|Chart from Indiaat2050.com|
Is it still a social faux pas to bring up religion when socializing? My parents were adamant about this when I was growing up, i.e. no religion or politics as conversation topics in social situations. However, because of recent events, it seems like everyone is talking about religion, in one way or another. What is the effect of religion on an individual?
Let's talk about religion, i.e. the experience of religion in a person's life and the effects it may or may not have. Usually, religion enters a person's life at a very young age through parents who want to build a strong moral foundation in their children. It doesn't matter which religion either. I think this applies to all religions. As a person grows up, he or she may question the religion or not. But the religion will affect how a person views the world and other people, how he interacts with people, and how open he is to new ideas. The more extreme a person's religious beliefs, the more closed the person's mind, in my experience. I think this is true no matter which religion. Some religions foster more open thinking than others, and are inclusive rather than exclusive.
|Norwood Baptist Church in Cincinnati similar to church I attended|
My father was concerned about my morals (he needn't have been) and insisted that I attend church on Sundays when I was in high school. He told me he didn't care which church. He also made church-going a condition for his permission for me to participate in school field trips to New York City to see shows on Broadway. Bribes, in other words, to lure me to attend church. During those years, I attended every church in town at least once, all the Protestant churches and the Catholic church, sometimes with friends. But not the Synagogue. I was shocked when both parents prohibited me from attending Synagogue with a Jewish friend. Their reason? The service was on Friday evening, not on Sunday. Flimsy, at best.
In college, I took a class about world religions. There are a lot of them -- Protestant sects and denominations, Catholicism, Hinduism, Jainism, Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism (and its different types), Islam (2 sects), Judaism (Orthodox and Reformed), paganism, and Wicca, among others. I felt particularly drawn to Buddhism, but was still feeling disgusted with organized religion. I really didn't like that in most religions the emphasis was on clergy being the conduit for a person's connection with God (or Allah, or Yahweh). After college, I remained open to attending religious services at various churches but did not settle at one. The human need for ritual fascinated me as well as the need for an all-powerful entity. I also began to regard all religious writings as being the product of human beings and their beliefs rather than being truly from the Divine. However, my moral foundation never changed and it remains today probably stronger than ever. What I have learned about religion and moral foundations: being the member of a religion does not guarantee that a person has a solid moral foundation.
|Salman Rushdie (Photo: Graham Turner/Guardian)|
In 1989, in response to the Fatwa on Salman Rushdie by the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini, I decided it was time to delve deeper into Islam. I read the novel that caused the Fatwa, The Satanic Verses, and then I read the Koran. I was surprised by how close the Koran was to The Bible, especially the Old Testament. I learned how important it was to Muslims that the Prophet Mohammad not be depicted in any way. It is deeply offensive to them, a visceral belief in the commandment "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above...Thou shalt not bow down thyself before them..." as it pertains to the Prophet Mohammad. So while Rushdie's book was not offensive to any other religions, and most people from other religions didn't understand what he had done to offend the Ayatollah, Muslims were offended. Rushdie also had to have known that what he'd written in the novel would offend. I was glad that I'd made the effort to learn and understand what was going on.
From my experience and perspective, religions that exclude people are not for me. We are all connected by a divine energy consciousness, so excluding anyone doesn't make sense. Any religion that rules through clergy who use fear and intimidation is also not for me. Right now in human history, however, there are many religious beliefs. It seems each teaches it is the right religion, the right way to attain salvation or a place in heaven, or the beliefs of the chosen. Some do not recognize that women are spiritual beings, equals of men, but seek to oppress women as a man's property. These religions are also not for me. It has also been an ongoing sorrow for me that Christianity, the religion of my childhood, is a religion that excludes people, sets conditions for acceptance into the fold, and requires subservience and obedience rather than for people to just be as they are in all their magnificent creativity....
Does it bother you that some religions exclude people? That some religions condemn "unbelievers" rather than including them with love, kindness and compassion and without conditions? That religion can have such a powerful influence upon the way individuals think about the world and the people around them?