Recently I attended a religious gathering, an observance of the Muslim month of fasting, Ramadan. First, I should start off with two statements that will help you understand my reasoning for writing this post as a series of my new and current adventure. I am not Muslim and I am currently living in India for the next five months. As a part of my “Indian bucket list” I wanted a religious experience, a spiritual awakening. I was more than excited to accept a friendly invitation to participate in Iftar. Iftar is an evening meal where those who practice Ramadan end their fast at sunset. The evening was filled with a lot of warm welcomes and smiles, prayers and of course, delicious Indian food.
Men and women were separated into two different rooms for prayer and later into two different sides of the room for dinner. I must admit, that as a child I always found church extremely boring. My mother is Catholic (most of the time) and my father was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness. Considering the fact that he himself was not much of a religious person, he did not impose his religious upbringing on my siblings and me. But there in that moment, as I was witnessing women and young girls of various ages praising and submitting to their God, I could not help but feel a great deal of admiration for them and their devotion and self-discipline. Although their praising was done right in front of a group of us, most of us whom they never met, I felt as though I was invited into a very intimate and private sector of their lives.
I am a believer in Karma and the forces of the Universe. I believe what you put into this earth; you will get in return; whether it is positive or negative forces, the Universe answers to your energy. Of course, in moderation, I can be quite logical and a bit too much of a realist sometimes but I usually believe that everything happens for a reason. However, when things happen that we cannot find a rational reason in, what is there to believe in then?
What do you believe? What helps you come to the conclusion that ultimately, everything will be okay?
Do you believe in science? The human race? A God? Various Gods and Goddesses?
What keeps you sane?
All these questions were floating through my mind, some more reoccurring than others. But the question I did find more pressing was: What will I be willing to sacrifice, for what I believe in? I am not sure if I have that kind of discipline, or if what I believe in (most of the time) is enough. I did however come to an understanding about belief, faith and religion. It is not so much about praying or attending church for the hopes of becoming a better person. It is about realizing that the world is much bigger than you. It is the effort to allow the human egotistical mind to humble itself enough to accept that there are forces much greater than our own personal problems. Problems which are usually self-inflicted.
In moments of deep reflection, which seem to be just about every second here (I mean, right? It’s India), can restoring my faith help me lead a better life? Or better yet, will I find more happiness and peace in leaving what I cannot make sense of or explain in the hands of faith rather than to stress myself with trying to rationalize it? As human beings we like to sort things, categorize the world to make sense of it and most of the time, our biggest fear is what we cannot understand. Fear of the unknown. I struggled with the thought of conforming to religion all my life, and I cannot say that that struggle is up yet for me. So many atrocities and crimes to humanity have been committed in the name of religion. Let’s see: slavery, caste systems, genocides, ethnic cleansings, mass suicides and hate crimes. As a burgeoning sociologist with a special interest in social justice and identity development, you can see why I question religion and how often it is taken out of context to justify our own biases and discriminations. But also as an aspiring sociologist, it is natural for me to question human social constructions.
With all due respect to all those who are deeply involved in their religious beliefs, I am simply asking questions as my curious mind is prone to do. I respect anyone and everyone’s religious beliefs, whether they coincide with my personal beliefs or not, I am a person with a curious mind, so I am never closed minded to hear objection to my beliefs. I usually stay away from discussing faith, especially so publicly but this new experience of mine seemed important enough to me to share.
I do not have the answers to any of my questions; in fact, I do not think faith is about answers, it is purely about the power of belief and acceptance. I am still on a quest to find a lot of things like understanding faith, love, and other great wonders of the world like who really killed Biggie, is Tupac really dead and why air mattresses never fit back in the box after you use them, regardless of how you fold them. But I do know one thing, whether it’s through religion or the belief in science, life is about discovering what works for you. This is going to be an interesting five months, I’ll let you know how my road to discovery progresses.