Through my eye

A sometimes caustic view of things.

Friday, November 21, 2008


At a difficult time in the relations between religions, I find myself lamenting the lack of tolerance on all sides.

Since I neither read nor speak Arabic, nor any other scriptural language but English, I am at a disadvantage in presenting my point of view. The English-speaking world is predominantly Christian and I am, in that world, a stranger in a strange land. Long ago I adopted the precepts of Advaita Vedanta, from within Hinduism, as my personal belief.

I came to this choice from reading, discussions and observation of how the world and the universe works. Consequently, over the years, I have been the subject of many attempts to convert me to another form of religion. Not just Christian, but Buddhist and Hindu, as well.

Remarkably, not once has a Moslem tried to convince me to convert to Islam. I suspect it is because I haven’t been in the right place at the right time. Or it might be because I wear a beard cut in a Moslem style, although that seems unlikely.

Here is my message to Christians in this time of turmoil and conflict between religions:

If you think it is only a matter of time before the whole world has heard the Christian word and had the opportunity to accept or reject your beliefs, think again.

In 2000 years of missionary work, there is not one corner of the globe that has not been proselytized at one time or another. Strangely enough, more than a billion people of all walks of life and educational levels are perfectly happy to follow one of the many forms of Hinduism.

The same can be said, with different numbers, for Islam, Buddhism, Shinto, Judaism, atheism and many older and lesser known religions.

Now, why is this?

Is it possible that all these people view their own religion as perfectly reasonable, based on recognized practices and having both a history and a scripture that tells them pretty much the same things that your scriptures tell you?

Let’s put that shoe on another foot. There are many people who follow Islam that feel exactly the same way that you do. They can’t understand why you don’t realize the rightness of the Koran and why you reject submitting to Allah. They believe that it is only a matter of time before the words of the Prophet reach the whole world and God will finally go about the business of sorting out the wicked non-believers from the faithful.

I hear and read all sorts of anti-Islamic opinion from commentators and preachers that exactly mirror the comments and preaching of militant Islamists.

This all comes down to one simple word: Intolerance!

The intolerance that both sides exhibit is in direct contrast to the spirit and intent of much of what both Christ and Mohammad taught:

What all great religious founders have taught since time began.

Love one another.

Treat others as you would be treated.

Take in the stranger as a guest.

That all beings are equal under God.

That women, although different than men, have the same equality.

Both Christ and Mohammad brought reform to the practice of their times and both the religions that grew from their teachings have diverted from the founder’s principles and continue to find ways to be venal, possessive, and hateful to those who do not believe as they do.

What, then, do I suggest?

At least, cease trying to convert the world. If you feel the urge to share your faith through good works, so be it. Do not use that as a way of subverting the faiths of others. If, by your good example, someone asks you to explain your religion, do so without an air of moral superiority or other than as an expression of what seems right to you.

If you have a message that people want to hear, they will come to listen. You cannot force it upon them.

Of course, this is true for those within Islam who seek converts, as it is for you.

I know I ask too much. Forgive me.


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