It has been said that we all construct prison cells around ourselves. The walls, ceiling and floor are made up of the beliefs that define us, the people that surround us and the fears that limit us.
The question each of us must ask ourselves is how small have we made our prison cells and are we happy within the confines of our walls. Let’s first look at our beliefs as these pour the foundation of our lives. The funny thing about beliefs is that most of them are not even ours! They are beliefs passed down to us by those who were around us in our earliest years – the years before we were even capable of forming our own beliefs.
How about your beliefs on religion? If you were raised in a religious home or even an anti-religious home, these beliefs could be the very corner posts of your prison cell. Those who raised you instilled these beliefs in you from the day you were born and , in most cases, offered no room to deviate from the belief. Even after you were grown and started to have questions about some of it, you would not dare bring up your wavering faith to those who raised you. For those of you who chose your own religious path in adulthood, this may not apply.
Kevin and I were both raised in the Christian Church. The religious rules he was raised under were decidedly stricter than mine, but we were both given a strong religious belief system. There were no questions as to what was true. We were required by God himself to live a life as close to perfect as possible. Every single time we did anything wrong, we were sinning against God and he was disappointed in us. We had to believe that Jesus Christ came to earth in human form, preached his perfect message, took all of our sins upon himself so we could be saved and then was brutally murdered so that we could live forever in Heaven. After he was dead, he was thrown in a cave with the doorway blocked by a huge stone. After three days, he rose from the dead. Badda Bing, Badda Boom, believe it or dwell in Hell for all of eternity. Period.
Then one day the thought occurred to me that maybe there was more than one point of view. !!!GASP!!! The thought that started me down this rabbit hole came to me while in elementary school learning about the Native Americans. According to the doctrine we were fed, they were obviously savages who believed in multiple, false Gods. Our forefathers were appalled and demanded that they be taught proper religion so their souls could be saved. I looked up pictures of their religious sites and practices. I researched how closely bound they felt to their version of God – how they worshipped and believed. They believed in a higher power just as strongly as we did, it was just different. When I asked the BIG question to a Christian scholar, I was shocked at the answer. I asked if all the Native Americans that had ever lived and died, were now in Hell because they hadn’t been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. The answer? “The only way to Heaven is through baptism in the name of Jesus Christ. If they were not baptized, they were not saved.” WOW! That just didn’t sound like the God I prayed to in my endless prayer journals. How could that even be a thing if these people had never had the opportunity to be taught about Christianity? If their beliefs in a higher power were just as strong as mine, what made their beliefs wrong and what made my beliefs right? How were we capable of judging when the Bible clearly tells us to not judge?
Think about this. What if you had been born in a different part of the world? What if you had been born to Muslim parents? Or Hindu parents? Wouldn’t your beliefs in the religion you were raised with be as strong as your current beliefs? Wouldn’t you then say that Christianity was completely wrong? I mean, think about this – what if YOU were raised as a Hindu and believed with every cell in your body that their multiple deity religion was the one true religion. You would have Hindu holy books and scriptures that you would study just like we have our Bible. You would believe that your Holy Scriptures were the true words given to you from the deities you worshipped. Maybe you had never even heard of Christianity or whatever religion you practice? Just take a minute to let that soak in.
The moral of the story is this: if you have made your prison cell extremely small due to your rigid religious beliefs, is there any room to expand the space by at least opening the door to the possibility that maybe God is too big to be squashed into one tiny, confining box? Maybe humans are not even capable of comprehending the concept of what God truly is. Maybe trying to define God by a set of human rules is like comparing the color of the sun to a yellow crayon. Before we condemn another human to eternity in Hell just because they grew up under different religious rules, maybe we could get to know that human on a personal level. I am not suggesting in any way that anyone give up their own religious beliefs. I know faith has given me a strong foundation on which to build my life. I’m just asking, is there any room to expand our prison cells to be more accepting of others?