It is crazy how minds work and how we may have this ideal, this identity, taking ownership of a religion, for example “I am Christian or he/she is Muslim”. We all know what we believe in at this very second in time, and often we fumble around to try to find answers in that cultural and religious framework which was built around us before we could even talk, whereas some break free in their own way from this, usually in a matter of fact way, after all we don’t all need a faith or God to succeed in life.
Religion is a massive umbrella term, a person’s religion is merely an identity, it doesn’t mean that all people with an identity behave or think in the same manner, nor does it dictate that they have the exact same beliefs about subjects which is why I struggle to comprehend people making assumptions when it comes down to any of the main world religions. In this day an age it is often fear which leads anyone to assume what impact religion has on the world, especially regarding terrorism, where the media plays a huge part in facilitating different negative ideas. The demonization of the Islamic religion has meant that the symbolism of how they dress is being disregarded with it being outlawed in many countries. The fear of terrorism has created this problem and stirred up the whole world into this crazy belief that Islam is a faith which allows such torture, it is wrong that the group responsible for some of the hatred have the word ‘islamic’ within its title. So this identity we take on with a belief system has such a huge impact on not only what we think of the world but how the world sees us.
This is not a blog where I wish to give anymore time discussing or getting on my soapbox about terrorism or indeed racism or any form of discrimination of others. However it is a blog about freedom using outward symbols of religion, from jewellery to clothing, there are so many types of symbol, sometimes cultural and others through individual preference. It is hopefully an eye opener to the reality we do live in, I’m still astounded at how little I know about life, writing these blogs help me to try to make sense of things I’m learning and observing.
When being part of a religion which you are born into, depending on how involved you are to the practices, it is easy to see things as a ‘norm’. For example I was brought up with Christian beliefs, not to the extent of attending church every Sunday although when I was a teen I made that choice, but from a young age I knew what a cross symbolised. But Christianity gave more symbols which are worn, such as a ring to symbolise marriage, within Catholicism ladies may wear head coverings, dress in a particular manner etc. Things that we don’t think twice about are actual symbols and we don’t think twice because certain things are normal to us depending on culture. I remember when I identified as a Christian it sometimes upset me when peers wore a cross necklace just because it was pretty, rather than because it was a symbol of their belief in Jesus, I never said anything which nowadays I am pleased about. One of the many lessons I have learned through having a different outlook is that although certain symbols are obviously based on a particular religion, it is not them alone which define our religion and I feel that I was wrong to be judgemental of who should and shouldn’t wear symbols.
Earlier I wrote about religion being a term used within our identity and that everyone is different regarding the beliefs etc. This is not put to make out religion is a flimsy thing but to help open the mind to the truth that assuming things is so questionable that it makes out that anyone who follows a religious framework should be treated as their religion rather than as a person. My personal view is the importance of the faith and not only believing but understanding, it’s what makes sense to us on an individual level which is the true essence of our religion. Once you have searched inward you know what you’re dealing with and sometimes it matches to an organized religion and you wish to take on that identity or maybe not.
Symbols are very much linked to discovering yourself, especially when you do have a time where your key beliefs are challenged or you identify as a different religion. Outward appearance is how we are judged by society, by barely brushing past someone in the street, as they look up they form an opinion in an instant, we all do this. Appearance is often dictated by our influences and what we feel comfortable in as well as other things such as cost, but mainly it is influence, be it cultural or individual, religion or hobby, occasion etc.
When I started identifying as a hindu I began to wear a bindi, this wasn’t because it looked nice but it is a symbol of marriage in hinduism and I wear it with pride because of this along with my knowledge and belief in the scientific advantages. If I didn’t wear a bindi I would still be hindu and still love my husband so this symbol is down to choice. I have a lovely friend who is Sikh and he asked advice from another Sikh because of the tradition of not cutting the hair, he didn’t want to cause offense or disregard teaching by having his hair cut, so his mind was put at rest.
Everyone has a belief, being a non believer is a belief, we all have a mind with our own individual logic which is how we make choices. The awareness of thought does impact what we wear and if we do believe in something we may want to express that by how we dress, including jewellery, however it’s such a fragmented world that fear has caused this choice to be taken away. We are so fearful of looking different because people can be very cruel, as though society is pushing many people into solitude, it’s no wonder there are so many mental health problems because loving who we are as a person is key in good mental health. To be constrained in a manner where we can’t be proud that we identify as Christian, Jew, Muslim etc is awful, to think when you go out the house you can’t wear a certain thing, even if you are so passionate about it.
Hand on heart I can say that I really do believe that finding yourself and then if you wish, identify as a particular religion is a good way to find the freedom within any framework. It doesn’t make sense that often we find ourselves having a religion before we know what we believe, to know what’s right for us it’s surely less important to be of a religion. I don’t by any means think that it’s wrong to bring up a child with a religious identity or with morals taught through religious doctrine. I speak as an adult to another adult, after living a little and learning a lot, that awareness, choice and freedom to decide our identity. Being able to symbolise what’s important to us is great for the mind and soul, easier said than done sometimes but that understanding you gain of a specific symbol which means you agree and support it, in theory you want to be proud and show it off. Having that insight of anything positive is a true blessing.