What I am about to share with you is the absolute, unmistakable, irrefutable and infallible truth about religion:
1. Anyone, no matter who they are, who says they know the absolute truth about religion is full of crap.
2. When in doubt, refer to Rule #1
Simple, huh? But seriously, I was shocked to read this month’s The Sun and see a sizable display of almost fanatical support for Sam Harris, author of “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason“ and “Letter to a Christian Nation.” I’m the first to admit that I find his writings compelling; he argues quite effectively about the dangers society faces due to dogmatic religious belief. And it makes sense that the people who agree with him would have such a strong response, but many of them seem to have missed his point entirely.
“I appreciate Harris’s effort to point out the lunacy of religious faith,” writes one woman. The lunacy of religious faith? Her response, in my opinion, is just as dogmatic, rigid and extreme as the conviction that drives a terrorist to kill in the name of religion. Many of the readers who responded to the story share my view. (No, I’m not calling that woman a terrorist, but how do I know she doesn’t purposely run her grocery cart into the woman who is reading her mini-Bible while waiting in the check-out line?)
I can appreciate the agnostic and/or atheistic point of view. It wasn’t that many years ago when I gave up on organized religion and decided that I didn’t need to live a spiritual life. But I realized that I was wrong, and that I had to find my own path to foster my spiritual growth. Does that mean everyone has to walk the spiritual path? Absolutely not. There have been enough wars and senseless death in our history stemming from religion, so if people don’t want it or feel that they need it, so be it! I’m just not one of those people.
At the same time, I am wary – even fearful – of people who claim that their way is the right way and everyone else is _______. (Fill in the blank here: damned forever, going to burn in Hell, live a life of misery and pain, a lunatic, etc.) That situation is compounded by the blatant hypocrisy that we see playing out in the headlines today (i.e., “Do as I say, not as I do”). But I’m equally afraid of people who take such a hard-line stance against organized religion.
That’s not to say that we should let religious fundamentalist run free: Just as we protect a person’s right to worship and believe in what they want, we also have to protect the rights of people who might be harmed or killed by someone who thinks his or her god wants them to blow up an abortion clinic or murder the staff that works there.
Maybe it’s just that everything in our society has to be in extremes — which isn’t right. Maybe my feelings and my reaction to The Sun magazine are the result of the current political environment — which is very much to the right (sorry, I couldn’t resist that one!). But for humanity to live up to its full potential, at some point there is going to have to be a major shift in how we view religion.
Religion is a personal matter. No one’s is right for anybody but themselves. That’s the truth, though I’m the first to admit that it’s only the truth for me (reference Rule #1 above).