Yes, I know, you don’t discuss religion or politics in polite company, but plenty of people in the blogosphere seem to be doing a lot of it!
One of my High School teachers said something that I found profound and remember to this day. It is a Budhist saying: “There are many paths to Nirvana.” She was teaching us Asian history and I think this was in reply to some questioning about various Asian based religions. I took this saying to heart and it has helped me be more inquisitive regarding different religions rather than judgmental. It helped me decide that there is no “wrong” or “right” religion. It took me on a path to learn more about various religions and draw my own opinions about them, take from them bits and pieces that I found useful and incorporate them in my own life and eventually make connections with others. I realized that all the religions I found out something about had very similar basic premises. The rituals, prayers, names of God or Gods or other aspects really didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I find that people who follow a given religion are generally using it to help them keep on the straight and narrow and to help them answer some of life’s most pressing questions.
The problem comes up for me when someone decides that their religion is “right” and how they practice is “better”. The “We practice religion this way and therefore that makes us better.” puts other people down and boosts an ego in a bad way. This can, of course, be harmless. In most cases, the people with this attitude just take pity on the poor sinners of other religions and just deny themselves the opportunity of getting to know people of other religions. When this gets harmful is when people decide that their religion is so much better that people of other religions are useless and can and should be eliminated whether that be by colonization, forced conversions, war or ethnic cleansing. We’ve seen so much in history and this is still going on today. We’ve come along so much as a civilization that I really can’t believe that this is still going on. What to do? I don’t have the answer to that question. I just hope that someday this will no longer be an issue and that, at best, we can peacefully coexist on this planet and take the opportunity to learn from each other. At the least, I hope that everyone with the type of mindset mentioned earlier in this paragraph can at least agree to disagree and stop annihilating each other.