Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter Greetings...Us And Them

As today is Good Friday and we're now into Easter weekend 2009, I wanted to take this moment to wish those of you celebrating it a Happy Easter and those of you that aren't I hope that you have a nice enjoyable and meaningful weekend! Last Easter I wrote Easter Greetings...14 Principles For Dealing With People, which is every bit as applicable this year (or any other year for that matter) but it conveys some principles that we should all apply in our lives regardless of what religion we follow, or even if we don't follow a religion at all, that can make life on this planet more enjoyable and meaningful for everyone.

Religion can be such polarizing force that often divides people into us and them and often gives its followers a form of tunnel vision. We've seen so many examples where extremism pops up resulting in death, torture, and mistreatment of non-believers, there have been so many wars that had some cause based on religious differences. So often religion seems to be an exclusive club, with one group driving for power,trying to control another group. So many of the various religions share some common principles but they so often focus on where they're different with each group believing that only they know the "true way" and others will be damned in the afterlife (or non afterlife). If we were to step outside of our human existence, maybe arriving at our planet from another planet, somewhere else with "intelligent life" we might be appalled, confused, and mystified by the things done in the name of religion. Not that we can all become aliens but we can step out of box and try to see ourselves from outside in and think about some of the things that we're doing.

Religion can be such a good force as well. There have been a lot of good things done by religious groups and they continue to happen every day. Religion often tapes into a basic human desire to want to help others and of compassion for others that is necessary in order for charities to exist and do the work that they do. There are so many schools and hospitals that owe their very existence to various religious groups, that just go to show that religion is not as bad as it might be painted up to be.

Missionary zeal has further fueled religious division. So often various relgions focus so much on recruiting which is often not welcome by people that don't want to be converted because they already have a religion that they're happy with or because they've made a decission that they don't wish to follow any religion, but they have made a decission that should be respected. This missionay zeal often causes arguments about which religion is correct and why one is better than the other and often these people will never be "freely" converted. Certainly espousure to new ideas will cause people to adopt the new religion from time to time but there needs to be less of a combative attitude adopted and practiced. If you ever get to really travel and mingle with people that don't share the same faith that you do, you'll find that most of them don't really want to be "converted". If we can open our minds and really listen, you'd be surprised at some of the things we can learn from each other. It is commendable that you wish to share your beliefs with others, but do respect their right to have different beliefs and to think differently than you do.

Religion is also so often at the heart of mankind's desire to know who we are and why we're here. It helps up to somehow make sense of things that can't be explained away with science and common sense. When you think about it there are leaps of faith that are needed by all of those "believe" because as much as people have tried over the years to prove the existence of one or more supreme beings, the proof has never been universally accepted by everyone and in the life that we all live now, it doesn't seem like it will happen anytime soon. Baring a Judgment Day, our world won't be able to say with absolute certainty that religion is right or wrong.

Judaism, Islam, and Christianity share some tenants that bring them closer than many of the Eastern religions (i.e. Buddhism) but we can look to bring the religious (and even non-religious) groups together by looking for commonality and realizing that we all share the same planet and can adversely or positively affect each other. We need to avoid the groupthink mentality that has led to so many of the religious conflicts over the course of human history and avoid focusing on our differences. We need to respect other people's right to believe differently and think differently than ours. By harnessing the different experiences and thoughts that the different groups' members have, you might be surprised by the diverse ideas and solutions that can be generated. No one person has a monopoly on great ideas, they can come and do come from everywhere.

If we have a debate with someone that believes that others that don't believe as they do must die, we probably stand little chance of "convincing" them, but I would ask what kind of god would ask you to kill other people that have not done anything to harm you. We've all been given the gift of life and should not put ourselves in the position of deciding who should live and die based on their religious beliefs. Many of us have families to raise and we should raise our kids to respect the individuality of others and many of the other positive aspects of religion. There are many great people in all the religious groups that would be good friends or just good people to know, if you can not focus on the differences in religion. Those that give their lives for their religious cause, are depriving their families and friends of their existence. I can't think of too many reasons why I want to give my life and not know my daughters as they grow up and watch the people that they become and the grandkids that I might one day have. I can't imagine giving that all up. For myself and my kids, I have to think that any god would not really want their followers killing others that didn't believe as they did, and certainly I don't wish to follow any such god.

Lastly, look at the actions of your religion and persoal beliefs. Are you doing anything that purposely excludes others or trys to dominate or hurt others? If so, why do you think that those people in the "them" group would want to be part of the "us" group and how would you feel and act if you were in the "them" group? It is great if you attend your service on Sunday (or whenever it is) but then if the rest of your time you're mean and inconsidderate of others, do you think that your religion and life might be out of balance? Many of the religious groups do proport to believe that you should "do onto other as you would have them do onto you", so why not treat others the way that you'd like to be treated (hopefully you're not someone that is really into pain). While you can be religious, why not look at other people as all trying to live their lives just like you, that have families, friends, and dreams of making their lives better. We're all in this planet together so lets see if we can make it better for our grandkids and future generations. Respect other peoples right to live differently and believe differently than you.

Photo credit: spring flowers courtesy of hirekatsu.

blog comments powered by Disqus