I was born and raised in a broad-minded Hindu family in India.
My grandfather used to send me comic books about Hindu mythological stories when I was a child.
My parents gifted me a children’s illustrated Bible for my 6th birthday.
I visit temples with my family. We also go to churches and Muslim/Sufi shrines.
I participate in religious rituals that are important to my family with faith and respect. However, I neither pray every day nor do I do any of the rituals that my family does. Celebrating festivals is done more for the fun and bonding aspect than for any religious aspect.
I don’t consider myself religious, but I believe in God.
I respect the religious beliefs of others as long as it does not encroach on human rights and—specifically—as long as it does not oppress women. When it crosses that line, I have and will call it out.
So it could be safe to say that I believe in a power outside of the lines of religion that I call God only because it is more convenient to call it that. My atheist and religious friends have argued about this with me to no avail.
I don’t have any empirical proof about the existence of God but I have experienced it.
I have experienced an energy that is pure love, and that cannot be given a name.
It could be some yet-scientifically-untested force, like gravity once was, for all I care.
It could be called Jim or Asha or Akbar or The Universe or anything else.
I have grappled with questions of why rapes, genocides, poverty, starvation, child molestation, etc., happen if something like God exists. I have tried to find answers for that. I don’t have them, and yet I have settled on an ambiguity that is more peaceful than confusing.
I have experienced a higher power that is in me and around me that is pure, pristine, unconditional love. I can’t explain that.
I have a deep knowing that everything is alright even when it seems like everything is getting worse. I can’t explain that either.
This Energy does not need me to worship it or praise it or please it. It doesn’t care if I pray to it or not. It doesn’t expect anything from me. It just is.
It is always there, and I am as sure of it as I am sure of my parents’ love for me. It’s that real and visceral for me. I don’t doubt it; I never have.
So when people fight for God or on behalf of It, while I respect their sentiments, I am amused.
I wouldn’t care if they criticized God as I believe It and I know for sure that It wouldn’t care either.
Then what is religion, and why do we need it? Frankly, I don’t know.
Could I be delusional? Could be!
Am I a hopeless mystic? Most probably!
Do I force others to believe that my way is the only way and fight for my version of God? Never have and never will.
Live and let live is my philosophy, but with the freedom to criticize and be criticized if it oppresses anyone in its name.
If it makes you a better person and guides your life to its highest potential, what does it matter what it is called and if it is outside the bounds of ”religion?”