“What is your religion?” is a question I am frequently asked in France. I tend to ask people the same thing too. It’s a fair question: practically and spiritually.
SIDENOTE: I find it interesting that religion is such a hotly discussed topic in a country that endeavours to separate the Church from the State. The topic is equally avoided too. Balance?
I encounter so many different cultures and beliefs systems in France that sometimes I feel the need to ask that question. Other times I ask it as an extension of the ” ‘Do you eat pork?’ question” when I have people over for dinner.
You don’t really get asked that question in Jamaica.
The question you do get asked is “Are you a Christian?” Christian here means an active and committed thing – “Practising, church-going, baptised and filled with the Holy Ghost” Christian. Not the passive “I identify as Christian.”
That’s because the de facto religion in Jamaica is Christianity.
Nobody asks “what’s your religion?” Everybody assumes you’re Christian because, well, most people are Christians. 90% of the time you’re gonna get an answer that’s within the ‘realms of christianity’. So things like Yes, No, I’m agnostic, atheist, still searching, etc etc.
These are the answers you’ll get but they are hardly ever directed at another religion.
It’s not at all like this in France and Europe, of course. I think I have way more Atheist friends than I do Christians in France; tons of Muslim friends, some Hindu and a few Buddhists; and others with No Religion (my Chinese friends).
And when I was living in India, I had mainly Hindu friends (duh) and one Coorgi, plus others with religions whose names I cannot pronounce lol…but that’s another story.
So what is MY religion?
Well, it’s a little complicated but here goes…!
- I’m a monotheist. I believe in one God…a Supreme Being, if you will.
- Most days, I’m a Protestant Christian with strong influences from the Bahá’í Faith and some overtones of Gnosticism.
- All other days, I’m an Agnostic Theist – I believe in the existence of a god/deity but I do not know if such exists.
- But, overall I’m a Pluralist – I believe/acknowledge there are some truths or true values which exist in all religions.
My Concept of God
I grew up a Protestant so my thoughts on “God” are centered around Christianity. I was also raised in the section of Protestantism that believes in the Trinity – the depiction of the one God as three parts: God, the Father; Jesus Christ, the Son and Saviour; and the Holy Ghost.
I suppose I believe in the Trinity. It’s what I grew up with, it doesn’t particularly hinder my life, it’s a rather passive or ‘default’ belief. I like the concept of the Trinity, however. I think it’s cool, it makes sense, there’s some logic. However, there’s a part of me that was always uncomfortable with this idea.
Growing up, the churches I would attend seemed to merge everything into “Jesus Christ.” He would very often be described as “our Lord, God and Saviour – Jesus Christ” <— awkward! He’s supposed to be the Messiah, the Prophet, the vessel through which I get to the one God. I disagree with this melding and I’ve never received a satisfactory answer. Maybe I completely misunderstood this part of Christianity, but I’m yet to receive an answer that makes some sort of sense.
There also seems to me to be a sort of finality with God and the Trinity in Christianity. I don’t believe that this is the way it is and the only way it can/should be.
I believe more along the lines of the Bahá’í Faith, that there is one God and all the different religions and cultures are pretty much referring to the same Being. I think the different depictions are just manifestations of God based on differences in societal and cultural needs, differences in thought patterns, logic, experience, etc.
I don’t believe my god is necessarily better than your god.
Nor do I believe that someone is worshipping a false god or idol, just because his/her god is different from mine.
I don’t particularly believe that the Christian God is the “one true god” and I’ve always grappled with this, even throughout childhood.
I specifically remember asking my Sunday School teachers if God would really send Muslims or Buddhists (for example) to Hell because they never heard of Christianity before they died but followed their religion devoutly and lived an all-round “good” life?
The answer would always be a lengthy pause then something like “Yes, because they served false gods.” <—I don’t believe my god is like this. Furthermore, I don’t want my god to be like this.
From as long as I can remember, I’ve believed in the plurality of religions and their co-existence. I’ve always believed that the deeds of a man ensure his fate/damnation more than his belief/religion.
Nobody has ever really taught me this. I’ve never discussed it in-depth with my parents or anything like that when I was growing up, but it’s what I’ve always believed. I would sit in church, listen to the preacher (if I manage to stay awake lol), question my sunday school teachers and I would always…always…come back to a sort of pluralism – even before I knew that the term for my feelings was “pluralism”!
As for all the Bible stories, I neither believe nor disbelieve them. I don’t really care about validating the Creation Story, for example. My reaction has always been “why not? It’s God so anything is possible…” But I don’t discredit Evolution Theory either.
We’ve clearly evolved and are still evolving. Maybe God created one thing over 7days and it evolved into something else which evolved into what we know now. I honestly have no burning desire to know if this is true or not. It’s neither here nor there for me. In fact I don’t particularly think it’s necessary to believe it. I think the details are not necessary and that the general goodness and greatness, tolerance and grace of God is enough.
I think God has a wicked & ironic sense of humour, and the devil is often times His comedic facilitator<—but that’s just me.
I firmly believe that God is a personal God; merciful yet just; rational; the source of all Revelation; eternal/timeless; forgiving; omniscient; omnipresent and almighty; transcendent and immanent. (This is a mixture of Christian orthodox, Protestant, Sihkism and Bahá’í Faith).
That, in a nutshell is my construction of God.