I am a little late to the party. I wanted to write something the day of Christmas but I woke up that morning feeling sick as a dog. I spent the day in bed, sleeping from the soporific effect of medication, or not sleeping but still barely lucid. I’d like to point out that I did have my Santa hat on the whole day and not just for that picture, and my Christmas PJ’s 🎅. Anyway, I have never spent a Christmas home alone, ailing. My parents went to church with their friends and enjoyed a dinner together, my sister attended a midnight mass with her husband and their friends following a Christmas Eve dinner, and I watched A Christmas Story on endless loop sipping on copious amounts of hot beverages! A Christmas Story is, however, my favorite Christmas movie; A Christmas Carol is my favorite Christmas story. Hence this is ‘A Christmas‘ post 🙂
We, my family, are Jain by birth (Jainism is similar to Buddhism in many ways, the most prominant being non-belief in a singular God. See here for side-by-side comparison (online source, not verified). For detailed information about Jainism, here is a Wikipedia link), Hindu by common association but secular in practice. Growing up, I remember visiting my Muslim friends for Eid and partaking in their celebration. My sister and I attended Catholic schools from the age of 3 until 18. Since it is a minority group in India, it is not mandatory to be Catholic to attend a Catholic school. So ever since I can remember I have celebrated Christmas along with the plethora of other holidays celebrated in India!
Having been exposed to so many cultures growing up, and always encouraged to learn more about others and be accepting of everyone, I find it very unsettling when I hear all the recent talk of ‘Islamophobia’. How is it justified to ostracize an entire community for the actions of some? Each organized religion has its fair share of radicals who commit heinous acts against humanity in the name of religion. History is littered with horror stories of mass murders, purges, persecutions, crusades, forced conversions, and so on. The takeaway from all this is not that crimes were committed but that they were eventually put to an end. What is needed is not to blindly banish an entire group but eradicate those who purportedly act in the name of religion. Easier said than done I know, but when someone influential gets up on a stage and makes ridiculous speeches, it creates the potential for catastrophic consequences. Zealots, in any religion, are people to be wary of. Pit one against another and you have a recipe for disaster.
The principal reason I do not follow any particular religion is because I don’t like labels. We have more than enough forms of discrimination in the world, some of which are natural- a person can’t choose their gender, or the color of their skin, or the country they are born in. Religion, to me, is a man-made way of segregating between people who might otherwise be exactly similar. A Jain girl from India will look the same as a Muslim girl from India, or a Christian girl from India. Why can’t we all then just be Indian girls? Why must we device a way to separate ourselves instead of seeking that what unites us?
I am also one of those people who, from time to time, are guilty of dismissing religion as a source of strength for the weak-minded. When all efforts fail, one might be able to find solace in knowing that as long as they pray sincerely, someone out there will take care of them. I have no authority to judge how someone else draws strength during difficulties. All that matters is that they are able to draw that strength. But speaking only for myself, I am not one of those people. I have gone through a considerable amount of adversities recently- immigration, legal, financial- my whole existence stood on the brink of destruction. And I was weak to the point where I thought dying was easier than living. But I found strength, in Milo. Perhaps he should be my god. The most ardent believer would argue that God put him there, or even that God Himself came to my rescue through him. Perhaps, but I believe in proof, and I’m open to be proven wrong.
Another reason I don’t fully appreciate the idea of organized religion is because, well, it’s organized! One’s faith should be ones own. No one else needs to tell me how or who to pray to, and where, and when. All that matters to me is to know that I’ve led a good life founded in love and respect for others and myself, that I haven’t hurt anyone intentionally, that I’ve apologized for my mistakes, and that I always stood for what’s right. We all know these basics even if no one else tells us. And isn’t that the ultimate goal of every religion anyway? Said one way or another, all gods want their children to be good so they can be together in afterlife. An organized religion then seems to incentivize being good. But why should being good require an incentive? Isn’t the joy that comes from helping someone in need enough to encourage people to be good Samaritans? I have seen people donate unimaginable sums of money to a temple but not give a homeless child a square meal- their religion is still guaranteeing them a seat in heaven. So who is this religion benefitting here, in this life?
I don’t want you think that I’m bashing any religion or anyone’s faith, and I sincerely apologize if this post comes across as offensive. I’m merely saying that we need to find common grounds. We all want peace, we all want to be able to live life the way we want. If someone decided that we’re going to take all the religions of the world and combine them into one and call it Humanity, I’d be the first to sign up! Let us try to find God within ourselves and not somewhere outside. Let us find common messages. I celebrate Diwali with just as much enthusiasm as I do Christmas. Diwali for me is a day to remember that good triumphs over evil and to renew my commitment to being good. Christmas reminds me that we must love and respect everyone, be thankful for what we have, and if possible share it with those less fortunate. A friend of mine invited me to a late Christmas lunch her family was having on the 27th. I am elated and eternally grateful to have had the opportunity to spend a day surrounded by love and blissful cheer!
On that note, I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas, and my best wishes for the New Year! The next time I get some time to write will probably be after the big move!!