The topic of belief comes up from time to time, especially this time of year. With it being the Holiday Season (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Chanukah) the topic of belief is very much hard to avoid. What always gets me is how angry some people can get whenever the topic comes up. Now, don't get me wrong here. I'm not just talking about so-called “Fundamentalist Right Wing” Christians here. I've met plenty of Wiccans/Pagans who get their panties in all kinds of a wad whenever anyone tries to talk to them about any other religion but their own. I always find it sad when people get so bent out of shape over someone not believing the exact same as they do. Isn't belief and faith supposed to bring peace and joy to the soul?
I've experienced a lot in my 40 years of life, spiritually speaking. I've been a Pentecostal minister. I've gone into deep meditation and met my animal spirit guides when I practiced Wicca. I've stared into fire seeking visions. I've even been so drunk and full of depression and fear of the future that I've looked up at the North Star and told God he was an asshole before. And through all of it, I have had faith and belief that there is a higher power, even when I was at my lowest.
I once read a definition of religion that, to paraphrase, stated that religion was really just mankind's way of explaining things that they can observe or have experienced that they can't (yet) explain scientifically. Ok. I won't completely disagree with that. I mean, let's face it. Religion is man's creation, not God's. I know, I know. Many will disagree with me on that point, but I still hold to that point of view. I really don't think God invented religion. If He did, there would only be one religion. Man invented religion as a (limited) way of trying to understand God.
Which one is the right one though? Christians would have you believe theirs is. Muslims are quite adamant about theirs being the true path to God, so much so that the really fundamentalist branches of the religion even resort to terrorism to prove it. Wiccans would have you believe that their religion pre-dates Christianity, Islam or Judaism (which isn't really true, but I won't get into how Wicca is actually only a little over a half century old, even though some of their rituals are borrowed from or are resurgences of ancient practices).
What has always struck me as overly ironic about any religion is how it typically can't even entirely agree with itself. Within Christianity there's Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestantism. Then, with Protestantism there are dozens of denominations and even within those there are splinters and splits because of disagreements over theology. Islam too, as mentioned before, has extremists who are warlike, while other branches are much more peaceful. Judaism even has reformed, orthodox and conservative branches. And don't even get me started on how many various and sundry Neo-Pagan traditions there are.
Then, of course, I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention the Atheists and Agnostics. In some ways I pity them. I mean, I respect their right to not believe, as it were, but having experienced so much, spiritually, I really feel sorry for those who have not.
Ultimately, I don't think God (or the gods, if you prefer) really care what you believe, only that you believe. So, believe what thou will. I know I'm happy. I know I'm on the path I should be on, the one that works for me. We can't all, necessarily, follow the same road. If that were the case, the road wouldn't branch.