A priest, a minister, and a rabbi…

Leah Hitchens

Happy birthday to me. On Tuesday, I will tear a page from the calendar of my life as I turn 23 years old. I love birthdays, and not just my own. I love the idea of them: celebrating someone’s life and the continuation of it.

I enjoy looking back on the past year and thinking about the ways I grew up. It’s amazing to look at my life as a whole and reflect on the precious opportunities 23 years on Earth have afforded me.

Then, after reflection, I can’t help but look forward. I wonder what my 23rd year will bring. I wonder what I will see, experience, do. I wonder what will define this year of my life and how I can make it a year full of purpose.

In the midst of these ponderings, my mind can’t help but wander. How much of my belief in a life filled with purpose stems from what I believe to be true about God? For centuries, and from one religion to another, people searched for ways to define life: How did I get here? What is my purpose? Is my life even purposeful to begin with?

I wouldn’t be foolish enough to attack these mind-boggling questions in 600 words, but I am intrigued by the approaches taken by some of the major world religions in their attempts to answer this age-old question.

In the lesser-known world of Scientology, humans are made of three parts: mind, body and Thetan. According to the Scientology Web site, “Man is a spiritual being endowed with abilities well beyond those which he normally envisages. He is not only able to solve his own problems, accomplish his goals, and gain lasting happiness, but also to achieve new states of awareness he may never have dreamed possible.”

So a Scientologist would argue the reason I exist is to pursue my own happiness. It is my responsibility in life to wrestle through my problems so I can ascend to higher spiritual levels. In the eyes of a Scientologist, a birthday might be like a challenge, a gauntlet thrown by the spiritual world, which I must overcome to find my own happiness.

This pursuit of happiness differs significantly from the Islamic worldview, by which Allah created man from a clot of blood. Man is here for the purpose of serving and obeying Allah. He was born with the choice whether to heed to this purpose. In light of this free will, submission is the highest religious virtue.

Christianity offers the perspective that God, as the creator, made me in His own image. This doesn’t mean people look like God, but more so reflect his personality, a non-physical likeness. This kind of God ascribes dignity to human life. The Christian worldview says He knew every day I would live before the world was created.

Within Judaism, there are obvious characteristics shared with the Christian view. I was born with the ability to reason, and that alone is my most prized character reflection of God. The yetzer tov and the yetzer ra are the two moral consciences always at work within me; one for following God’s law, and the other satisfying my own impulses. One always keeps the other in check.

If God gives me another year to live, the journey I am on will continue to unfold. I don’t want to live this year just trying to get by. I don’t want to frivolously seek my own personal happiness. I don’t want to live even in my own desperate attempts to “please” God. I desire to contribute perspective and offer hope. So, as I raise my verbal champagne glass, toast with me: to another year, to more truths yet to be discovered, to life that should be lived and celebrated. Cheers.

The above column by Leah Hitchens was originally published Oct. 16 by Ohio University’s The Post.