I took some time off from writing. Sadly, when you have a chronic illness, you do not feel like writing. I lost the battle with convincing myself to write the past week or so, and for that I apologize to anyone who missed my witty ramblings about religion. (Seriously, I love you guys. My readers are awesome!)

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As a culture, we have become hypersensitive to criticism and questions. Most of us, particularly when it comes to questions from people of other religions, do not know how to separate frustration over not knowing the answer to a question and thinking people are personally trying to attack our beliefs. When we feel comfortable in our views, we do not like that comfort to be challenged, especially, if we find not knowing the answer troubling. On the bright side, many of the questions faced by both believers and non-believers are philosophical questions that have been examined by people for a very long time.

Both believers and non-believers have something to lose if we cannot learn to treat each other’s opinions with respect. The ability to think for ourselves and choose what we believe is something that most cultures have only tolerated for the last century, and some cultures still do not tolerate this. If we want to avoid the need to take up arms against our neighbors who do not share our beliefs, we need to stop trying to impose our beliefs on others. It is one thing to try to discuss in a respectful manner why you think someone has not thought through what they believe, but we need to stop name-calling and intimidation.

If you have a question, phrase it in a manner that is deferential or at least polite. If you do not know the answer, be honest. Nobody knows everything and it is usually better to be honest about what you do not yet know than to try to make something up. If you are interested in looking in to the subject deeper, then do so.

We have reached a point where we have learned to shout at each other, but ignore what the other person is saying. It has led to a major cultural clash because all sides want to be able to impose their beliefs on others, but we have seen from generations of societal experiments where religions have been banned entirely, such as in the USSR, or some religions have been banned, such as the treatment of Native American religions in the 19th and early 20th centuries, that people rebel. Oppression is not a welcomed part of the human condition.

My call to you is this: be tolerant, be willing to ask questions, give questioners the benefit of the doubt (they may be genuinely interested and if you shut them down you kill the chance for dialog) be willing to admit when you don’t know, and respect the honesty it takes to make that admission. We live in a world that is troubled by religious conflicts. People are persecuted every day for their beliefs, or their lack thereof. This is the 21st century. We should be able to move beyond this and respect the rights of everyone to worship whatever god or goddess they choose or choose to believe there is not god at all without penalty, without fear for their safety, and without having the religious beliefs of others imposed on them.

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