Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Many Faces of Religion: excerpt from The Journey by Sara Niles

The Journey is a narrative memoir of the life of Sara Niles and her children after having fled abuse. Niles includes the context of world events and social issues within the narrative of their lives from 1987-2011; the following is an excerpt that demonstrates the power and influence of religion in individual lives:


Chapter 8

The Many Faces of Religion

Throughout history, every nation and village system in the world, has used religious gatherings to form social circles and networks among neighbors. I grew up in the southern United States, deep in the Bible Belt where country churches were the bulwarks of the communities. It did not matter what the local issue of the day was, church was where the meetings took place and the people gathered.

It takes a wise person to be able to judge situations from all sides,  and to see them multi-dimensionally, and to be able to do this perpetually: in fact perhaps it takes special genius to do so. At that time in our lives, I did not possess the genius necessary to judge where the boundaries that limited my children’s freedoms should be. I lacked the balance needed to use religion wisely.  Religion was a vital and powerful force, which can be as useful as it can be dangerous, if not used in a balanced way. Karl Marx once said, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature… It is the opium of the people”, and though this famous saying has angered many a religious soul, it is a true statement nevertheless. Too much religion can indeed be like a drug of escape, for those who are trying to avoid the realities of a ‘dangerous’ world. Just as I found my way into religion as I perceived it at the time, I would find my way again. My children were simply my followers until they developed stronger wills of their own, and would then be free to chart their own paths in life.