Religion is What You Make It

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I have an unorthodox view of religion.
  
When I die, I’m not going to heaven and I’m not going to hell.  Who knows what’s beyond my last breath, but whatever it is it probably has no mention in the Torah, Qur’an, Old Testament, New Testament, or future testaments.  You face a dilemma each day; in each decision you make.  

Do you believe in heaven and hell strongly enough to live your life by what society and religion tells you is the right way to live with the hope that when you die the gates of heaven will be open to you, or do you live your life the way you want to live it, only by your standards of right and wrong, and run the risk of permanent purgatory?  

I am not an atheist. I woud like to believe what my family believes so strongly.  I’d be lying if I said I have no doubts. Good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell sounds more like a scare tactic than a religion to me.  

I believe in my own definition of God, heaven, and hell, not the one that my catholic family would like me to believe.  

I’ve heard, “missed you at church today, Nick” and “you’re definitely an atheist” more times than the number of questions I have about religion that drives me away.  

Who decides what’s good and what’s bad?  Who decides which religion will lead to heaven?  Does God decide?  Who is God?  Should I have an atheistic, polytheistic, pantheistic, or monotheistic view of God?  Is there a separate heaven and hell for each religion?  Do heaven and hell even exist?  

There is more ambiguity in the answers to these questions than in religion itself, and history proves I’m not the first person to question a faith.

The Muslim Conquests, the French Wars of Religion, and the Crusades of Christian Europeans against Muslims all had ties to these questions.  Each side was so deeply rooted in their faith that they could not accept another view of religion.  
 
To me, Religion is in the mind, body, and heart, not a building or a book.  True, having faith in a divine power makes some feel better about their self.  The idea that God is above us and will help us through tribulations gives some people tranquility and hope.  I respect that.  I even agree to some extent.   

You may have heard the saying about a man caught in the top story of a burning house and whose neighbors send him a ladder, a firefighter, water, and other forms of rescue, to which he responds to each one, “No, god will save me.”  The man dies in the fire, goes to heaven, and asks God why he didn’t save him, to which God responds, “I tried.  I sent you the ladder, the firefighter, the water…” etc.  

Too many people I know use religion as a crutch and think that just having faith will solve all their problems.  They pray every Sunday so they do as they please the rest of the time. 

I don’t believe that a person can do wrong by themselves and by their neighbor from Monday-Saturday as long as they enter a holy building on Sunday morning.  Having a strong faith is one thing; living by it is another.  I consider myself to be more religious than someone who fits the above profile because I have a deep faith in my view of religion and I live by it.  

When I came to USF I was willing to give a traditional religion a chance.  I found that I was too strong in my conviction that religion is different to each person to join a religion of the masses.  I believe God is your good conscience more than a supernatural power. I feel like I’ve already been to heaven and hell.  I’ve woken up hating myself, in a place I hate, surrounded by people who couldn’t care less about me.  I felt like my life was spiraling nowhere.  That was my hell.  
I didn’t ask a supernatural God to save me.  I saved myself.  I started listening to my good conscience and people who care about me.  When I ask myself today, I’m happy with the people in my life, my direction, and the lifestyle I live by.  This is my heaven.  

If any of this echoes your religious stance, you may have gotten the same criticism I have about my faith.  Religion is not something that can be forced upon you.  You have to believe wholeheartedly, whatever it may be.  

Nicholas Mukhar is a senior media studies major and a journalism and legal studies minor.

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