FAQ Part 1 – Religion

So many questions follow the initial ‘Why?’ I receive every time I mention my hike to those around me. I thought it would be relevant to post some answers to this blog to give some insight into my madness.This is the first post of a three part series. Parts two and three will deal with sport and intention accordingly.

The following post deals with religious inclinations. If you’re here for the purpose of backpacking tips and other such awesomeness, feel free to skip this post. Within the next few days I will be posting another article as an update on my exercise and equipment. If you wish to continue, by all means do. And if you wish to argue, suggest, or simply comment – I’d love to hear! PLZ people!

You’re not Christian?

The single most asked question I receive (when in Japan) is this question. Massive media-induced stereotypes aside, yes – in fact- I am not a Christian. For anyone within America, this question seems rude and too direct. You can safely assume that most people in America are either Christian or hold similar values, right? Well, in Japan, this question is akin to inquiring about your favorite color or what music you enjoy. This isn’t out of racism as I’ve often mistakenly assumed. I don’t know for sure, but my guess is It stems from lack of exposure. If most of the western people you meet are missionaries and English teachers, who don’t shout their religious beliefs from on high, you’d feel the same way.

Why aren’t you Christian?

This question doesn’t come up often because generally my friends don’t seek conflict. I do, however, know that many people really want to ask this question, so here’s the best answer I can give. My lack of Christianity can be most easily described through three key factors that make up my personality.

One, I kinda love spirituality. Two, I kinda love science. Three, I kinda love everyone.

My love for spirituality leads me on starving rampages from the ancient mythologies to the recent holy scripts. I’m fascinated by our collective need for something outside of ourselves. Whether that be forgiveness, connection, or a dislocation from loneliness. I can’t help but feel connected to each account I read. How, then, am I supposed to go against my love for Greek gods, Shinto spirits, and modern philosophers by declaring them as nothing more than mistaken ideology? I fear that we will always be searching for the unknown and I can’t possibly disregard the meaningfulness, whether metaphorical or otherwise, of those other beliefs.

My love for science, though, doesn’t immediately make Christianity my enemy. Many priests, and monks were scientists. My favorite, Gregor Mendel, devised experiments, explaining the method of inheritance (Read: Genetics). Even the ‘Big Bang’ theory was initialized by a Belgian Priest.  No. Really, I have an innate urge to research, test, hypothesize, rinse, and repeat. With the many disregarded sections of biblical verse (e.g. “Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together.”), it doesn’t withstand my personal litmus test of ethereal believability.

My love of everyone comes directly from my Christian upbringing, so why does it cause me to lose faith? Simply put, as much as Christians seek to help the world, the doctrine of Christianity can be and has been equally as destructive as any other religious dogma. I’m always fascinated by the outward love of Christian missionaries in the same way I’m fascinated by the outward love of EMTs. I have seen, read, and learned of atrocities made in the name of God, and I can’t rectify that severe disparity (although I’m thankful of those who do compassionately give without expectation).

So, You’re Buddhist?

No, not exactly. At least not yet. Even though the first part of my journey follows an ancient Buddhist pilgrimage, I don’t consider myself Buddhist. Does this disqualify me from the quest for Nirvana? Happily, no. Buddhism and the path to Enlightenment bears similarity with my own beliefs on existence.  The early Buddhists found Enlightenment through personal meditation and observation of the interconnectedness of life. I’m hoping I can come to a personal understanding of the world around me. At the same time, I wish to represent others in the same journey towards understanding.

Okay…. What gives you the right to do this?

Nothing does, really. I mean, what gives us the right to do anything? Right? This questions is extremely difficult to answer because it assumes I was born in a religious jail cell, applying for parole. In fact, we all have this right.

I’ve invited the world to give me their prayers and intentions as to be a vessel. I’d like to take those intentions with me on my journey to represent them, through sweat and tears, to the best of my ability. Every faith, throughout the world, speaks of determination and sheer passion as a means in conversing with the unknown. I’d like to earn forgiveness by those worried about my spiritual inclinations by serving that communication for them, daily, to the best of my ability.

Personally, I feel that faith and morality are important. It’s important to treat other people and your environment with love and fairness. It’s important to trust a world exists beyond your understanding. It’s impossible for any single person to understand everything there is to know about the universe. And possibly I am wrong about any given faith. To the truely faithful, I would love to have a chat over coffee or tea. Drop me a line!

As for my hike; If, by walking in the footsteps of those before me (and ‘with’ Kobo Diashi ) I fall into Buddhism, Christianity, or any other spirituality, I will gladly continue testing it as any good scientist would.

One comment

  1. Jesse

    I definitely consider this a wise approach to spirituality and religion. I was wondering if spirituality had anything to do with your pilgrimage.

    Here are my favorite Einstein quotes that delve into the spiritual side of science and echo your thoughts…

    It is very difficult to elucidate this cosmic religious feeling to anyone who is entirely without it. . . The mystics and religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man’s image; so that there can be no church whose central teachings are based on it … In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are receptive to it.

    A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive.

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