A boy once told me that “our religion” is about finding peace.  That didn’t make sense to me at that time, and it actually upset me a little bit.  Was I going about this whole religion thing wrong?  And who is he to tell me what my religion should mean to me?  I thought about it more and more, waiting for an answer to these and other questions that rose in my mind.

I suppose if you boil religion down to its lowest point, then maybe that’s true.  Ideally, your religion should help you make peace with the world.  What is religion, if not a tool for understanding how the world works and learning how to work with it?  But is that the same as finding peace?

For some, this is definitely true.  Some people follow religions that believe in having love and compassion for all people, forgiving and forgetting, trying to make the world a better place, helping the less fortunate, etc.  I would say that all of those help promote peace.  But does it always bring peace to the soul of the practitioner?

For others, they seek what best benefits themselves.  If you do only what seems right to you, or only what benefits you, regardless of the consequences to anyone else, does this bring peace?  What about atheists, who have only themselves to answer to, do they always have peace?

I think the question of the purpose of religion is much more complex than just finding peace.  I will follow my own religion or spirituality as I see fit.  Will it always bring me peace?  I doubt it.  I believe in doing right by the world, and other people living in it.  But there is not one set of right and wrong answers.  What is right for some will be wrong for others.  Because of this, there will always be conflict.  This conflict will exist in the world, and in my spirit.  I want to protect the environment, my children, my friends, my family.  Sometimes these will conflict with each other, and the result will not be inner peace.

Maybe the Zen Buddhists are right.  Maybe the only way to find true peace is to give up passion.  But to me, to give up passion is too much to bear.  I love the people in my life passionately.  I could not handle the distance from them that would be required to find “peace”.  For me, the conflict is true peace for me.

I may never know for sure what the boy meant with his words, but that’s fine with me.  Not all questions have answers, and sometimes our own answers are more important.

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