Last thing I ever expected to be is a Christian. I despised what I thought was narrow-minded, cold-hearted judgementalism and couldn't conceive that that was the dark distortion only, from the abusers of power, who sought to control and profit.
There's a lot of money and power to gather by those who want to do that. But they can do that from all kinds of platforms, not just religion. Fame, beauty, politics, celebrity, music, propaganda, movie, entertainment, and sports, oratory all can be turned into platforms for power, control, and profit.
While religion is extremely vulnerable to misuse and abuse and it is constantly being distorted and corrupted by many even now, that's not the sole story.
So many have been motivated by love, a desire for justice, the conviction that we are all brothers and sisters no fear, no desire to exploit others or grift, nothing self-serving. And that's a trait of religion that is not being misused or abused, any of the great world religions. Like oratory can be used to inspire and uplift of demonize and tear down, the creative arts can do the same, or they can be perverted into a tool for spreading distrust, anger, fear, self-loathing, and self-destructive behaviors. We all know what political abuses occur, but politics can also be used to protect our peoples and our public lands, educate, rebuild, extend liberties, ensure opportunities, and much more. We've seen people who've used their beauty and fame for good as well.
Martin Luther King Jr. was one who risked and ultimately lost his life to work for justice, civil rights, and economic opportunities. He was empowered by his faith in God who the scriptures taught him had a passion for justice and for the poor. Not by fear, but by love.
So many more people of faith would not recognize the idea that fear or ignorance were behind why we believe and why we are then empowered to go out and do for others from love and the courage to believe in the positive power to effect change.
I myself started the journey as many of us do, from failure. But I was very antagonistic to religion. But I met warmth, acceptance, and love in visiting a church my husband was singing in one Sunday, and found no trace of the spiritual arrogance I expected or any attempt to convert me. But I was very resistant, until watching the PBS discussions between Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyer on the Power of Myth. Campbell said that all myths have in common that they are tackling mystery that is beyond human ability to put into words. Yet all of them have elements of truth that are a real reflection of that cosmic mystery. I wrestled with that idea for awhile and began to figure out what were the true parts. Love, doing for others, mercy, forgiveness, acceptance, humility, tenderheartedness, joy, authenticity, getting oneself out of the way.
It's fine to believe differently. I don't believe my beliefs are superior, but for me they've brought great meaning and joy as I'm sure other religious beliefs have brought for others. Our beliefs are positive, good for others, inclusive, seeing the divine in all Creation, not manipulating others, not seeking power for ourselves, seeking to do justice, love mercy, and resist evil. We recognize and wrestle with the temptations to get sidetracked by pride, anger, and other attitudes and behaviors, then are motivated to use tools to restore relationships when we have harmed them. We repent when we hurt others, ourselves, our Higher Power. We're imperfectly human, doing our best, and continuing to work toward doing better. Our faith should not be denigrated, it should be elevated in contrast to the distorted, misbegotten, manipulative, controlling use of fear and ignorance to grift.
Telling the counterfeit from the true is a skill that can only be learned by studying the true. Bank tellers don't study counterfeit bills, they study the genuine ones. Likewise, those being misled by the power-hungry would do very well to find those whose faith is genuine, selfless, loving, and accepting.