This past week I’ve noticed issues come up around belief – atheists arguing that Christians are deluded, and vice versa. Beliefs are important, because beliefs form the basis for our actions in the world, which create positive or negative results.
So, our actions indicate what our beliefs really are. And since I want to talk mostly about religious belief today, I’m going to use the words of Jesus, even though I don’t consider myself a Christian. Jesus said that you can “know a tree by its fruits.” So if a tree says, “I’m a pear tree!” and you see apples hanging off it, you can bet that it’s either an apple tree, or someone has done a really good job at vandalizing it. Likewise, if someone says “I’m a Christian!” and you don’t see Christ-like behavior showing up, then they’re probably not who they say they are.
I don’t want to waste any time debating the merits of being an atheist vs being a Christian. I don’t really care what you call yourself, or even what you believe. Personally, I believe in God, but if you don’t, that’s fine. I think it’s our beliefs about love and compassion that matter more than our beliefs about any specific deity.
When some religious leaders asked Jesus what he thought was the most important commandment, he didn’t say “Believe in God” or “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.” He said “LOVE God” and “LOVE your neighbor as yourself.”
It seems odd that so many people call themselves followers of Jesus, and yet they completely ignore the two things he said to do. He never said you had to go to church, or vote Republican, or support the troops, or beat up homosexuals. In fact, he seemed to say the opposite of all that: Simply, to show compassion to everyone, even if they are different from you. Then, to illustrate who you’re supposed to love, he followed up with the story of the “Good Samaritan,” about someone loving a complete stranger from a different culture.
Another time, when Jesus was talking about what happens after we die, he talked about our lives being judged not by what we believed, or what church we went to, but rather what we did with our time. Did we help the poor? Did we care for the friendless? Did we provide food for the hungry? He even went so far as to say that many people who had called him their lord and savior in life would be like strangers to him after death, if they had not followed his commandments to love their neighbors.
Anyway, since I’m not a Christian, I don’t literally believe what the bible says about what eternity will be like. I just find it amusing to use the words of Jesus to explain why I disagree with Christian dogma. (Because, if you don’t follow what Jesus told you to do, then don’t talk to me about believing.)
Personally, I believe that we are all children of God, and therefore, we are bits of God, only appearing to be separate. Just as children of humans are human themselves, we children of God are divine ourselves. But being caught in an illusion, our actions are influenced by fear, and so we don’t always act like God. (And to be honest, I myself find it a struggle to love everyone, so, I have lots to learn about practicing what I preach.)
But if we are God – and I’ll understand if you don’t share my belief, but anyway – IF we are children of God, ought we not to love each other? To come back together in unity? To accept everyone, no matter how different?
Whatever your beliefs happen to be, ask yourself: How do I exhibit those beliefs? Do I practice what I preach? It’s usually in the little, everyday situations that these things show up.