Back in the day, before I found a religion that fit me, I was a confused little Christian. I believed in God and Jesus Christ but beyond that I didn't really know where I fit. I did know ONE thing though, I knew where everybody else was going wrong.
It's funny how you can find people like this. They're everywhere. They don't really know what is RIGHT but they sure as heck can tell you what you're doing wrong.
Okay, I say funny but really it's just annoying.
And I was annoying.
I was the worst of the worst.
I would talk to a Mormon and say to their face: "That's not what your church teaches!" I wouldn't stop there either. I would actively debate them about their faith traditions.
Even if I had never spent any real time researching what their church taught, I read a book once or I spoke to an ex-Mormon once so I. Knew. Everything.
It didn't even occur to me that sometimes people misinterpret what a church teaches.
Sometimes people even outright lie to make things seem worse then they are.
Or they twist and turn what the church teaches until it becomes unrecognizable to actual adherents of the faith.
Thing is, especially in the Protestant movement, there seems to be a real love of fear-mongering.
THE END TIMES ARE NEAR!
OH! Don't touch those dirty Catholics! They'll turn you to Satan!
Jehovah's Witnesses will brainwash you if you talk to them!!!
WICCANS ARE WITCHES AND CAN CURSE YOUR SOUL!!!!!
I encountered these sort of histrionics all the time and somehow I internalized some of it.
Man I was stupid.
Then a funny thing happened.
Funny weird not funny ha-ha. Although maybe a wee bit funny ha-ha if you think about it really hard, squint, tilt your head and then force a little laugh. After the first laugh it'll seem funny.
I joined the Catholic Church.
The one Church I hated more then any of the others!
Didn't you know Catholics worship Mary?
Didn't you know they talk to the dead?
Didn't you know they adore the Pope more then God?
You didn't? Well, I did and I would have told you all of it if given a chance.
Thankfully I encountered an opponent who is much tougher, much more stubborn and much more loving than I am.
In the Christian faith we call Him the Holy Spirit.
Other cultures might call Him Jiminy Cricket but whatever.
Now I look around me and I say to the Hindu: Tell me what you believe.
I encounter the Mormon and say: I'd like to learn about your faith traditions. Tell me about the Temple.
I meet the Jehovah Witness and say: Don't waste your time on me I'm stupid.
WHAT? I still find them annoying, okay?
"Did you ever wonder why there's so much suffering in the world?"
"No. I never have and never do. I prefer to focus on more positive things, like who invented ice cream? I'd like to kiss them. Hard."
The moral of the story is: Now, I listen to people when they tell me what their faith believes. If I'm cranky I might challenge them but only if I'm really cranky and itching for a debate and only if it doesn't upset them. Also, if I decide I REALLY want to learn about their faith, I study that faith from the source on my own instead of taking their interpretation to heart. Personal responsibility folks, it's an odd concept but it takes intellectual growth a long way.
People rail on and on about how unreliable word of mouth is but then they rely on word of mouth to learn about religion. Where's the logic?
Missing. That's where.