I feel the need to follow up on yesterday’s post. You know, the one about religion and respect.
I set out to write about my personal feelings, but I also realized as I was writing, that I was also standing up, to some degree for some of my fellow atheists, agnostics and “I’m not religious, but I am spiritual” folks. It’s difficult for us to feel respected for our beliefs. But, as I thought about it more, I realized that it is something broader.
You see, from where I stand, I find that religion, organized religion in particular, divides us more than it unites us. This makes me sad, this lack of tolerance. It tends to magnify our differences and creates an “us versus them” culture. It can lead to disrespect and that can fester into hate. I see more religious hate in this world than I care to see. The Muslims hate the Christians. The Christians hate the Muslims. The Jews hate the Muslims…etc, etc, etc. Sometimes I want to scream, “Can’t we all just get along?!” I’d love to think that there could be no countries or religion as John Lennon sang in Imagine. But, I’m not that naive. As great as his Utopia sounds, let’s face it, it ain’t gonna happen!
So, what do we do? Well, I believe that we should celebrate our differences. The world is far more interesting and intriguing with all these people and this myriad of beliefs. Did you know there are 9900 religions in this world? Yup. My mom once said, “The world would be a boring place if we were all the same.” Ahhh, Little Mama. Those pearls of wisdom that came out of your mouth when you thought we weren’t listening. She was far wiser than I think any of us gave her credit for. But, she’s right. I love that we have all these religions and traditions and beliefs. And, I take it as a wonderful opportunity to learn. As you become more educated about things you don’t know about, you come to a greater understanding. When you come to understand more fully, you then come to respect.
But, it’s not always easy to celebrate those differences if you disagree or if you feel disrespected. You grumble, saying, “why should we be nice to them when they are so hateful to us?” Well, sometimes you simply have to take the high road. You do what’s right. It’s not always easy. But, by doing this, you will often get the respect and appreciation you are looking for. The whole “what goes around, comes around” concept. The Buddhists and Hindus call this karma. I’m a big believer in karma.
It’s not just karma though. Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Yes, I have now quoted both Gandhi and the Dalai Lama. Two wise men we should listen to. Basically, he is saying lead by example. I couldn’t agree more.
Here’s an example of being the change, of leading by example. When it comes to environmental issues and the whole emissions thing, a lot of folks here in the US say, “It’s places like India and China that are spewing more crap in the air. Not us. Why should we adhere to these emissions rules if they aren’t?” Well, the US should because we need to lead by example. We need to do what’s right even if it’s difficult. Chances are, the rest of the world will follow. We do what’s right. We are then respected. We are the change we wish to see.
So, where does this leave religion and respect? Simple. Make your religion, like the Dalai Lama, kindness. Even if you disagree with someone. Even if you don’t understand their beliefs. Be kind and be respectful. We are all human beings. But, sometimes I think those who possess particularly strong faith, have what I call “faith blinders” on. Perhaps they are only seeing a person through the eyes of their own faith or perhaps they only see the person in front of them as a Jew or a Muslim or an Atheist rather than as a human being. Sometimes we need to step back, peel away the layers, and get down to the core. To see that person as a human being with basic human needs. Air to breathe. Water to drink. Food to eat. Shelter from the elements. And basic human wants – to be healthy, to be happy, to love and to be loved. And, to be treated with kindness, dignity and respect. Isn’t this what you want?
You know, every morning I wake up. I say good morning to Mom. I tell her I love her and I miss her. Then I set out to be the best person I can be – for Mom, but also for me. I go out each morning to run or walk and breathe because in the last couple years of her life, Mom struggled to breathe. I freely go about my day – working, running errands, spending time with family and friends because in the last couple of years Mom was tethered to oxygen. And, I try to be kind and respectful to my fellow humans because, well, because that’s what my mom taught me. And it’s the right thing to do. I try to live the best life I can. And I try to be the best person I can. I want to be the change I wish to see in this world. Do you?