by Rosemary Gray-Snelgrove
Last Week’s Comments
A few comments upon the Comments about last week’s blog (about Epiphany and naming – or not – of God).
The Comments moved into territory in which I’m not adept but which was enjoyable to me. I like to see the tackling of the question of what we can know. Comments, and there were quite a few of them, were not insulting or derisive to Believers or NonB’s but touched on fundamental issues. Thank you, Comment Writers .
Why I’m Impressed by Civility in Discussion About Religion
There was a reason for the common family dictum: “no discussion of politics or religion at the dinner table”.
Remembering some stinging remarks about religion and people who practice, I’ve wondered at the passion and even insults that can be flung around. My cousin June states, simply and helpfully, that some people just don’t experience “the religious impulse”. A useful and civil way of regarding many among us. But I encounter others who speak harshly of people different from themselves on the religion dimension. And we know that in other places, other times, death and destruction came along with religious difference.
I’m surprised when I stumble on it: pockets of disdain for those who attend Church or Temple or Meetings, or conversely, for those who eschew all religion. It’s as if, for some who are otherwise liberal thinkers, they take the fanaticism of hard-line members of particular sects or communities as representing all religious belief. The liberal person may be almost racist in his/her extreme disdain for the religious.
Terms like “superstitious”, “primitive”, “ignorant” directed at the religious are familiar.
And vice versa. Within some religious communities with which I’m familiar – generous and open-hearted about a host of human failures and frailties – the liberal church person and the non-believer are each objects of wonder and confusion. Pointing out the latest reported scandal of liberal religious expression provokes amusement and fearful reflection; women placing Sophia in a pantheon of deities, homosexuals in church leadership roles. “Frightening”.
The God-less are “lost”; to be prayed for and pitied. They are also feared because are there more of Them than Us? And are our own children contributing to the growing army of those who aren’t with us – but against us?
A Fresh Gust of Hope
I credit the generation growing up in the 40’s and 50’s as having been seared by the awfulness of WWII and of racism. Many have strived for enlightenment, in multiple ways. Dropping religious bigotry has been one. I observe that our children and grandchildren have been well taught about avoiding bigotry.
Is Islam a Special Case?
Ah, can’t escape the niggling whisper in the corner about the anti-Muslim emotion that lurks in some of the sweetest hearts. (see Religious or Secular Progressives: Enjoy! Dec 16th, Bigger Circle blog).
As seen there, my emotions went fiery at the suspicion and dehumanization of Muslims. But among many of my own culture, genuine worry has grown about whether Canada can absorb peoples attached to values antithetical to what has shaped the Canada we know. True enough – Sharia law doesn’t blend easily with our system. Honour killing and women as property are practices and attitudes impossible for us to integrate. Clearly we have to deal with the extremes in any newcomer faith systems that come up against what history has shown really matters to maintaining freedoms in our country.
Can we not find ways to clarify and emphasize the behaviours and values that are fundamental to maintaining a liberal society? And ensure that all newcomers and children are exposed to good teaching about why they matter?
What Underlies the Fear and Anger Toward Those Who Differ With Us?
Fear underlies anger. It often helps in personal journeys to identify the fear – fear can be dealt with (bless the plasticity of the brain). But often we get off on anger – feels so much more strong, more powerful. Here I offer some reasons for the persistence of fear and anger toward people who are significantly different from us religiously:
- History, personal and collective, becomes embedded in family and community culture and is taken in with mother’s milk (the ways of the Other who has hurt us before must be remembered to keep us strong).
- Again, recent history has shown us that the primitive mob mentality is unpredictable. The quick shift in the Balkans from neighbourliness to murderous attack was shocking and frightening. Could it happen here?
- Regarding faith as ‘absence of reason’, rather than recognizing that faith and reason (a) can co-exist , (b) are interdependent, and (c) together, shape full lives.
- If you think you have God on your side, you can become fanatic and willing to try anything.
- If you don’t have any belief in God, what’s to keep you from making decisions to take human life, maybe mine (euthanasia, abortion, eugenics?)
I think there are lots more. I invite you to name them. Or to Comment on the theme. Is it worth understanding more?