Friday, June 5, 2020

On Being Religious in a Chaotic World

A few days ago I saw a post on Twitter made by someone on a Discord server I'm on, talking about how difficult it is becoming to believe in God as of late, when so much injustice is going on in the world. The person said it's hard to believe that a loving God would allow things to get this way, and it's really gotten me reflecting. I don't know this person personally, nor do I know his history with religion, but I know my own. It's not a secret (not a very well kept one anyway) that I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and though I was baptized at the age of 8, meaning I technically always was one, I didn't really have much involvement with the church or religion in general until I was a teenager. At this point it's been about 13 years since I started going to church. I served a mission for the church. I went to a church-owned university. I got married in the Portland Temple. In fact, the only reason I haven't gone lately is because I literally can't because of COVID (though that may change shortly maybe?) Suffice it to say, while it wasn't always this way, religion is an extremely important part of my life, so I find it worth analyzing just how it is I manage to stay religious in spite of it all.

The honest truth is the answer to that is rather anticlimactic, so if you find that unsatisfying, well, sorry, everyone else who has ever professed belief in a higher power, dating back thousands of years through human history, it's because I believe it to be true. More to the point, I want it to be true.

I realize how insane that sounds, but we're friends, so I can trust that you'll hear me out. The world we live in is a mess. It is a world of chaos. And, as anyone who has ever studied history can attest, it has always been a chaotic mess. People can be (and often are) awful to each other. People have been awful to each other since the beginning. Not only that, but people are extremely good at getting away with being awful to each other, on an individual level by being able to rationalize basically anything and on a societal level by exploiting loopholes (or creating them) to avoid having to take responsibility for their actions.

And this isn't a thing involving race, or politics, or religion, or nationality, or anything. People have always used whatever excuses they could to explain away their bad behavior, and I'm not convinced a world without those things would be any better because people would always find new ways to rationalize poor behavior. I do it. You do it. We all do it.

I suppose I want and need to believe that my religion is true because it adds some explanation to that which can't really be explained. It adds some logic to the illogical. It adds some order and meaning to the chaos.

It means that there's hope for the future. That, one day, at the end of all of this, there will be justice and mercy that cannot be disputed because it's meted out by the One that actually knows what He's talking about. That, though people may do bad things, most people are just decent people trying the best they can with the hand they've been dealt. That there's more to this life than coming here, suffering, ceasing to exist, and having the world just forget about you after a century or so.

I know that the logic isn't perfect, and I know this doesn't even come close to addressing the bad things that have been done in the name of God, on individual, family, or even societal levels, or the outright impossibility of even proving that God exists, but faith isn't logical. Faith isn't based on a perfect knowledge. As Ether 12:4 puts it, "...whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world..."

That's it right there. That's what gets me up in the morning. That's what makes me want to do what I can to help those around me be just a little better, just a little happier. The world has no end of problems, and they're not just going to go away because we want them to bad enough. Irrational fear and hatred are things that the world is just kind of stuck with, so instead of wasting my energy trying to fight it (usually just throwing gas on the fire if you ask me) I just want to do what I can to be kind to everyone around me. When I think about what Jesus would do, and what He might ask me to do, that's what keeps coming to mind.

So...that's it. I don't know if it's true. I'll likely never know if it's true. I don't know if one even can know if it's true without a shadow of a doubt until, after death, one stands face-to-face with Divinity. But I'm going to do it anyway. I don't gain anything if it's not true. But I gain everything if it is.

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