I recently got into a fight with one of my closest friends. It was entirely my fault and my place to apologize. We moved forward together from this moment as friends, for which I’m glad. At one point she told me she hoped the grace and forgiveness she showed would reflect that of her faith as a Christian.
I would hope that as human beings, the compassion we show for others is not a dependence or reflection of our faiths. For all faiths have text that can be taken to invoke both acceptance and indignance, pacifism and aggression, condemnation and redemption, devastation and hope. Never should religious ideology define us as people, but rather we as individual should define the role of religion in our lives.
“For his anger lasts only a moment…” -Psalm 30:4
“I will enslave you to your enemies in a land you do not know, for you have kindled my anger, and it will burn forever…” -Jeremiah 17:4
“…[Love] keeps no record of wrongs” -1st Corinthians 13:5
The above are samples from the Bible that show that the Christian God’s anger is both momentary and everlasting. Some may cite that the passages are taken out of context, but even in context the meanings can clearly be interpreted to the excerpt’s end. These types of conflicts are not limited to Christian religious texts.
“If any one does evil or wrongs his own soul but seeks Allah’s forgiveness, he will find Allah Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.” -Qur’an 4:110
“Those who reject Faith and do wrong, – Allah will not forgive them nor guide them to any way” -Qur’an 4:168
Great scientists have given praise to their gods for magnificent discoveries, but so too is religious justification used for racism, violent crusades, torture and various acts of terrorism throughout history. Some may say these were “misinterpretations” of the religious text, but human languages consist of words which are all symbolic and have no meaning on their own other than what we ascribe to them. Religious texts, like any other book, are purely human social constructions. By accrediting a god, we not only diminish our own responsibility for our prosperity, but also diminish our own responsibility for our actions.
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” -Matthew 10:34-36
All major religious can be reasonably used as a justification for both war and peace. Christians once claimed Biblical justification for enslavement, racism and segregation. Jews and Palestinians still do in regard to each other. As we learned and accepted as a society that race and sex are ascribed attributes which we cannot change, and as civil rights grew within the United States and around the world for minorities, churches changed their dogma claiming misinterpretation. But in reality, the generally accepted belief system changed to dynamically fit the society of its time period.
The new roadblock is homosexuality. Because it’s not as clear whether or not homosexually is ascribed or an acquired status (a choice). This combined with the Bible’s very explicit commentary on homosexuality in both the Old and New Testament, churches that wish to accept homosexuality typically do so by denying the validity of Paul as a true apostle, as his letters are the only reference within the New Testament to homosexuality at all.
Some religious leaders claim that such people and churches are picking and choose what they believe in a form of “buffet Christianity.” It’s an ignorant statement because if Christians truly followed the Bible literally, they would be killing homosexuals (Leviticus 20:13), stoning disobedient children (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) and either selling all their belongings; giving the proceeds to the poor (Matthew 19:21) or giving up all their possessions to be shared among each other in church sponsored communism (Acts 4:32-35).
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best…” -Philippians 1:9-10
“Figuring things out for yourself is the only freedom anyone really has. Use that freedom. Make up your own mind…” -Starship Troopers (Film 1997)
We all pick and chose what we believe, no matter what religious background we follow. Religion is always individualized and reinterpreted from person to person. For society to grow, we must realize that it is not our religious texts, nor our gods nor our spiritual leaders who should define our beliefs about what is good and beneficial to us and society. We should use our own judgment, reasoning and knowledge to discern what it most beneficial for both ourselves and all of humankind.