Buffet-style religion

As the latter half of Lent slowly progresses, and my willpower to avoid eating chips for the duration of the Catholic observance has me jonesing like an addict, I have been thinking a lot about religion.

I was raised in a very open household. While I studied the catechism for my first communion, my mother encouraged me to study up on a number of other religions in case I found one I preferred. In the end, I received my first communion, but only after terrifying my priest with questions about reincarnation and transubstantiation versus consubstantiation—questions the man was less than prepared to receive from a second grader.

The result of this whole religious contemplation is that I am what I affectionately refer to as a buffet-style Catholic. I have a certain reverence for Catholic observances, but I don’t by any means buy into everything that Catholicism preaches. I believe in reincarnation and a number of other typically Buddhist principles, and I recognize that there is no way I can possibly have all the answers. Instead, I just pick and choose what I hope is true about the God in which I have chosen to believe.

I recently found myself defending this self-made image of God to a friend, who told me point-blank, “Then you’re not a Catholic. You cannot follow a religion that you don’t believe in completely.” While I can see the point’s validity, I beg to differ. It seems too great an overgeneralization to say such a thing. On the minutest level, for instance, Leviticus says not to cut your beard, but many modern-day Christians do so and it seems not to affect their faith.

Sophomore Religion and History double major Jana Cary-Alvarez weighed in on the topic: “Picking and choosing different aspects from different religions, or practicing ‘watered-down’ versions of religions is neither good nor bad, it’s just something that happens.  Faith is a really important thing for most people—whether it’s faith in a god of some sorts or a faith in science—and if you find that faith in something that is half-Hindu-half-Shinto with Buddhist-sprinkles, that’s awesome.”

For me personally, there are certain aspects of different religions that I really appreciate, and other aspects that I think are not totally applicable to the modern world. Just like how someone can be Christian or Catholic without adhering to every single word of the Bible, someone can be a Christian who deeply respects certain aspects of, say, Buddhism for example.  It reminds me of the saying, “I believe in all roads to God,” used by some people to avoid pointing to any specific belief as being more ‘correct’ then another. Buffet-style religion is fairly similar to that stance on faith. People who go with a mix-and-match outlook are respecting and accepting the idea that no one really knows if any one religion has gotten it ‘right.’

I prefer to agree with Cary-Alvarez’s take on buffet-style religion: “It’s a natural part of religious exploration.” I believe that people should believe whatever they do. Just as I wouldn’t force my beliefs on someone else, I don’t think others should be able to dictate what values and opinions that I must adhere to in order to embody the modified category into which I’ve placed myself. With that said, only two more weeks until I can eat chips again.