There are a few things I am interested in. History, mythology, philosophy, metaphysics, mysticism, art, music, architecture, sociology...should I continue? All of these things can be, and often are very closely related to religion.
It's not unusual, for example, for me to listen to Gregorian chant when I'm working. I love everything about it, the simplicity, the melody, the harmony, and the echo - very much the echo. If it were not for the religion of the writers and performers of this music it would not exist. I don't share their beliefs, but I can enjoy it just the same. Do I enjoy it in the same way as those for whom it is religious music? I would say not. Do I enjoy it any less? I would say no to that also. When music touches you, it touches you. It doesn't matter why.
But most of all, I am interested in people. Why they do what they do. I have always had that fascination. I spend more time observing and analyzing people than I do liking or hating them, and I prefer it that way. Perhaps people would rather be liked or hated than observed or analyzed, although my guess is they'd really rather be liked. But I'm no good at hate, and I can't like everyone, so I'll just stick to the observing and analyzing.
I think if we spent a bit more time observing and analyzing, there'd be less judgement. Of the wrong kind, that is. Judgement isn't wholly bad. It's a natural thing we do. You know the kind of judgement I mean when I think a bit less of it would be a good thing. It's when it comes without any thought, there's no observation or analysis, just a quick reaction, a snap decision. I think people deserve more than that.
And when it comes to religion, whether a person follows one, whether it's one that meets your approval or not, or how they follow it, or if they don't follow anything, or however they approach the entire topic - is jolly interesting.
Some years ago, when I still hadn't quite got the hang of the balance between honesty and tact in discussing such things (because you know, I've REALLY got a handle on that now.........) I suggested that some religious practice was not mentally healthy. OK, that's not quite what I said, but you get the idea. Of course, I was put in my place. Rightly so. These are opinions best kept to oneself, but that speaking your mind thing often takes me by surprise. O.o. I was set upon, really. Anyway, I made a mental note not to call deeply religious people mad.
And then I met someone who was mad. Totally bonkers. I'm no mental health professional, but I'd say this one was severely delusional. Here's where we have to see which end of the cause and effect tube we are looking down, and this applies to things other than madness, as I shall make clear.
Was her illness the reason she developed her particular brand of religious belief, OR was it her particular brand of religious belief that had made her delusional? There has to be a sort of tipping point.
We often ask ourselves whether arseholes are drawn to extremist religions, or whether extremist religion causes people to become arseholes. Think of a suicide bomber. Would he have been a suicide bomber if he was NOT part of an extremist religion? I know the whole political aspect is mixed up in there, but you need to be pretty devout to take your own life.
OK, look at it the other way then. Does religion make a person nice, or are nice people drawn to religion because of the opportunity it gives them to serve the community?
Draw your own conclusions.
When all is said and done I believe that a person is a mixture of their innate personality AND the result of their life experiences. But I don't know how much of each. Maybe stronger personalities are less affected by outside effects. Or maybe really bad experiences crush what would have been a strong personality. So, there's probably some variation there.
It follows, one way and another, that religion itself is inert. It doesn't necessarily make bad people good, or good people bad. What can happen though, is that the charisma of its existing devotees can have a powerful impact on others. So that IF you are a disaffected person seeking answers and you run into another human being who says he has them, and they are found in said religion, that could be the tipping point.
And that's what's interesting. The why. It's all part of the bigger why, because people are that complex.
I have read all the holy books. I'm not big on holy books. They're too damn vague. I like simple messages that can't be argued, that do NOT lend themselves to interpretation. Interpretation is the first step towards bias and motive and dogma. And I have no time for dogma.
I'm told that people need guidance, and they probably do. But who has the right to do it?