Once upon a time, I tried to evangelize my grandpa. It was 1998. I was still home schooled. I knew very little about the world. I thought what I knew then was the absolute truth. And of course, I had to share my vast knowledge with everyone who didn’t believe what I did, to make them become like me.
What my grandpa wrote back to me never left me:
May 14, 1998
It’s raining and everything is green outside. I’m doing laundry so I’ll take this opportunity to reply to your letter.
I don’t usually discuss religion but you took the lead in bringing it up, so here goes.
First of all I think it was very sweet of you to consider me important enough to write your letter. Your mother and I have had this same conversation before.
There are many denominations of Christians from those who believe that “giving yourself to God” to those who believe in “Jesus of Nazareth.” I’ve had experience with some of these Protestant, Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Latter Day Saints, Jewish, and Watch Tower. Would you believe they all can defend their religious beliefs and consider themselves the one who are correct. And how about the other great religions which include many others: Hindu, Muslim, Buddhism, Mohammedan, Sikhism and lets not forget the American Indian. They are determined their belief it the correct way. They can’t all be right but each one has good things about them.
As you get older you’ll come into contact with different religious groups and you’ll probably discuss the aspects of religion. The more you get out among others of different faiths the more you’ll wonder. I have worked with many people of other faiths and the “measure of a man” is NOT his religion.
I don’t want you to be as skeptical as I am.
Remember we love you very much and the hope you’ll keep your innocence.
I have Bibles and the Book of Mormon, I don’t have the Koran yet.
And here I am now, nineteen years later, agreeing with my grandpa. As “skeptical” as he was. But I don’t like the negative connotation the word “skeptical” holds. We are independent thinkers. And I have seen much more of the big world now than I did in 1998.
The measure of a man is NOT his religion.
I have grandpa’s genes. I believe we can do the right thing without a religion telling us what that thing is. That we know intrinsically that being kind and honest with ourselves and others is good.
Go to church or don’t, but be good to one another. Be kind and honest and care about what is important. What is important is not our religion, but the measure of who we are.
RIP Grandpa. You died nearly ten years ago but I’m still learning from you.