s in what you do. How you act. How you treat others. What you accomplish in your life.

For example, it is only a matter of human opinion (to some) that not attending church or not believing in Jesus Christ condemns your soul to hell. However, some of the world’s greatest contributors had real problems with that point of view. Gandhi didn’t believe Jesus Christ was divine, was he a bad person? Benjamin Franklin didn’t believe Jesus Christ was divine, was he a bad person? I don’t believe Jesus Christ was divine. Does that make me a bad person? That does not mean to say that these people are godless.

Keep in mind these famous words: “A virtuous heretic shall be saved before a wicked Christian.” Benjamin Franklin said that.

Why are there so many different kinds of religions? What is a religion? A religion is a way of thinking about your relationship with God and or the world and or the universe. Each religion has a different opinion about how your relationships to the world and others work. A religion is a set of beliefs that give you order about why life around you is the way it is. Why are we here? Is there life after death? Does evil exist? Who am I?

Some religions think that the path to heaven is paved with “good works.” Others feel the path to heaven is paved with “faith alone” and “God’s grace.” some religions don’t believe in heaven at all. Some religions believe that cows are sacred. Some religions believe that death results in reincarnation into another type of creature or another human on earth. Some religions believe it’s bad to worship more than one god, others believe in many gods. There are so many religions on earth because of one fact: religion is opinion–human opinion.

What’s really important here? What’s really important is that you keep asking questions and getting answers to those questions for yourself. The journey of finding a religion is not a matter of picking the right country club, or the right college to go to. The process of finding a religion can take a lifetime of work and reflection. It is deeply personal to you. The goal of it all is to become a better person. That’s what it is all about; becoming a better person. Can one religion help you be a better person over another? The answer to that lies in how you apply their teachings.

Finally I leave you with Benjamin Franklin’s own credo, written for himself as he worked to make himself a better person. Ben Franklin was considered a deist. This means that he saw what religions profess to be “holy scripture” or “divine revelation” as interpretations made by other human beings, rather than as authoritative sources. Here I think that what’s most important is that we strive to make continuous improvements in ourselves so that we may be of greater and greater use to others. It is, at least, the goal.

Code of Morality by Benjamin Franklin:

Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

Order: Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself (i.e., waste nothing)

Industry: Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

Moderation: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries to much as you think they deserve.

Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.

Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.

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