You asked me a very interesting question the other day. You said "Do you have religion?"
As the question can be interpreted as a serious one or as a light-hearted one, I would prefer to view it seriously. Religion has been something I am deeply interested in all through my life; enough for me to have given our three children one each a book titled The World's Great Religions by Huston Smith as a New Year gift a few years ago. As you may know by now Linda and I like to consider ourselves as Buddhists and we know most of you as Christians. Undoubtedly we are all tolerant and understanding enough to accept that. I love the saying "All roads lead to Rome"; it's the heart that matters and not what people mouth in front of others. I prefer to live my own brand of religion daily in a quiet way. As the Christian bible says, let not the left hand know what the right hand does. Another favorite saying of mine states that a true church has no walls.
I hope I am not boring you with my personal stories. I'm not an affectionate person but I'm sincerely compassionate. Some 30 or 40 years ago when I heard of the unjust case of a death-row prisoner facing imminent execution, I immediately wrote his state's governor and pleaded clemency for him. Although as an individual I could not hope to influence the government's decision one way or the other, I was compelled by my conscience to act on his behalf. Because I was busy with my personal life, I didn't have time to follow the case through. Coincidentally enough, I heard of an unfair death-row prisoner case last year. This time I also wrote to the governor on behalf of the prisoner for clemency. Because this happened in Virginia and I was no longer working, I also wrote to a newspaper in Richmond and followed the case closely. It was a very agonizing several months until I finally heard that Governor Warner had commuted the person's sentence to life imprisonment. You cannot imagine how I rejoiced when I heard the news. I was proud not because my action had anything to do with the governor's decision but rather because I had acted according to my conscience and religion. As you may know, the person was Robin Lovett. Even though the first case involved a white man and the second a black man, color has nothing to do with my personal actions. Had the person's skin color been different, I would have come to his defense just the same.
By 1997 I had already donated more than enough blood to my fellow Americans in Mass. to become a 2-gallon member of the local hospital's blood bank. I continued to donate blood after moving to Virginia until the Red Cross disqualified me on account of a new medication I was taking. By now I've given the city of Virginia Beach more than 2000 hours of service and I've donated my Internet knowledge to 3 civic organizations for 4 years. Just this past weekend I spent 8 hours doing translation work for the Navy for free.
Just in case you are not familiar with China's religions, the majority of Chinese are not atheists or heathens. In truth they have been imbued through the ages with three religions into their daily life, namely Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. One may sum it up as ethics. Actually if one peels off the skin of all religions, one will invariably find ethics residing at the core. Confucianism teaches the individual how to live with his fellow men, Taoism how to live with nature and Buddhism how to live with himself. I consider that a pretty universal way of life.
Finally folks may easily misunderstand me because by nature I am not a loud mouth and don't try to impress others with acts or words. The fact that I fully recognize what I see as immorality in today's society does not imply that I accept or approve it. It only means that I do not turn a blind eye. Morality holds a very sacred place in my daily life in terms of actions or words. Please don't let me give you the wrong impression that I am trying to live like a saint. I think in the final analysis what one needs is not constant approval from one's fellow men but rather one's own heart and conscience. As far as I am concerned, that's what counts at the end. Of course, this is only my own humble view.