In the U.S.A, religion is often seen as a dirty word by secularists and progressives. Religion is painted as a term for the Christian right wing. Religion is seen as something people use to condemn bigotry and war. Yet, the truth is that religion like most things is neither inherently bad or good.
Religions are endlessly diverse. Individual traditions vary greatly. There is no one form of Christianity, Buddhism, Paganism, etc. These are mere umbrella terms that place many traditions together because of some shared values or belief or practices. But in the end what religion means is subjective to the tradition, the group and the individual. So, as long as there are good decent religious and spiritual people, there are good religions.
It is easy to say what makes a good religion in a general sense. Charity, compassion, kindness, loving and uplifting are the first things that come to mind. On an individual level, I think a good religion is what makes you feel whole and what empowers you to help others. For some people, good religion or spirituality is making music. They connect to themselves and others through that art. That is simple and good. Others may need more practices, more devotion, more meaning in order to find peace in this life. Strict religiosity is not wrong or bad as long as it brings out the goodness in that person.
It is hard to say what is good about my own religion since I am very eclectic. What is good about being a Unitarian Universalist eclectic Wiccan? Well, the most important and “righteous” elements of religion for me is open-mindedness, self-care and social justice. All my paths give me these elements. I am still learning about UU history but what attracted me to it was the respect of religious and human diversity. Plus, UU philosophy is grounded in social justice. It is hard to put UU in a box because it accepts people of various religious beliefs but its core is activism. While I had found too many Wiccans who are willing to sit on the fence of injustices, UU promised me a place to be with justice minded people.
Wicca on the other hand is the ground I raised up on. It is a path of healing and balance. It allows me to heal my inner wounds and connect to the wholeness of humanity. Wicca for me is the path of joy. Becoming a Wiccan, I awaken to a world of magic, mystery and beauty. The Wiccan path, the journey of the Goddess, gives me the strength to face injustices and suffering with a open heart and hope. The rituals of self care, I perform as a Witch and meditator, save me from endless burn out of a human service worker. In the end my religious path is good because it creates balance in my inner world and helps me see the divine in others. I want to support others because my beliefs show me that we are all interconnected.
Interconnection is the wisdom of good religion. Interconnectivity causing churches and synagogues to fight for their rights to feed and shelter the hungry and homeless. It causes faith-based groups to open shelters, protest violence, hold vigils against the death penalty and fight for various human rights. To often, we hear about the beliefs that lead to hatred and exclusivity but there is so much good religion that leads to love and social action. Good religion connects a person to their humanity and reminds us of the worth of all human life.