I have always been amazed at the discourse, between individuals, groups and nations, over religious beliefs. These beliefs are, after all, just that, beliefs; something that subscribers and followers hold in their mind, for whatever reason.
If someone told a story about a magic bird that lived in the forest, and said that this bird could perform some fantastic feats, represented a code of behavior and if you held the image and belief of this bird dearly, when you died you would go to the nest of this bird and be processed into the secret afterlife forever in peace, but could not provide you with any evidence of the bird’s existence, except for the unsubstantiated testimony of others who believed in the bird, it would be up to you, as a leap of faith, whether or not you chose to believe in the bird. To me, this is the same as religion.
Religion is pretty much based on things that can’t be proven. That’s not to say, that the teachings, the tenants of a given religion can’t be proven, for we all know that if we spread goodwill toward our fellow man, we shall reap the spiritual rewards of peace of mind. It’s not the philosophical points of any religion that are questionable; it’s the inability to attribute the specific “key to the soul of mankind” to any given sect or denomination.
I know a man who strongly believes that because he is a devout Catholic he is going to Heaven and those non-Catholics, even though they may be devout in another faith, are not. I suggested that a Buddhist, who believes something entirely different, may not subscribe to the Catholic concept, and would therefore not be subject to an alternative belief of what may or may not happen in the afterlife. The man’s response was swift and absolute, befitting the Inquisition, the Crusades, and other demonstrations of force, slaughter and intolerance in the name of religion, insisting that the Buddhist would not be joining him in Heaven.
Why does this kind of conflict occur? Why are people who are supposed to be followers of a belief that holds at it’s base the doing of good, so closed minded and intolerant of the religious views of a fellow human? Is it because of the fragile grasp those believers have on their own faith? Do they dare not look at their religious beliefs as just that, what they believe? The act of faith, or belief in something, is for one’s own. Faith in whatever gives a person spiritual comfort is whatever it is to that individual. The fact that a group of people believe and take comfort in the same way, makes for an even broader level of comfort, knowing that others, your family, your neighbors, your fellow citizens, believe as you and provide a common bond, no matter if you differ in other ways.
Still, the crux of the matter is the fact that religion and the acceptance of whatever particulars are attributed to that given belief resides in the mind of the believer. Faith is philosophical, not scientific. Although, it is true that Jesus, Mohamed, Buddha and others actually lived and spoke words of how humans should conduct their lives, there is no proof that any one of them is the only correct source of the word of God, Infinite Wisdom, The Supreme Power, or whatever one believes is the omnipresent spiritual force of the Universe.
Why can’t people just hold their religious beliefs and be happy about it. Why must they try to spread their influence, make the heathens or the infidels see that theirs is the only true way? Is killing over a religious view justifiable in any organized faith? No religion or design of spiritual goodness embraces or condones violence, inflicting harm on non-believers, or forcing others to see their light. Have we learned nothing over the hundreds of years since the Spanish used the pretense of the religious righteousness and manifested the Inquisition for political power and monetary gain?
Hopefully, we humans (all of us with the same physical evidence that we are equally human and all stranded on this planet as Earthlings, not divided by ethnic characteristics or artificial boundaries drawn on a map by governing bodies that only came about through war or lineage) can learn individually to be tolerant of others, to accept another human for what he or she is, and in turn share this grace with others who would believe as we might, and eventually come to realize that fighting over something in our heads is a sin and would not please God or the magic bird.