So much about religion is fascinating, perhaps nothing more so than the passion it arouses and the level of intolerance associated with more extreme adherents. As such, let’s start with a basic premise and build.
I posit as follows: Any belief system, whether devoutly religious or defiantly atheist, that has among its canon a notion of superiority is inherently flawed and dangerous. For it is only from a position of superiority that we can set aside empathy and regard another human being as “lesser.” And once a person, or even worse, a creed or culture, takes that first critical step of regarding another [insert “person,” “creed,” “culture,” “race,” “religion,” “sexual orientation,” etc.] as “lesser,” it is
but a small step to declare this same group as less fit-to-live than those occupying one’s own exalted status. The remaining step of putting those beliefs into action is but a breath away - whether it be restricting your child acceptable playmates, strapping a bomb to a bus, or fomenting a culture of genocide. They are rooted in the same insidious concepts of singularity and superiority.
Ironically, for the overwhelming majority of us, our religious persuasion is nothing more than an accident of birth. We make no considered choice but rather adopt with childlike innocence whatever belief system is passed onto us from our loving parents. The implications of this are both ironic and powerful. It is ironic insofar as no religious zealot would ever concede that they would willingly – if not blindly – have adhered to entirely different belief system if they had just been born into it. This would undermine the whole notion that they were uniquely chosen and anointed. If so questioned, the zealot would likely respond with some circular and fatalistic argument that their god had chosen him/her and their “people.”
Being born into this faith was no accident. Of course, the few that actually do chose and change beliefs will lay claim to even a higher exalted status for themselves and their one true belief.
And who could dispute the power of our family, extended family, and later our peers, to influence the very core of our beliefs? We all must accept that
were we raised in a family and extended family that “taught” us to fear, hate,
and, if necessary exterminate, we would all almost certainly adopt and endorse
this “faith.” Add an insular element – a component of nearly all extremism – and the potential for the intrusion of reality is controlled and the ability to dehumanize the heathen outsider is further assured.
Whether you are religious or not, beware the “monopoly on salvation” mentality. Yes, even an atheist can adopt the same insular and hateful mindset. Witness the militant atheist who “knows” that there is no god. He is no less arrogant than the
bible-thumping hate-mongering racist “Christian minster” relegating all but his
select followers to damnation for daring to take another path to salvation. So dear reader this all comes down to but one thought – tolerance. The debates of god,“his” existence, the truth of religious history, the meaning of the Bible, the Koran, the Gita, the gnostic texts, etc. are all fascinating subjects for the most lively and spirited of debates - a debate all religions should embrace. In fact, it is perfectly fine and indeed desirable to embrace and enjoy your own faith. However, the faith of another need not threaten our own. It can in fact enhance it. What wonders there are
indeed in the thoughts, teachings, and cultures of others!
So I offer one aspect of any religion to reject, isolation. Reject the notion that yours is the one true belief. Reject the notion that adherents to other religions have some lesser place before god than you. And for God’s sake, reject the notion that you or “your people” have been “chosen” exclusively for anything.