Janelle the religion that I find myself most

Janelle Marcelino

Faith
In Religion

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            In the first chapter of Living Religions, the authors
Mary Pat Fisher and Robin Rinehart open with what the idea of religion is. As
discussed in the second and third paragraph on page 2, religion is the term
used to reference the beliefs and practices that people around the world
partake in to understand what may lie beyond the reality of the tangible world.
Religion is broken into various labels such as Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism,
Shintoism, Islam, Christianity, etc. They provide a sense of organization and
unify people to common perceptions. However, they are far more complex,
overlapping, and ever-changing.  

            Throughout history, people made religion as the central
foundation for how they live their lives. One common aspect I have noticed
throughout reading this book is that many religions follow the idea of reaching
the good of what is beyond life, making it the pinnacle of their existence. Because
humans are fearful or unaware of the unknown, they turn to the idea that there is
some sort of supernatural being or force responsible for all occurrences.
Therefore, they believe that they must engage in all sorts of practices to grow
closer and please it.  After reading and
learning about other religions and their practices, it caused me to compare
with that of my own.

During
my lifetime, I have been growing up exposed to the ways of Roman Catholicism,
one of the branches of Christianity. Chapter 8 on Judaism is the religion that
I find myself most interested in when comparing and contrasting. This is
because Christianity stemmed from Judaism. Both religions are monotheistic,
believing in the one God, and follow the Hebrew Bible, known as the Old
Testament. However, the difference is that Jews believe the Messiah, or the appointed
one that God will send down to unite the Jewish people on earth to lead them to
Him, still has yet to come. Christians, on the other hand, believe that Jesus
is the Messiah. Page 305 of the textbook is chapter 9 where Fisher and Rinehart
discuss Christianity. Jesus is known as the son of God who was immaculately
conceived and born as a Jew to live on earth. His life, teachings, death and
resurrection are the basis of the religion. The sacred practices of worship to
God between the two religions has made me contemplate if my religion is less
demanding than that of Judaism.

Catholics,
for instance, are offered to participate in the sacraments of the church.
Sacraments are rites that aide in the transmission of the religious beliefs of
Christ to the worshipper (page 346, paragraph 4). Because I was baptized as an
infant, where my parents have taken on the vows of following the beliefs of
Christianity on my behalf (page 348, paragraph 3), I thus was intrinsically
attending Sunday church classes during my childhood until the eighth grade.
That last year of schooling was when I participated in another holy sacrament
known as confirmation. The purpose of this is to allow young adolescents to
make the conscious and personal commitment to the same vows said in baptism (page
348, paragraph 4). On page 284, 2nd paragraph, the authors explain how
in Judaism children also receive religious instruction by attending Jewish day
schools to study the Torah and are encouraged to reach for a deeper
understanding. Boys are traditionally taught how to read and write in Hebrew as
well as interpret scriptures (page 284, paragraph 2). When it is time to
recognize the coming of age, a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is thrown for a
thirteen-year-old boy or a twelve-year-old girl, which is the same age as when
I received confirmation. He or she must read a passage of the Torah and one of
the books of the Prophets in Hebrew and even give a short teaching regarding
the topics of the readings. Despite all the years I have attended Sunday
school, I feel as if I wasn’t required to undergo religious instruction as
extensive as Jewish children. I personally know within myself, and even seeing
how my fellow classmates acted, lessons weren’t taken so seriously. It honestly
makes me wonder just how true and deserving I am to have been following my
religion.

One
of the main teachings I do remember is that both Christianity and Judaism
follow the Ten Commandments. They are a set of rules of that God gave on stone
tablets for a righteous way living (page 258, paragraph 1). These include believing
in only our one God, not using the Lord’s name in vain, honoring thy mother and
father, not committing murder, stealing, adultery, bearing false witness
against others, and coveting other’s possessions. However, one of the
commandments I find most intriguing to compare is “remember the Sabbath day and
keep it holy.” Christians observe this day on Sunday. Typically, people
including myself would attend mass at a church on Sunday morning to worship God.
There we would listen to readings, sing hymns, and pray. Afterwards, they would
carry on with their day in a usual fashion. Jewish people observe the Sabbath
between sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. Fisher discusses this in the last
paragraph on page 286, stating that aside from attending services, families
have a special dinner that includes lighting candles and the father blessing
the wine. Other practices during the day include not working, not handling
money, and traveling only by foot. This way of life causes me to ponder yet
again the differences of how dedicated people celebrate the Lord’s day.

It’s
not just on Sabbath day that get me thinking even more, but it’s about the
prayers of everyday. Starting from paragraph 3 on page 285, the author speaks
about the multiple times of prayer traditional Jews partake in. Even before one
opens their eyes in the morning, they say a prayer to thank God for letting
their soul be present for a new day. Aside from morning and bedtime prayers,
prayer services in a synagogue by at least ten men are recited three times a
day. Jewish people are also expected to continuously give thanks. The tradition
that one should recite a hundred benedictions a day supports this idea. But how
should one go about saying that many? I find the answer to that very fascinating.
The authors mention how there is a blessing to be said every time before drinking
water and even after using the toilet.

Always
being appreciative and giving thanks in return is just part of the morals I was
raised to understand. Expressing my gratitude, however, can be looked at as
incomparable. Saying grace before dinner or praying before I sleep, if I even
bother to on any given night, honestly does not match up to how many brief moments
I should take a to thank God for all that there is to be thankful for. Within
the chapter on Islam on page 387, it is said that the faithful pray five times
a day facing Mecca. This makes me reflect how seldom I pray in a day.

Beyond
the prayers, I have also reflected upon the actions one does during their
lifetime. Page 309 discusses about Jesus’s ministry which includes the idea
that to become closer to God, people must leave behind all possessions and
human attachments. It will enhance one to be more attentive to spiritual life
rather than living a life with materialistic comfort. Now, it is indisputable
that people who live in the United States live a life that’s above extreme
simplicity. For instance, many people such as myself could agree with the
saying, “I can’t live without my cellphone”. Having such a small object can
have impact to one person. But that exact condition makes my thoughts run
again.  

One
of the Five Pillars of Islam is the Hajj. As stated on page 392, it is a pilgrimage
to Mecca that one should do at least once in their lifetime. It consists of a
series of rituals where men and women wear simple clothing that gives a uniform
look of simplicity among all the people. This reminds me of the time when I became
an alter sever during mass. I remember having to change into a long plain white
robe with a white rope tied around my waist. Comparing these two situations
causes me to salute those who do participate in the Hajj. Even though both have
the goal to feel closer to God, I can see that those people truly devote
themselves not only with their time, but with their physical and financial capabilities.
My one hour of devotion every week during mass does not live up to the long
hard hours of devotion Muslims endure during the Hajj.

My
final topic I would like to reflect on is on the strength of faith. Pages 272
through 274 tells the story of the Holocaust. Hundreds of thousands of Jews throughout
Europe endured unimaginable situations. People were forced to do labor intensive
work, some were painfully experimented on, and while many others were mass
murdered with the use of gas chambers. Families were broken apart, separating
its members to face death or continuing life in a foreign country alone. All of
this makes it one of the most tragic, heart-breaking events that simply cannot
be dismissed in history. Elie Weisel’s story of being a boy survivor and
recollecting the memories he had during those dark times has moved me in some
sort of way.

Like
many others who were affected in the Holocaust, he inevitably questioned God. People
wondered how could their caring and all-mighty God allow such a tragic event to
occur and let His people die horrifically. Weisel questioned if he should continue
to bless Him for he was the one who allowed multiple crematories work every day,
including Holy Days, and created death camps such as Auschwitz and Birkenau (page
274, paragraph 2). As I imagine myself living through some of those situations,
I believe that I would question God as well. How could my God allow the people
of my kind endure such adversity despite all the times I have practiced my
faith? Is this to test the true strength of my faith? As the speculations about
God continues and questions essentially remain unanswered, there are those who
remain optimistic, thinking that God’s wisdom for humans are beyond our
understanding. For Christians, Jesus is believed to be the people’s savior by
redeeming their sins through his own suffering and death. By surrendering their
faith to him, they aspire to be cleansed from the humans’ predestined original
sin and draw themselves closer to God (page 344, paragraphs 3-5). When I
compare these two stories, I become filled with reverence towards the Jewish
people., A multitude of people suffered and died during the Holocaust as
opposed to Jesus being the sole person who endured torment. Till this day, I
hear stories of people who survived the Holocaust, all amazing and touching me.
Yet despite the traumatic events, they, and even direct descendants of
themselves, are still faithful to their religion.

The
idea of God being the personified supernatural who controls and knows of all
things certainly comes with diverse ideas. Religious practices are based upon
historical stories and beliefs regarding how to please God. Reading about other
religions and their beliefs towards life has enlightened me. Even though there
are multiple aspects within a religion that causes me to question the strength of
faith people have through the amount of actions, it hasn’t lessened the amount I
have for my own. Nevertheless, faith is what sustains religious groups.