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by Jennie S. Bev, Santa Clara

I’m a believer. I have written about this many times. I don’t deny that I still believe that Christ is the ultimate Savior and Saint Mary is the mother of all creatures, big and small. 

Yet, I also acknowledge that religion is a sweet poison. A poison we sometimes need to swallow deliberately to release us from worry and stress, to find solace in something we believe will be able to heal our broken hearts, and to give hope when things go awry in this uncertain and chaotic world. Yet, religion is so sweet a poison that if we take too big a dose, our sanity would collapse and vanish.

A person, after all, must be realistic enough to understand that salvation doesn’t come for free externally, but most importantly it comes through internal enlightenment. If you think that by joining a religion, then salvation comes as a complimentary bonus, well, that’s a part of the persuasive power of a poison. 

We need to save ourselves, first and foremost, by opening our hearts and minds. 

If a religion helps us understand this important part of our life’s journey, then it is a good dose, which is not yet poisonous, but healing instead.

I still drink my sweet poison every day. I pray relentlessly in sickness and in health, in happiness and in grieving periods, in good and in bad days. 

And I think it is healing to be taken in a light dose, just like alcohol, which otherwise can overwork our liver so much that we can collapse and die.

Beware, though, for religion is more lethal than any poison known to humankind. 

If you consider religion as the handbook of morality, think again. Morality has long existed without religion. Religion emerged because of morality. 

Thus, teaching a child that “God is always watching” is hilarious because the parent thinks that God is a CCTV. God isn’t a CCTV or a handbook and will not be one, despite what uninformed individuals think and believe.

The correct way of doing things is what matters and can be sought within through our own enlightened self-guidance, regardless of whether one does or doesn’t adopt any institutionalized religion. 

Atheists are wired in their brain not to need to drink the sweet poison every night before bedtime. And it is a respectable choice indeed.

Like eros love, religion is both intoxicating and lethal. Neuroscientists have argued that it is the wiring in the brain that makes someone highly religious or not at all. Whether you trust science or believe in mystical principles, sweet poison must be taken with care and awareness.

Perhaps some day I’ll be able to live without swallowing this sweet poison anymore and I look forward to it. 

Meanwhile, a religion is a place where I can safely make wishes and dream about what would happen next after experiencing a tumultuous life journey or even to dream about the afterlife. 

Such wishes and dreams are encapsulated in something called “faith”.

At this point in life, religion to me is a nice warm bed every night and a smiling motherly figure singing lullabies. A religion is not an order to do things or not to do things. What I choose to do is based on my own considerations. 

And a religion sometimes plays a role because when I’m drinking sweet poison, I feel elated and more positive about the present, the future, and the days after I die.

Internal enlightenment occurs when we make decisions based on priorities and not harming others. Collective individual enlightenment would create a culture of strong internality, instead of showing off with “holy attributes”. A sweet poison has reached its most poisonous deadly form when people who call themselves “religious” start killing and hurting others physically or mentally. 

Being a believer or a non-believer has nothing to do with one’s internal enlightenment. 

Intellectually and affectively, we can heighten our awareness without having to drink too much of this sweet poison. 

And being an atheist as a choice may also be evidence of internal enlightenment, for he or she can survive without having to rely on some abstract ideas and dogmas handed down from ancient times.

A non-violent atheist is much more enlightened than a violent religious individual, who believes that killing others is a duty to reach a place called Heaven. 

It is a misconception buried so deep in some religious individuals, because heaven is not a place. Heaven is a state of mind.

The Jakarta Post, March 30, 2013

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