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The Irony of Religious Discrimination
There’s always been this ongoing argument about who is right and who is wrong when it comes to religion.
Each person wants to believe that what he or she grew up with, took as their own, and stand behind today, is the truth.
But what is religion? Before we can discuss right and wrong, we must define this concept.
What is Religion?
According to Wikipedia, religion is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence.
Each religion has its own stories, symbols, items, and sacred histories that explain to its followers the meaning of life and the origin or the Universe.
From their religion, most people also get their beliefs on morality, ethics, correct ways to behave, and even their overall lifestyles. For many people, their religious beliefs are so ingrained in their everyday lives, that they are what they believe.
According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world. (Wikipedia)
Religion is the powerful presence watching over you and protecting you. Religion is the reason many people do the things that they do, the way they do them. And religion is the reason for living for so many.
When you tear apart, criticize, or cut down a person’s religion or god, you are likely doing it directly to them as well. For most people on Earth, their religion means everything to them.
Do you believe others are wrong if they don't believe what you do?
When you really think about it, don’t we all have something we believe in that guides us through life, determines how we behave, what issues we stand behind?
Some call it religion, some spirituality, and others atheism. I’m sure that are many more descriptors out there to describe what it is that you defend and what defines your morality.
Although there are many countries in this world that define religion for their citizens, and where it is illegal, or even considered blasphemy to speak otherwise, here in the United States this is not the case.
In fact, most, if not all of the people living here on this continent, came here to be free from others telling them what to do, and what to believe.
Here in the United States there are over 313 of the thousands of world religions represented. (UnderGod)
As the United States is a country where citizens are granted the “freedom of religion” among other freedoms, those living here can worship as they please, gather for services if, when , and where they wish, pray when, where, and how they wish, and even speak about it to others.
The whole premise of this freedom, is that you can choose your own beliefs and live how you wish to without prejudice. Are we really all that different that we have to tear down the religions and beliefs of others in favor of our own ways?
An Omniscient Being
Although each religion has a different story it follows, different responsibilities and requirements of its followers, each has at least one all-knowledgeable, all-present, powerful being, likely bigger than the planet, itself that it follows.
For Christians this is Jesus Christ, and he goes by many other names. For Catholics, Orthodox members, Protestants, Jews, and Muslims, this is God is one in the same.
Although beliefs vary widely in how individuals in each of these religions interpret their main text, understand the authority of Church hierarchy, and as to the positions they take on various social issues, such as homosexuality, abortion, or prayer in school.
The many religions of Iran worship Ahura Mazda, or the one uncreated God.
The religions of India, including Hinduism and Buddhism, worship one being Gautama Buddha, who was a teacher whom they deemed “the enlightened one.” These religions are based on his teachings and his life.
Wicca is a religion which traces its roots to the pre-Celtic era in Europe, and its followers worship the Goddess and her consort, Pan, the Horned God. (IUP)
I could go on and on naming the god or gods of each religion, but the basis of this reporting is simply to show that we are all very similar.
Most religions have a text that they follow which includes rules, stories, regulations, and suggestions for living to their followers. For Christians, Catholics, Mormons, and Protestants this text is the Bible. For Jews it is the Torah.
Islam is based on the Quran, Hinduism is the Shruti, and Buddhism has the Tipitaka, the Dhammapada, and other Buddhist texts.
To name a few others, Taoism has the Dao de jing, the Bahá'í Faith has the Kitab-i-Iqan, and even Confucianism has the Analects of Confucius. (WikiQuote)
We each have rules that we follow from a book or books that we believe share the truth and the way to please “God” and reach our destiny in the end.
Symbols and Religious Items
For most people, keeping familiar symbols of their religion in their home or on their being is comforting, sometimes necessary, and may be used on a regular basis. Each religion has its own unique religious symbols.
For a Christian this is normally a cross, but pictures of Jesus Christ and printed prayers may also be seen in their regular environment. Catholics have crucifixes, communion gowns, and the rosary. Of course, pictures, statues, and other items representing the Mother Mary are also common.
Those in the Jewish religion have the menorah, the kittel, and the yarmulke, Hindus have the linga, tilak, and yantra, and the Buddhists have their Buddhist statues, prayer beads, and the mandala.
Those that follow Islam have the Dome of the Rock, prayer beads, and Koranic verses that remind them of their religion.
Each and every religion has its own meaningful objects, pictures, statues, and items that assist them in their religious rituals or remind them of their religion. Many of them are the same from religion to religion, even if they may hold different meanings in each religion or even to each individual.
Regardless of the religion mentioned, followers of all 4,200 religions around the world pray to their deities.
In some religions, this requires getting down on your knees and putting your hands together, in others it requires rugs, candles, and a text to read from.
Some people speak out loud, some in the privacy of a special room, some with their children and families at bedtime, mealtime, or on special holidays, and others pray multiple times a day at regular intervals facing different directions each time.
Some religions require that you go through a “chosen” one in order to speak to their god, speak in tongues, rub your prayer beads, confess your sins first, etc. etc.
It really doesn’t matter what religion we are talking about, but more that there is yet another similarity between all world religions.
Direction and Guidance
The whole point of religion is that there is a supreme being, whether born on Earth, born is some holy realm, or one that was uncreated and has always existed.
This Supreme Being knows why we are here, what our purpose is on this Earth, and has rules for living righteously in order for us to reach some infamous happy ending which we all seek.
This Supreme Being has expectations for us here on Earth that we must fulfill. We look to this all-knowing god for answers, guidance, and direction in our lives.
For many we spend our entire lives trying to please our god(s), complete enough good tasks, convert enough people to our religion, or do whatever we think is necessary to follow in his or her ultimate will for us.
As human beings, it’s comforting to believe that we are not alone and that there is someone that knows what’s going on, that has some big plan for the world, and will guide us through the mess that is life, giving us some purpose for our actions and just for being here.
This is what religion is for most people.
Of course, this is not a thorough investigation of religion as a whole, only intended to make a point.
No one really knows that they have chosen the “correct” religion, that their god is the “right” one, and that they are the ones living in “truth.” However, I’m sure everyone hopes and believes that they are right, otherwise, there would be no reason for all that we do for our religions.
I also want to make the point that choosing to believe in “no god” is still a form of religion. You still have motivations that guide you, a way to know what is right and wrong, even if it’s the universe guiding you, and something to look forward to at the end of your lifetime.
I bet you still have many of the concepts listed above in your life that represent what you believe.
So if you feel like what you’ve chosen is the RIGHT way, how does it make you feel, or how would it make you feel, for someone to tell you that you are wrong, and that your beliefs are wrong?
And if you feel like you are the one in the right, what’s makes you think that every other person on the face of the Earth doesn’t also feel that same way?
Have you considered that we may be all ultimately seeking the same thing, praying to the same god, desiring the same blissful ending even if our stories are a little bit different?
Especially here in the US, no one should be criticized, shunned, put down, or discriminated against for their beliefs. Surely you don’t have the same favorite foods, call your children the same names, desire the same careers, or even live the same way as everyone else on Earth.
Why would your beliefs be any different?
Do you believe that you have chosen the right path for your life?
© 2014 Victoria Van Ness