I had planned about writing this post about something totally different. However, I have been debating a reader of this blog in the comment section of my post "What Got the Ball Rolling" and I figured I should write a post about this topic as well.
When I was young, someone in one of my religious classes asked the Rabbi the basic question that everyone asks, "why do bad things happen to good people?" The Rabbi said that no one is perfect and that every time someone feels pain in "this world", they are being punished for some sin and now they wont have to worry about being punished in the "next world". I took this lesson to heart. Every time I got hurt, be it banging my toe, or breaking a bone, I thought "good thing this happened and I must have DESERVED this pain".
I do understand that the lesson was not meant to make me feel the way I did. However, I think the way I began to embrace and accept pain is an inevitable part of being brought up with a philosophy that diminished the value of life and emphasizes the "afterlife". The comment that one of my readers wrote on the post "What Got the ball Rolling" said that a gay person should learn to live without sex so that they can have a good life in the the world to come. But there is no evidence of life after death. People are more often than not born into their religious beliefs by chance. They do not choose them. A religious person raised that way from childhood is presented the ideas of Heaven and Hell as fact. But the truth is, if they could have easily been brought up in a different environment and they would never come to the conclusion that there is a heaven and hell based on life experience, science or logic.
So why waste the one life that we KNOW we have? Because some books that have been around for a long time say so? It is a very similar thought process that allows the suicide bomber to kill himself along with innocent people. He only values the "world to come" that he was taught about. We condemn the killer as evil, but that is simply because we have a different value system. The religious Jew or religious Christian has no more reason to believe in his religion than the religious Muslim.
I personally believe that if more people learned to value this life, the real life, the one life we all know we have, there would be a lot less evil in the world. Steven Weinberg once wrote "With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion."
To my religious readers I want to say, if you believe in your religion and it makes you happy then enjoy. I mean that wholeheartedly. Everyone should do what makes them happy, as long as they aren't hurting someone else. But DO NOT expect others to give up their happiness because you have an old book that says they should.