Opinion: The inconsistency of buffet-style spirituality



Sarahbeth Caplin

Sarahbeth Caplin

Sarahbeth Caplin is a senior English major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]

Imagine you are baking some cookies. I’m not much of a baker myself, but from what I hear it’s a very precise process. If a recipe calls for sugar, substituting garlic will definitely not produce the intended results. Chances are, the cookies will turn out to be a conglomerated mess.

There’s a reason recipes call for certain ingredients. Similarly, there’s a reason why all religions have certain tenets. They are all meant to work together, not separately. Sure, all religions basically preach love and kindness to one’s neighbor, but to reject the doctrines that back up the Golden Rule is to misunderstand the entire faith.

I learned enough from my Comparative Religious Thought class last semester to understand that there is far more to the world’s leading religions than simply “living a good life.” It’s easy to skim the surface of Christianity and believe Jesus is a cool guy who preached compassion, not knowing what he had to say about the final judgment. It’s easy to skim the surface of Judaism and think the concept of social justice is admirable, but have no clue what a mitzvah is, or how tzedakah differs from charity. There are many aspects of the world’s religions that are interesting and worth studying, but mixing them all together in a self-made religion results in cosmic confusion, not enlightenment.

If people intend to live their lives as they choose, with no desire to be “tied down” by doctrine, then why bother with religion at all?

To pick and choose aspects of some faiths and reject the rest is not only misguided but also offensive. It’s essentially saying, “I think some of your religion is beneficial, but the rest is useless to me.” The buffet-style approach to religion is nothing more than a way to organize one’s life and priorities around the god of the self. There is no self-sacrifice, no deep commitment and no knowledge gained if one is simply following their own rules.

I am completely in favor of interfaith dialogues and discussing the similarities of the world’s religions. However, similarities do not mean identical doctrines. Even if all religions desire to make the world a better place and grow closer to their own individual god or gods, they all believe in different ways of doing so.

It is up to each individual to figure out what he or she stands for and what to dedicate his or her life to. There are many religious paths to choose from, but for anyone who has ever read a multitude of holy books, it becomes clear that they do not all lead to the same place. It is not my goal to shamelessly plug my own religious beliefs; my goal is simply to promote consistency.