Religion is an interesting entity, isn’t it? I’ve been a “religious person” since I can remember, and I would still consider myself one today, though that title makes me a little uncomfortable because of the many negative connotations it conjures up in so many people. Many people have been hurt by religion, or probably stated more correctly, the “religious establishment.” Religion can do many amazing things, as can be seen by some of the work religious entities do in times of crisis, but can also conjure up horrors, as we saw in the Crusades. One could write books about a variety of issues concerning religion (and many people have — just visit any bookstore), but I want to talk about one issue on my mind today that connects with religion: intolerance.
I’ve had a few interesting conversations about religion this past week with someone I’ve met here in my travels, and the connection of religion to tolerance (or a lack there of) has crept into most of those conversations. Our first conversation talked about how many religions do overlap in some qualities, like love and peace, but somehow the differences are what we tend to emphasize; and then, unfortunately, the values created out of those differences in some way cause us all to forget about the underlying values of love and peace found when one really looks at religion.
(Note: Instead of doing so for each example, I will iterate here that I believe each of the following religions, as a general rule, holds a value of love, peace, and tolerance, though each example shows that this can sometimes be forgotten about when looking at certain issues.)
A few examples:
The sector of Christianity which says God does not love or accept homosexuals.
The sector of Judaism which advocates for the expulsion of Palestinians from certain lands of the Middle East.
The sector of Islam which seeks a “holy war” against Westernism.
There are many great people in religious institutions and organizations working for peace and justice (CPT and LVC are just two examples), but it’s so easy to look at the bad instead of the overwhelming volume of good that is out there (the media certainly does it). In general, I believe that religion should teach us how to be tolerant of one another and to seek ways to love and support one another in the struggles that exist for all of us in this world.
I certainly don’t want to be caught up in a “religion” which people associate with intolerance, but I haven’t let that be a reason to drop the “religious” adjective when I describe myself. Hopefully as people experience who I am and what I stand for, they will realize that I, and maybe most of the religious community itself, believe in a life full of love and respect, hope and justice, for all people, and through connecting with others who share those values, we can truly make a difference.