Monday, March 13, 2006

Personal Reflections on Religion Today

Events of the past several years seem to indicate that religion causes most of the grief in this world of ours. Why is it that keeps us at loggerheads -- often violent, if not murderous -- when the tenants of most of the worlds religions teach love, peace and tolerance? Why is it that we must believe there is only 'One True Way' and it is 'My Way'.

I am a Christian and was brought up in a family that went to church every Sunday and my parents have always worked hard to live by their beliefs. There was a time when my father was very rigid in his theology, but he never believed that non-believers were condemned in some way or in some other way were not 'worthy' as Christians or non-Christians. It was interesting to see him change much of his theology as he grew older. I never would have believed that he would have come to accept the idea of women priests in the Anglican Church -- but he did. His theology came of age with age.

But it is much easier to be open-minded about different cultures and beliefs when separated by space and time. When I grew up it was rare to be exposed to different ethnic cultures. The first Muslim I ever met was an Afghan exchange student when I was a teenager, and it neve entered my head to think about what religion he might have been. He was just someone interesting from a long way away. Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, even Judaeism where I grew up, were not issues that were of any importance to us. The religious issues we concentrated most on had to do with Protestants and Catholics and since I grew up in a very Anglo-Catholic household, Catholicism was not an issue for me -- other than to insist that Episcopalians were indeed as catholic as the Romans and that the Pope was the Bishop of Rome!

In high school I became very interest in Islam and I wrote a paper about it. It was my ambition to become an expert on the Middle East and to work for the United Nations. In those days Islam was still called Mohammedism -- at least it was where I came from. In those days I didn't think about the issues that I think about today, particularly the issue of women, not did I not consider the issue of women in Islam, I didn't consider the issue of women in the context of any religion.

It constantly seems to me that the battles that have been fought over religion both verbally and physically are the same: Muslim fights Muslim; Christians denigrate other Christians; Jews cannot agree with each other any more than any other group. I have a real problem with narrow minded Christians that believe in a narrow-minded God. I have a problem with Muslims that talk about 'Jihad' but object to the word 'Crusade' -- it's all violence. I have a problem with Israelis that took hold of Israel using terrorist methods.

And as with many other things it is the loud mouths that we hear, not the soft-spoken. It is the fury that makes the news and shatters our worlds with unspeakable deeds. But it would also behoove us to remember that the fury, the roar of aprobium was born of the silent, quiet, greed of the insidious and powerful. It is born of global corruption that has no religion and which is Godless. It gave birth to unsacred riches, which blind us and tear us apart.

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