Monday, February 23, 2015

What does it all mean

Last week, I gave a very brief survey of five major world religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism). Perhaps at another time, if there is interest, I might survey the other seven listed in the InfoPlease article (Baha'i, Confucianism, Jainism, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism).

As I said in my introduction, I believe that religion is an important part of culture that we don't often discuss. HOW important, naturally, varies from person to person, family to family, and culture to culture.

We live in a pluralistic society, one where many different people of many different religions live in the same neighborhoods, go to school together, and work together. The Unitarian Universalists have a saying, "We need not think alike, to love alike." I think that is a key principal to raising citizens of the world. In fact, this weekend I was reminded of the Boy Scout Handbook explanation of the Scout Law:
A Scout is Friendly.
A Scout is a friend to all. He is a brother to other Scouts. He offers his friendship to people of all races and nations, and respects them even if their beliefs and customs are different from his own.
A Scout is Courteous.
A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position. He knows that using good manners makes it easier for people to get along.
It seems to me as though there are a lot of grown up, former Boy Scouts, who need to be reminded of these things once in a while. To respect other people, even if their beliefs and customs are different from their own.

I hope that having presented the survey, it will encourage readers to learn more, and to be able to have conversations with their children. It is fine to say that "as <my religion / our family's religion>s, <I / our family> believes ______." It is good to be able to add "People who practice <other religion> may believe ____, which is a different way of seeing the world."
I know that when people, families, and cultures are invested in their religion, it becomes a big part of their life. It influences everything that they do. Done right, religion can improve a person, make them kinder, wiser, help them see the world a little bit differently.

Done wrong, religion can lead to extremism, to digging one's heels into the idea that "I'm right, and everyone else is wrong."  Convinced of the "rightness" of actions, humans do terrible, horrible things to each other. Take a look at the Milgram Experiment from 1963. While there are issues with the study, and modern reinterpretations of the data, I think most news articles today show that this "harming people because someone/something told me it was necessary" is still prevalent.

Every religion has produced extremists, and terrorists. At the same time that there are <200,000 terrorists acting in the world, 90% of whom are not Muslim, that still leaves more than 7 billion people relatively peacefully coexisting in this world.

More than 7 billion people, who all need shelter and warmth, food, water, air to breathe, and people to love them. Let's see each other as humans first, so that they will know we are <insert religion here> by our love.

[Note: I know, I haven't written about atheism yet. That day will come.]