It was just a matter of time before I got around to a religious topic; the only question was what would trigger it.
My son is receiving his First Communion in two weeks. My wife invited our extended families to celebrate this occasion with us, followed by a luncheon. Knowing that parts of our families have incompatible belief systems, she carefully worded the invitation to state that you don't have to go to the church, it would be fine to just come to the house for lunch.
Our families run the gamut from "fairly devout Christian" to "atheist". One of my brothers publicly declined the invitation, referring to the Eucharist as "ritualistic cannibalism." I, for one, was somewhat amused by this, but I knew that it offended other family members. I can't blame them; religious mockery is a far cry from religious tolerance.
I've been wrestling with issues of religious tolerance for some time (Is it measurable/quantifiable?). Engineering jokes aside, I've always thought that tolerance of any religion other than your own would imply some doubts about your own religion. After re-reading parts of Acts (a book in the Christian Bible), I see that the Apostles allowed for some religious tolerance in Acts 13:51. Paul and Barnabas left Antioch, leaving the Jewish population to their beliefs, but not before declaring them unworthy of eternal life (Acts 13:46). It makes me wonder if this really is an example of religious tolerance, or if it was more, "We can't do anything about it, so we're walking away." Maybe religious tolerance can only be displayed by the group currently in power.
A great deal of my time has been spent studying various religions, starting with my roots in Roman Catholicism and general Christianity, inspecting all the Abrahamic Religions, researching the major Dharmic Traditions, and ending with deism and some Native American culture. The fact that all these religions refer to some sort of supreme being is not lost on me. Instructions on how to treat other living creatures is also a common thread among them, especially in dealing with other people (even if there is frequently a 'them/us' division). With so many faiths having that much in common, I find it extremely difficult to dismiss the idea of God outright. However, a person could make the argument that an omnipotent deity would have found a way to communicate his/her will with his/her creations a little more consistently.
I try to treat others' belief systems with respect. They might not mean much to me, but to them, they must be important, or they wouldn't be telling me about them. I always listen to another person's reasons for why they believe. In the best case, they give me something to think about. In the worst case, they allow me to work on my polite nodding skills.
There's a saying about not discussing religion and politics in polite company. I welcome all persons to speak with me about their faith. Please don't be offended when I don't agree with you.
Until another time,
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