to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
There are plenty of people on this earth who have strong values.There are many people who believe in monogamy, abstinence from sex, drugs, and alcohol. Many adhere to a religious system, following the Ten Commandments. Some people ask a simple question when in doubt of how to conduct themselves: “What would Jesus do?”
Looking across the landscape of America, it appears that the vast majority of people who have what we might call “good old fashioned family values” are religious. Whether they’re Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Jews, or Muslims, these people who strive to live a virtuous life are often living their life in accordance to their religion. They draw their moral strength from their god. They rely on scriptures and the ancient teachings of a central figure of importance.
And that is what makes me nervous. I am no expert on theology but I believe that being humble, respectful to your elders, generous to others, and loving towards your neighbor are all virtues that are extolled in one way or another by all major religions. That a person needs to draw the strength required to live his life in virtue from some deity that may or may not exist is, in my eyes, a form of weakness.Religion has its place. And instead of getting into an argument about whether or not God exists, or whether or not religions are a sham, I will say this: religion can be a crutch. For those whom humility, respect, and love do not come naturally, but for whom such virtues must come from without, and enforced by the fear or submission to a higher supreme being, I ask you this: without your Bible, without your God, could you live in virtue? Without your faith and submission, would you have the strength to do the right thing?I know of many religious people who do what is right because they believe that doing the right thing will get them some kind of reward in the afterlife. They abide by the rules set forth by their religion because to break these rules would anger or disappoint their God, and they would be movingfurtheraway from that reward.
I do what is right because it will benefit people here on this earth. I have my own reasons for living the way I do. I abide by my own code of conduct and hold myself up to my own standards, standards set by myself and not a set of rules forced upon me by any society, culture, or religion.
A man is lying on the ground, bleeding from the head and moaning. A Christian man passes by. He may stop and help the man, perhaps he may even take him to his home to tend to his injuries. But what is his motivation? He is motivated because he feels that it is the right thing to do. Why is it the right thing to do? He may believe that helping this injured man is what Jesus would do. It is what a “good Christian” would do.
I, on the other hand, do so out of the compassion for my fellow man. I know that if I was injured, I would want someone to help me. I know that this man needs medical attention, and because all life is precious, I should do everything in my power to help him.
I learned the value of compassion somewhere along the journey of my life. I may have been exposed to Christianity throughout my life, but by no means do I believe in God and Jesus Christ in the way that a baptized Christian would. I do not pray, I do not worship, I do not read the Bible, and I can only recall half of the Ten Commandments. But I do strive to live as a good person. Some might call it a “Christ-like life”, but I find that it has nothing to do with Jesus Christ. It is a more basic goodness. Love, compassion, and kindness are basic values of morality. And they can have nothing to do with the worship of a deity.
Let me end this by saying that I’m not claiming to be someone who leads a perfectly Christ-like life. I’m no priest. I do curse when talking with my male peers (never around women or elders). I do look at pornography. I am not an industrious person every last second of my life. But like Ben Franklin, I believe I am a far better person for trying to live a virtuous life and to adhere to a code of conduct using my own discipline and willpower. Is it so much to ask to meet such like-minded people?