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Religion as a weapon or a scapegoat

November 15, 2015

I don’t consider myself a religious man.  I might process in some ritual, I do my best to live with a spiritual backdrop and I am known to have a God of my understanding, but I do not personally participate in any form of organized religion.

I do know I have had resentments towards religion as a whole during parts of my life based on my own treatment or experiences around something I will, admittedly, never fully understand.  Because I do fall under a typically feared and finger-pointed category (I am gay) I have often felt the sting of condemnation, judgement and bigotry.  There have been instances where it was inferred I either needed to or should be saved or was a sinner and/or an abomination.  These and other similar experiences will show where (some) religious people can move beyond a their own general practice or faith and attempt to force what they believe onto others.  I have always tried to live and let live.  If you feel what you believe is important to who you are and what you do, that is your business and, as such, I do not feel I need or want to judge this or be involved.  If, however, your business becomes an issue when it comes to me, or others like me, (and you decide to act upon it directly with me or indirectly through influencing law) you are then imposing on my right to live and believe in whatever way I see fit.  You are stepping on my choices.  You are implying you know or are better.  You are not affording me the same respect as I have done for you, or you would expect from me.

You would be wrong.

To be clear, however, my statement cannot or should never be a generalization of an entire religion or the idea of religion in its entirety.  I am no more able to shake my fist at a religion as a whole because it is radicalized in any way, shape, form or percentage by certain people, than I am willing to listen to anyone suggest that all gay men are pedophiles or sexual deviants.  Generalizations are generalizations, lack of knowledge is lack of knowledge.  Fear of what is not known creates the need for answers and when humans do not fully understand or comprehend why PEOPLE do what they do they will find what they need without basis in fact in order to have something or someone to blame for what it is they fear.

Human nature with or without the aid of religion.

I do not condemn religion, nor do I want to.  It has enormous purpose and a rightful place within our world.  It’s necessary and productive for millions of non-radicalized beings.  It provides structure and a foundation for faith and community in its many forms and shapes.  Even if I did condemn any concept of religion it would be of no use.  Religion is not going anywhere .  Radicalized terrorism in the name of religion is also not going anywhere.  But I must remember the simple truth in regard to the way terrorism is perceived and practiced is the religion is NOT producing or promoting the violence:  PEOPLE are producing and promoting the violence and in almost all cases they are doing so in the name of religion.

From a CNN news program today:  “Islam doesn’t promote violence or peace. It is just a religion and like every religion in the world, it depends on what you bring to it. If you are a violent person, your Islam, your Judaism, your Christianity, your Hinduism is going to be violent.” – Professor Reza Aslan

Like many others in our troubled world I look for answers and solutions to the senseless violence, hatred, anger and bigotry driving the fears and creating an ever-growing vicious cycle likely intended to produce a winner in a “war” that may not ever be won.  There is no doubt Western civilization will need to be on guard and in defensive of the cultures, people and communities under attack.  There must be a way for our governments to target the radical terrorist and avoid the generalizations of who and what they might be in order to avoid stereotyping and hurting innocent people just as we would want to avoid in order to protect ourselves?

The fight against radical terrorism is going to be a long, hard and costly battle.  The modern radical is not always easily identified.  They are organized, scheduled and ruthless.  They do not possess compassion in any form. There is no way to know where they are going to be.  There is very little way to know who they are.  For me, on top of the need to make sure I can somehow contribute to the end of mindless killing (in any form it takes), attacks and war as a whole I need to first remember the answer for living my life must be about not allowing the fear to take over.  I cannot permit it to create the radical in my own sensibilities.  This doesn’t mean I am lying back and pretending what is happening does not exist, but the very nature of spirituality requires a strength of inner spirit, courage and faith. Faith in the right decisions and results.  Personally I would choose to make sure I do not react hastily and with anger to the “terrorisms” that occur in my life both big and small, directly or indirectly. Reaction in any manner would likely add to the problem, rather than a thought out and better-conceived response hoping for an opportunity to be a part of the solution.  I have to trust our collective governments to find ways to fight radical terrorism at its source.  I have to pray it is not politicized.  I have to believe this is possible and will solve the senseless losses the world feels whenever events like the ones in Paris, Beirut, Kenya, Mumbai, Thailand, all of the Middle East and on our own soil in the U.S.A occur.

Today in a Variety article I read the following:  Parisians have embraced the Latin motto “Fluctuat nec mergitur” (“Tossed but not sunk”) that appears on the city’s coat of arms.  I hope to continue to live my life in the same vein and understand my best reaction is always to:

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

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