This morning I was on the subway on my way into Manhattan and a very loud woman was preaching about Jesus. Throughout the entire speech, she kept repeating that we need to “come to Jesus” and that we must do it before it is too late. The overtone of her entire session was that we are going to die and go to hell or heaven. She constantly mentioned that Jesus died for us (her) and that without his death she wouldn’t be preaching to me.
This whole experience, really struck a nerve. It isn’t because she was screaming or trying to convert me. Those are normal occurrences on the subway in New York. What really bothered me was the constant reference to death, hell, heaven and her not-so-subtle attempt at evoking guilt to convert the entire train car.
I should let everyone know that I am not a religious man. I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish household and understand many of the laws of Judaism and some of the motivations behind them. I am not anti religion. The opposite, I think it has some great benefits, but have decided it is not for me right now.
Back to this morning’s preaching session.
Death, heaven, hell and guilt are not reasons to follow an organized religion. Love and faith are. Faith should be in the greater good that is begotten through religion and abiding by restrictive laws. If you don’t have faith, love of god should be the only other reason to take on a restrictive set of rules.
We as humans are wired to want to survive. We are all just trying to get food, water, sex and community to help survive longer. Telling someone that the only way they can survive is by accepting Jesus is a cheap trick. If that didn’t get you, let’s throw some guilt out there: Jesus died for you.
If we changed the way we taught and preached religion, people would recognize that it wasn’t built to hurt you or your families or the non-believers next door. People would recognize that death is a small part of religion and not the driving force. People would recognize that religion is a support system to help you live a better life with a higher standard of living.
I hope the next time someone preaches on my train, I hear how god is loving, churches and prayer houses are sources of strong supportive communities and that the structure of a daily routine tied to prayer and ritual helps focus your work and life towards a greater good.