Baha'i News -- World needs religious tolerance

COLUMN: World needs religious tolerance

By Shireen Connor
The Daily Cougar (U. Houston)

HOUSTON -- I have had a weekly opinion spot for almost one full year now. In that year I've tackled both fun and controversial issues, with the exception of one: religion. Yes, that's right, the big kahuna.

Religion is a really touchy issue and I have tried to avoid it as much as possible because it is so personal. But considering what is going on in the world right now; religion is just one issue you can't afford to ignore. So ladies and gentleman, buckle your seatbelts.

Let me start off by saying that I believe in God and I respect everyone else who does. I believe practicing religion makes you a more complete human being not only spiritually but also mentally and socially as well. I base these beliefs on my own religion, the Baha'i Faith. Those who choose to follow religion give rise to a deeper sense of purpose and help to contribute to the advancement and betterment of civilization.

But let's not forget one can go too far even with religion. Religious fundamentalism is unhealthy and destructive, and we can see that for ourselves in the world today. In the Middle East, Osama bin Laden's "crusade for Islam" has done immeasurably more harm than good and we do not even need to get started on the Israeli and Palestinian issue.

These wars persist because the people involved have become so consumed by their religious convictions that they are not even practicing what they preach. It is almost like they are micromanaging their religion. They focus on fighting over the small issues and it distracts them from realizing the whole point.

I am not saying that the followers of Judaism and Islam are the only ones guilty of practicing religious fundamentalism. Christians, Buddhists -- we are all guilty of doing it, just in different forms.

Parents discourage marriages outside of their religion, people pray incessantly that others will worship their god, human beings kill and disparage their neighbors for their own beliefs, children lose playmates, the list goes on.

It is all so unnecessary and ridiculous. Do you really think you can get somebody to agree with you by bullying them or scaring them? There is not one single holy book that declares itself supreme over the rest -- so why do we have so many petty wars, arguments and broken hearts?

The answer is simple: people are stupid and stubborn. If we could let our guard down and actually be open-minded about other people's beliefs, as well as our own, maybe we could get somewhere for once. The underlying theme to all religion is to care about your fellow man and to better humanity. These days, we are headed in the complete opposite direction.

Will thumping our books and sitting on our high horses fix this problem, or will it take actual effort and humility? The answer is simple but it is up to you to decide.


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