Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Religion and Other Scary Things

All religions scare me. A group of people gathering weekly performing chants and singing to/for an invisible being that they believe has awesome power and created the universe ... yes, that scares the shit out of me. This could be added to the long list of things that I just don't get. Why do normally rational people check their rationale at the door of a cathedral? Scary things will always exist ... violence, death, clowns, etc. ... as long as they keep their distance not affecting me and my own, I am okay. I can go on with my life without really caring. But when the scariness spill over out of the walls of the cathedral, I get a concerned.

The scariest of religions to me are not the obscure ones. The Baha'i never bother me. Other than an occasional crappy NYC cabbie, the Sikh don't bother me either. The faiths that are large enough to influence government policy, influence what is taught in our schools, who can legally get married or what woman (aka free tax-paying citizens) can do with their own bodies ... those are the ones that scare me. You know who I am talking about. When I hear of protesters complaining of a mosque being built near Ground Zero and saying that Muslims are taking over our country, I really don't get it. Why should this scare me any more than any other religion having taken over my country? Are the Christians complaining about the Muslims because they don't want the competition?

I am generally tolerant to those that have different beliefs than I. Tolerant meaning that I tolerate them but I don't have to like them or hang around with them. As long as they leave me alone or don't try to impose their beliefs on anyone else, I am okay. We can get along by agreeing to be different. I think this is called freedom. Occasionally I hear stories in the news that make we cringe like this one: Soldiers Pass On Christian Concert; Get Punished: Report. Since soldiers make a vow to defend the Constitution, you think the fact the First Amendment's statute on the freedom of religion might be respected as well. That would only work if we were dealing rational people.

I wish as a child I had learned more about world religions. I grew up as a Catholic in a mostly Catholic town. I knew nothing about other religions. Once I had soured on Catholicism, I was extremely cynical about religion as a whole. It took me decades to voluntarily enter a church again. In Wellesley Massachusetts, the public schools have the right idea in teaching comparative religion as part of their social studies program. The middle school kids learn about world religions as a whole and not favoring one over another. If I had children I would want them to attend a school that addressed religion in this manner. It would allow the child to learn but not have any one idea forced upon them. The idea is learning not indoctrination. This seems to be the rational approach. The class trips in Wellesley include visits to a church, synagogue and even a mosque. Even a rational approach like this is attacked by the crazies in this country. The attacks against the teacher and the school administration are all over the net. We are supposed to be a tolerant nation respecting individual freedoms, but this seems so far from the truth sometimes. Especially when you let the crazies take over the discourse.

Some are striking back, Mike Weinstein is a former JAG officer and White House counsel in the Reagan Administration. He and his foundation, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has sued the US Air Force Academy and Roberts Gates among others for the imposition of Christianity upon non-Christian military. Weinstein fights for the rights of Jews and Muslim among others in the military as well as for the rights of atheists. You would think in an institution of discipline like the military would actually have some .... umm ... discipline on this matter. Apparently, that is too much to ask in this political environment.

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