Its been a while since I’ve done one of these (at least a year, I think), but I came a cross a spot-on blog post on a topic that is near and dear to my heart, and I thought it might be time to bring back Maxim Mondays (not every Monday to be sure, but more often than not at all!).
Originally, I had something of a slightly different tenor in mind. Something lofty, something about being our best selves, something about respecting the individual and collective search for truth of all people, even those we disagree with. Because I think that having respect was something that should be self-evident among a majority of reasonable people. Because I think that religion has become the scapegoat for the behavior of people who are just assholes.
Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman, Zoroastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the mystery, unique and not to be judged.
Because, when in the presence of the prayers of persons belonging to a religion that is not my own, I take a moment to bow my head, close my eyes, and think of bloody England out of good manners, and respect so that they may have their moment of reverence. Because I was raised to think that a certain level of civility in public discourse is essential to a diverse society and that most people understand that it takes the cooperation of all peoples to maintain that civility. Because I think that we should respect the person as a person, even if we disagree with their beliefs.
In fact, I even had it written and scheduled to post tomorrow morning. And then I deleted it all. Because I’m sick of some people use their religion as a shield for being an asshole. (really, you should go read this, because the entire post is going to be a rant about it)
Wide differences of opinion in matters of religious, political, and social belief must exist if conscience and intellect alike are not to be stunted, if there is to be room for healthy growth.
Let me first say that this event comes as no surprise (particularly after a similar event a few weeks or so ago). Let me secondly say that I strongly feel that religion has no part in governance, not even in invocatory prayers. If you need to pray to do your job, do it on your own time like every other wage earning member of the public is forced to do. But, with that being said, if we are to acknowledge and continue the tradition of invocations in the legislature, or any other place of civil governance or official state-sponsored event, then it must be open to everyone.
Sure, those who disagree with an invocation certainly have the right to walk out or turn their back or heck, to stand upside down and sing a song. Actually doing so makes them an asshole with no manners. And, in this case, an asshole with no manners using their religion as the scapegoat for their bad behavior. If you are a Christian that feels the need to turn your back in protest for an interfaith prayer, you are not “being like Jesus” or showing strength of conviction, you are only showing that you are so insecure in your beliefs that you can’t manage basic civility, and you look like an ignorant bigot. You’d have been better not to show up at all (and hold your own prayers privately.
If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life’s exciting variety, not something to fear.
Religion is a tool. It can be both beneficial and benign, but it can also be destructive; it all depends on the heart of the person using it. When one’s heart is bound with hate and darkened with ignorance and fear, religion becomes a tool that divides and destroys. Respecting someone’s expression of their religion does not mean allowing bad behavior to pass without comment. Respecting religion does not mean tolerating incivility and intolerance. Respecting religious freedom is not a free pass to allow ashattery to run unchecked.
If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.
~John F. Kennedy
I don’t care what name (or names) are used to address what one believes to be divine in this universe, how our how often one prays, what books one reads, holidays one celebrates, or what dogma (or lack of it) they claim represents that power; I care that one treats others with the same compassion and respect that they would wish for themselves from someone whose beliefs are different from their own.
And if they can’t manage that, then they should at least learn to use some good manners.