I’m the type of guy who is absolutely convinced by very little. Don’t get me wrong—I believe in many things. I just know nothing is absolute. Perhaps there is an old, forceful male God looking down on us just as some believe, or maybe some nerdy guy sitting at a computer is watching everything we do and calling the shots. (And I don’t mean Bill Gates.) Hell, for all I know, there’s a giant hamster running around in a wheel keeping the universe moving. I personally don’t think we’re supposed to know everything, which is why I refuse to believe that ANYONE has all the answers. (For the record, proclamations of absolute conviction are usually part of a larger agenda or a cover for insecurity.)
My unwillingness to accept ANY status quo tends to drive me to Buddhism where there are no absolutes other than our own predisposition for suffering and our own power to change our spirit to either overcome that suffering or embrace it. I’ve seen it, and I’ve lived it. But that’s a different story for a different day. My point is, my religion or spirituality is my choice. I don’t wish it, much less force it, on anyone else.
At the same time, I am not offended by the beliefs of others. If I am going through some trial in life and a Christian, Jew, or Muslim, says they will pray for me, I’m flattered. It’s that simple. I have to assume that their religion is a very personal part of who they are, thus their willingness to share it is a blessing, no matter the flavor.
Too often I see people in both fictional and real life settings who take offense to other religions just on the principle of being different from their own. Any mention of any other way of thinking is seen as a threat to their own. They express horror that some “heathen” may tarnish their soul and good name with a “false” or foreign god. (Just an FYI: If your faith is really that shaky, then the problem is with you, not the other religion. Period.)
This type of hostility and ignorance almost feels new and foreign to me. I’ve always been intrigued by the beliefs of others. For the most part, I grew up around Christians who were not offended by other ways of thinking, much less threatened by them, because they were content and secure in their own beliefs. My Mamaw, while not perfect by any measure, was so satisfied with her own faith later in life, that she had the best “to each his own” attitude about things. She passed on a good bit of that to her own children, including my mother, who passed it on to me and my siblings. And this was in the deepest of the Deep South. But now it seems so many people think their religion must be vindicated, celebrated, and inculcated by the government, and will tell you that America was always that way. (Another FYI: The whole founding of this country can be traced to the reaction AGAINST that sort of thing…not against religion, just against politicized religion.)
Personally, I think this behavior stems from a weakness in the individual or the inability to truly grasp what faith and spirituality are. Sure, it is much easier for many to be TOLD what to believe. An example: Do you really want to ponder the complexities of the physics that make the planets circle the sun and why the sun doesn’t “fall” anywhere? Most people are fine just accepting that the earth circles the sun in about 365.25 days and gives us a nice calculation of time. Many people are the same way about religion (and politics). We are creatures of comfort and safety, and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s natural. However, being a creature of ignorance and fear will only hinder our country…if not our species.
The reading room: