Please note, this topic talks a lot about religion and my views. I want this topic to shed some light on a rising issue I have been noticing – religious intolerance. This is in no way an attack on anyone or any religion or denomination. Please understand I am only trying to help.
Yesterday I was a pall bearer for a funeral. It was for a boss of my mom's when she was 16, and she was a very nice lady named Helen who lived until her 90's. She died of pneumonia.
The funeral was at a Lutheran church. I'm Catholic but open-minded when it comes to other denominations and even other religions. I actively practice Buddhism and have a lot of respect for most other denominations of Christians as well as Hindus, Wiccans, Muslims, and most other religions. There are very few that I do not like.
Anyway, I've decided that whenever I have to do something like this where it's at a church other than my own and they offer communion, I have decided to take it without any remorse. I believe that I am worshiping God regardless of denomination. I know this will seem like a shock to some, but it's my view on it. I was very, very surprised at how similar the Lutheran service was to my own Catholic mass. I've been to a Baptist service but it was very different than I am accustomed to.
So after attending to the funeral, I have decided to be an advocate for religious understanding and tolerance. I don't like using the word 'tolerance' because it sounds like I'm saying there's something wrong with other religions or denominations of Christianity. This is what I really mean by all of this:
As Christians we are taught to practice unconditional love. However, I'm starting to notice that some denominations of Christianity express ignorance and hatred toward other denominations and other religions. I can explain this based on my own experiences from going to a Catholic high school – one of my teachers told us that Buddhists worship Buddha. After doing my own research, I'm learning that this isn't really true – Buddhists HONOR the Buddha as a teacher. He was never a god, rather he was a human being that achieved enlightenment. It's much like how we as Catholics honor Mary. I've often been attacked by other denominations who ask, "Why do you worship statues of Mary?" For one, we don't worship statues, we simply use them as tools toward our prayer. We know who we are worshiping. Secondly, we understand that Mary was a human being, not a god. So we honor her and pray to her because she gave birth to Jesus. It's a similar concept for Buddhists.
The point of this blog anyway is that I think people have become very misguided on what they have been taught to believe. Some Christians tend to take quotes from the Bible and say that they can explain a certain topic, and they tend to defend that so strongly. But they lose the original message that the words were trying to say in the Bible. You can practically explain anything by taking words out of context from the Bible. By doing things like this, I've seen that people love to point fingers at others who they deem as 'non-believers' and tell them they're going to Hell if they don't join their particular denomination.
Look, I can understand that they are trying to save anyone and everyone by preaching like this, but quite frankly, who are they to say where anyone is going? It's not their choice. It's God's. When I see people preaching in this way, I don't see them as helping, but rather I tend to see them as elitist and, quite frankly, snobby. I am actually ashamed that as a Christian I am in the same religion as those who preach this way. It's this anger and ignorance that fuels religious intolerance.
This issue of religion vs religion is often what leads to conflict, chaos, and war. I think if we all as humans had a better understanding of religions outside of our own, some of these conflicts can be avoided.
What can we do to break these barriers? For one, it really helps to practice unconditional love. I've got a better understanding of this after learning from Buddhism – I actually understand Christianity better by the teachings from Buddhism. It's very surprising how the two go hand-in-hand, they follow many of the same morals and guidelines. When you see someone walking down the street, no matter who they are, instead of judging them or thinking a certain way about them, rather smile to them, say "Hello" or "Good Morning" when you pass by. You won't believe how this simple act of kindness will affect someone. Someone did this for me once and it really made my day, and it wasn't anyone I knew at all. Another thing you can do is say a silent prayer for them, "May this person be free of suffering." It's something I learned from Buddhism, to pray for those 'neutral' to us.
Another thing we can do to promote religious understanding is to do a little research on another religion. Learn from them, learn who they are and what they do. You'll soon discover that they are not unlike yourself. Wiccans, for example, worship deities that represent the Earth, Nature, the Wilderness, and so on. They are a very misunderstood religion as many people believe they worship the Devil, practice evil, and are out there to harm you, but rather after my experiences with them, I can safely say that they are among the nicest and friendliest people I have ever met. Many of them are environmentalists and humanitarians themselves. So I recommend choosing a religion or denomination that you do not understand and do a little research on what they're all about. While it may not be the most reliable source, wikipedia.org is a good starting point.
And lastly, just have an open mind. When you research another religion or denomination, don't feel threatened by them. Rather say to yourself, "I'm learning about them to better understand them. They may not believe the same things I do but that does not make them wrong for practicing this. It was what they chose to believe, just as I chose to believe (your religion)." When you adopt this sense of an open mind, you'll discover that many of your misconceptions (or even hatred and anger if you had any) toward this other religion will dissolve. You may even want to try adopting a healthy part of their lifestyle into your own customs. I practice Buddhist meditation as it helps me clear my mind and calm down whenever I am getting tense. I also have a tarot deck and a rune set, used for Wiccan and Druid practices, that I use whenever I'd like to see what may be in store for me. I don't take the readings from them as my fate, but rather I consider the possibility as something that may happen in the future. Just be open minded about it all.
As the Beatles would say, "All you need is love." We are taught to love one another, and I think religious understanding may be the first step toward global peace.