Today has been an odd day. I don’t normally engage people in religious or spiritual conversations unless I know them a bit better than most. However, today seems to have been the exception to that statement. I mean, its not a “rule” per say – more like an internal directive to myself. Even under that type of thinking, I usually do not discuss such matters with people that I know are heavily entrenched in their thinking and have no room or desire to comprehend other viewpoints. Again, today was somewhat of an exception – and it did not last very long either.
An individual, whom I know is a staunch agnostic, here in the neighborhood was engaged in a conversation with me that rolled from one point to another. In the process of moving topics, the tragedy of the condo-collapse came up. I noted that CNN had done a few discussions with those who are mourning the potential loss of their loved ones, while holding out hope of their survival. In the segments, a lot was made about their steadfast hope with a strong emphasis on what they believed would be the afterlife for their loved ones. The moment that came up, my conversation partner snapped into an angry perspective that these people were deluding themselves. That their so-called faith was essentially a “child’s understanding of the world around them.” I responded back that each individual has to make up their own mind as to what is right and wrong – each individual had to reach inside of who they are to determine what happens after one ceases to be in this world. The next remark was disdainful, in my opinion. “When they die, they no longer exist. There is no heaven for them to enjoy. They deteriorate until all that is left is their calcified skeletons.” “What about those of us that are believers in reincarnation?” “You’re even worse. You believe in a Marvel comics existence. All of you are fools.”
I ended the conversation shortly after all that. Skipping the derision and the anger, the conversation did have me thinking about the “rightness” and “wrongness” of believing the way that we do. However, as I turned that over and over in my mind – I kept coming back to how I have approached differences in Spiritual and religious belief: I know what I believe, but I am unwilling to make that into some kind of cut-and-paste belief. In other words, I disagree with quite a few ways of seeing the world around me. But disagreeing is one thing. Disregarding the personal nature of individual Spirituality and religious belief is another.
I am comfortable being around those of the Christian faith – yes, even those that would “rebuke” me to my face over how I believe. I have found that the easiest way to diffuse such situations was to not react defensively. In fact, I don’t even respond. When pressed, I will tell those people that I respect their beliefs and have no desire to change what or how they believe. But there is an exception to that. Should you try to harm me or anyone else because we don’t believe as you – you will have one insane fight on your hands. And I don’t fight “fair”.
Now back to where I was. What happens when we pass on? To be completely honest, I don’t know. I am a strong believer in reincarnation. I do believe I have been here many times before. I also believe that sharp details of those times are not available to me. What I can recall, which frankly is not much, are more like muddied markers. I doubt I will ever be able to sort much of that out. I do know that there are members of other faiths that believe differently. Unlike some of those Paths, mine does not provide the dictum that everyone else must believe as I do. My Path is mine alone. Sometimes people walk it with me. Most of the time, they don’t.
I am sure I am not alone in encountering people that are staunch and firm that their beliefs, their way of seeing the world around them, is the “only true road” that everyone else must travel. So, I am sure that there are those that are just as taken aback of their extremely aggressive pronouncements of how “stupid” or “idiotic” those who don’t see things their way are. Being honest, I usually avoid these people in most serious conversations after encountering them once.
Now, this is how I deal with stuff like this. None of that means that you must do as I do. You might crave the debate – the constant back and forth, the ways of utilizing logic in intellectual combat that they may have never considered. If that’s your cuppa, go for it. Just don’t be surprised if I back to the edges of the conversation and stop paying complete attention – if we are together. I know my own limits. Don’t be offended when you find that my limits stop far short of where yours are.