Religious Tolerance

I didn’t comment immediately after the Christchurch shooting because it triggered a heap of stuff and I needed to give it a day or two to settle. As is my want, my comments are usually outside the status quo, so I don’t want to appear insensitive in any way.

Firstly, the whole thing is horrific at every level and trying to convey anything meaningful through my words is kinda lame really. Simply put, I’ve been in tears for the people affected. And don’t get me started on things like white supremacy and the mental illness that creates such sick paradigms.

All people, no matter their beliefs, are beautiful and “sacred”, deserving of love, compassion and respect. End of story.

However, religion is an entirely different matter and we are faced with the task of whitewashing our religious differences and glibly saying we must respect everyone’s beliefs and co-exist in harmony and respect, or face the fact that our beliefs actually do embrace the possibility of justifying horrific actions. To sort this out effectively, requires a lot of unpacking.

Islam, as represented by your everyday Muslim, is described (or has been re-branded) as the “religion of peace”, and for these millions of people, all they want is to live their lives in peace – as we all do! Christians too make similar claims.

But there are facts – “elephant in the room” type facts.

Islam has never been a religion of peace – ever – under any circumstances (except to, perhaps, other Muslims and even then there is an extremely brutal justice system that is hardly one of a “peaceful” religion). It has shed endless rivers of blood. It conquers and destroys with cruelty and viscous hatred and bigotry.

But let’s not forget that Christianity is also guilty of this, as are most of the major religions. This includes Judaism. In fact the three Abrahamic religions have released more horror on this world than any other force.

But before you jump on me, I absolutely recognise that there are millions of people who live within these religious constructs and despite what they are taught at any level, just want to live peaceful lives.

So we have a massive disconnect here. Many would say we shouldn’t include the extremists and activists in the equations as they don’t represent the vast majority. But the fact is, they are there, and their influence is huge. They have guided these mammoth institutions throughout the centuries more than any “peaceful majority”. Let’s face it, would you really want to live in an Islamic state?

Let’s be grateful that at least in “western” countries the laws are such that we don’t allow overtly violent and abusive religious expressions.

Christianity is only peaceful because of those who embrace the simple teachings of Jesus (don’t get me started on Paul). Those who like to weave the Old Testament scriptures into the picture have a deep sense of God’s wrath and violence (yes, there are many doctrines and theological ideas that try to piece it all together with varying degrees of success). But the same is also true for Islam. Muhammad’s teachings are clearly contradictory in terms of being peaceful and embracing all nations, and committing various degrees of horrific genocide on the infidels. To get the type of religion most Muslims like to live by requires extreme cherry picking and juggling of scripture.

Same with the Jews.

Same with Christians.

Islam is one screwed up religion, seriously! And to think otherwise is to be naive.

So what do we do with all this? My heart is to help people be truthful and realistic about what they believe and why they believe it. Are our beliefs really based on being “peaceful and loving”. Does our core religion, as laid out in traditional doctrines, allow for unconditional love, compassion and empathy with every other person on the planet? Are we even willing to look at the issues, or are we happy to just pretend the problem doesn’t exist?

We can ignore it to a huge degree, which is what the various movements towards religious tolerance encourage. Live and let live. Your beliefs are yours, and mine are mine and if we accept that we’ll get on just fine… until another group realise that their scriptures and fundamental teachings don’t embrace this in the slightest. And so another round of brutality, bigotry, hatred and terrorism starts.

Of course I support the efforts for religious tolerance! Its all we have so far that resembles anything like a solution. But it’s time we “grew up” as a species and looked at exactly what we get from religion and how ours benefits humanity as a whole.

Truthfully, religions only reflect the hearts of those who created them, and that’s not always a pleasant reality. All religions are cultural constructs, with the potential for peace or horror, just like humans, strangely enough.

There is a better way!

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