Sunday, May 23, 2010

Respect for Religion 101

In the interest of full disclosure there is something I should make clear. I am a Christian. I am not what you would call a “practicing Christian”. I do not regularly attend church and when I do decide to go it is rarely even to a church of the same denomination as the one before. Although I am actually very deeply spiritual and read the bible regularly, I have also studied the Koran, the writings of Buddha and Confucius and have discussed Hindi teachings with sincere interest and admiration. In other words, I have a common respect for everyone and do not believe anyone has exclusive claim to knowing God. I believe in God and also believe that everyone’s individual path to God should be respected whatever that path may be. I make an exception, however, when it is something blatantly ridiculous or involves a requirement to do harm to yourself or others. Having said that there are times when even a person with as much tolerance as I claim to have can get a little fed-up with some of the nonsense going on around us. I am now about to go on a long overdue tirade about a few such things.

The first target on my hit-list is Anti-Christian hypocrisy. Why is it that we live in a society admittedly created on Christian moral standards and yet we seem actually afraid to take ownership of those values? How did we become so obsessed with the importance of ‘freedom of religion’ that we disown our own values so as not to offend a relatively tiny minority? For example, when did Christmas become the “Winter Holiday”? Why are Christmas trees banded from some public displays? 76% of Americans call themselves Christian, 15% claim no affiliation and non-Christian religions (including Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and others) collectively make up about 4% of the adult population (according to "CIA Fact Book". CIA World Fact Book. 2002. Retrieved 2007-12-30). When did we get so “politically correct” that 4% of the population determines the standards for the 76%?

Why do we have such a problem with the display of the 10 Commandments in our Halls of Justice? Those 10 Commandments are, after all, a big part of what our system of laws and justice are based upon! When did we let a respect for other people’s religion obscure and infringe upon our own?

Why do we, knowing that this is happening, continue to allow this farce? Why do so many “good Christians”, who are so willing to go picket at a local school to keep a gay couple from having children attend the same school as their darling kids, sit silently when atheists seek to remove the phrase “In God We Trust” from the dollar bill and take “Under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance?

When did the “left wing” take over the role of caring for the poor and homeless? That role has traditionally been of importance to the church. Good Christians have always been involved in helping the needy. Don’t you find it strange that so many devout Christians identify themselves as Right-wing Republicans and yet it is the Left-wing Democrats that promote the majority of social programs? I can’t tell you how many times I have heard a “Left-wing” zealot proclaim the importance of bringing opportunity to, and caring for, the poor –then turn right around and make fun of a Christian group for doing the same thing! Hypocrisy thou name art liberal!

Why do we insist on feeling guilty over things that happened generations ago, sometimes hundreds of years ago? Sure, the “Christians” went on crusades to “free the holy land” that were actually nothing more than excuses to conquer territory and gain wealth. While it is quite true that many atrocities occurred during the crusades, half of them were made by Muslims against those same Christians. Besides, that was nearly a thousand years ago, when are we going to get over it? Does Greece go around demanding reparations from the Persians for burning Athens to the ground? Do we hold the Italians responsible for crucifying of Christ? No, of course not.

But, what really bothers me is the hypocrisy of both the Christians with their misplaced guilt complex, and the ridiculous “poor innocent victim” stance of the Muslim world over the Crusades. The fact is that, at the same time the Christians were failing miserably to conquer the holy land, the Muslims were doing very well conquering Spain (and committing more than a few atrocities of their own in the process). Just why is it that no one seems to remember that piece of western history?

I guess my point with all of this is a fairly simple one. None of us are either “innocent” or “guilty” or even “responsible” for things that happened so many years ago. We live now, today and regardless of our ancient history or our religious or cultural beliefs we need to share the planet. What is more, the world is far smaller than it was a generation ago. Communications is instant; knowledge is the property of everyone, not just the privileged. Times and conditions are crowding us ever closer together – in-other-words, like it or not we are stuck with each other. We need to respect each others beliefs and take a little pride in our own and in who we are now, today.

Each of us is the sum of many things. Americans are often a great mixture. In my own case I am American and proud, I am also Christian (non-denominational), a brown haired, blue-eyed Caucasian, a Californian who is also jokingly a “naturalized Texan”, ¼ Native American (Cherokee), ½ Irish, ¼ Swiss-German. A Libertarian leaning Republican, I have an MBA and an honorary doctorate in Theology and Metaphysics, I love animals and have a dog, and have a hard time choosing between Mai-Ti’s on the beach in Waikiki or Pina Colada’s listening to jazz in New Orleans. And even with all that crowded into this one skin, I still want to see, live, experience, learn and be more. What is more, I think we all do. We all want to be more than we are. How will we ever be able to do that if we spend all our time complaining about (or apologizing for) stuff that happened to ancestors whose names have mostly been long forgotten?

People need to realize that everyone has something to offer and something to learn. Tolerance (religious and cultural) is not just a nice concept, it is an imperative if the human race is going to survive and grow.

In the words of Rodney King: "People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it, making it horrible for the older people and the kids?...It’s just not right. It’s not right. It’s not, it’s not going to change anything. We’ll, we’ll get our justice....Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to work it out."

Today's Fun Picture

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