It is not the knowledge of God that should propel you to make good decisions or be a kind person. You should do good because you want to, or because you know it’s the right thing to do.
Living in Utah, it’s hard not to notice the religious undertones prevalent in almost all aspects of this American subculture.
There’s a church on every corner and the temple is visible from all places in this small, bowl-like city. Until a couple of months ago, I didn’t identify with any religion, let alone Christianity, and it was hard for me to like where I was.
It wasn’t the idea I was surrounded by religious people who scared me, but rather the fact a lot of the religious people pretended they were better than others because of their religion.
I was in Utah for less than a week before I was harassed, and for a lack of a better word bullied, for my lack of religion, and it traumatized me. It astonished me the religion, which I thought preached love, had members so hateful and bitter.
I was singled out and made to feel as if I was a criminal all because I didn’t identify with a mainstream religion. I was trapped, threatened and forced out of my home all within my first seven days of being in college. Utah is ranked No. 11 of most religious states by the Pew Research Center, but if stereotypes hold any merit that would mean Utah is ranked No. 11 out of kindest states.
What I couldn’t comprehend at that time was having a religion doesn’t have a direct correlation with being a kind person.
This was one of my first interactions with members of the dominant religion in Utah and it terrified me. I had been looking into the religion and had so many questions, but after this experience I turned the other way. I wanted nothing to do with the religion, and when missionaries knocked on my door I agreed to meet with the intent to prove them wrong. I came to our meeting with facts and questions I knew they couldn’t answer.
After every meeting, the missionaries would ask me to read and pray, and I promised to do only the first. I was stubborn in my cause because I didn’t want the beliefs of the people who had caused me so much pain to be true.
Extraordinarily, I prayed, and against every thought in my head I knew — and still know — this church is true.
I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in late February, and in the church, we are taught to love every person regardless of their religious affiliations. It’s unfortunate not all members abide by these principles.
It’s ironic that anyone a part of a group of people who have been persecuted throughout history would discriminate.
The fact of the matter is a genuinely good person doesn’t need religion to keep them in check. A genuinely good person can create morals independent of any God(s).
There are inventors, philanthropists, celebrities and politicians who are considered “godless” but have done so much good for the world. Nikola Tesla, a great inventor, engineer and physicist, was raised as an evangelical Christian, but toward the end of his life considered himself an agnostic with Buddhist morals. Without him, there would be no modern-day electricity.
We hide behind the labels given to us for our religions, our race, and even our gender, and we hope the many stereotypes associated with these labels will speak for us. Actions speak louder than words. Cliché, but true. A word is simply that — a word.
If you set aside all of the labels, all of the categories we place ourselves in, who are you?
We must stop trying to fit ourselves into metaphorical boxes simply so we feel we belong somewhere, and start seeing each other as human. You cannot preach unconditional love on Sunday’s and then repeatedly belittle someone vastly different from you.
I’m not sure about you, but I was taught to love my neighbor, and that’s what I’m going to do.