Religion is not stubborn ignorance in the face of science. Religion is a different way of understanding the world, of coping with our inescapable sufferings, with our unavoidable death, of establishing principles and values to guide us in life. While I am not particularly religious myself, I am bothered when intelligent people, usually of scientific or left-wing leanings, dismiss other people’s beliefs or criticize them openly. This world is big enough for Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and Atheists (with a big A), don’t you think?
As human beings, we have a spiritual side to us, a side that longs for something more than reason, more than logic can provide. I would say this side is somewhere in our brains, but you don’t have to agree with me. In some this spiritual side is more developed than in others. Atheism itself, I would say, is a kind of religion of non-religion, which uses denial to affirm itself. Again, you don’t have to agree. We can’t really condense anything into a one-sentence definition – things are always more complex than that.
“Knowing my attitude to myself and to the world outside me is what I call truth. And so everyone can have his own truth and yet it remains the self-same truth.” – Goethe
When we question or criticize another person’s religion, even if it’s on solid grounds, we are trespassing into a very private place of that person’s individuality. Even if that person is our friend or relative, that does not make the intrusion any less unpleasant.
Religion is not necessarily a choice. It is often much deeper than that, something which can grow and flourish of itself, and which can be nourished by many factors, including our family background, social standing, education, experiences, and so much more. To use our reasoning to question or deny another person’s religion is to disregard all those uncontrollable factors – essentially, the context in which that religion emerged. It is to fluff our feathers quite unnecessarily.
For my part, I am drawn to the beautiful simplicity of Buddhism, though I do not embrace all that Buddhism proposes. Ritual practice, in general, leaves me cold, though I find meditation quite agreeable. What I especially like about Buddhists is their peacefulness and their acceptance of other religions. They do not say “You must be either this, or that,” but rather “You are everything. You are wonderful.”
Religion can make people kinder, more considerate, happier. It can also have the opposite effect, of course. You don’t need me to repeat the news. But we both know that this is true in all matters of life, that there is probably about as much good in this world and in ourselves as there is bad.
I can understand that denying another’s religion is a way for some people to affirm their own religion. But surely there are better ways to reinforce one’s belief than by rejecting another’s.
Ultimately, religion is a personal matter for every one of us. Questioning another person’s religion is unnecessary and I don’t think anything good can come out of it. It can only lead to polemics and disagreeable situations, and often beautiful friendships can be lost because of our own ego or intellectual stubbornness.
“I believe in the fundamental truth of all great religions of the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Whether you are a Christian, Buddhist, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist, Pagan, or of any other creed, I am pleased to meet you.
Are you religious? Is it possible for you to uphold your religion without denying other religions? Or is that denial intrinsic in your belief?