The Importance of Knowing What You Stand For

As a kick-off post, I thought I would start off explaining why I think religion is such a dangerous force in the world and why it’s so important to know what you stand for when you commit yourself to a religion.

All we have to do in order to see religion’s poisonous effect on society is to look at what is going on around the globe. Everyone is probably familiar with the recent events that took place at American embassies in the Middle East. Now, while it is true that the vengeful murders of several Americans by Muslim protestors was a product of religion in its most extreme form, this does nothing to help us rebuke the actions themselves, or shed moral reasoning on their wrongness. In fact, any honest religious person should find him/herself in a major moral dilemma if he/she is trying to denounce such acts. Any religious moderate you come across will condemn the murders in the Middle East, purporting that they were the result of “misguided” faith or radical religion, but that they in no way taint the sanctity of religion in its purest form.

This is where the problem of “faith” arises. Claiming that someone else’s faith is merely “misguided” is contradictory and intellectually dishonest. Let’s look at the Merriam-Webster definition of faith: “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” With that definition in mind, let me pose a question: How can the religious moderates, or any person who attaches him/herself to a particular religious faith, criticize these people for defending their faith? Just like moderates, these extremists are, to borrow a common Christian cliche, “walking by faith, rather than by sight.” The difference is that religious moderates have adjusted their faiths in order to fit within the spectrum of what is reasonable. The extremists, holding true to their scriptures, will not allow the boundaries of secular society to stop them from behaving in accordance with their respective scriptures. In an obedience to scripture that moderates could not honestly claim to, the extremists will not hesitate to resort to violence and murder in order to carry out their missions. Just as a moderate credits their faith on certain deeds, whether they be good or bad, extremists justify their heinous actions with the exact same ideal: faith. In this way, a religious moderate, who, ostensibly does nothing to harm the world, cannot berate the faithful extremists who merely carry out their faiths with more obedience to their scriptures and less conformity to what the value of reason has taught the rest of the world.

Given everything I’ve articulated above, I believe it is imperative, especially with the ongoing international unrest among religions, that people know exactly what they stand for. In America today, it is easy for people to disregard the violence in the Middle East that religion kindles, as the mainstream Christian faith has become more and more liberal. People go to church, say their prayers, and develop an identity behind their faiths. However, no matter how harmless one’s faith might seem, it is the idea that continues to poison our world – the idea that it is acceptable for church and state to intertwine and therefore be embraced in the public sphere as an essential freedom for all of humanity. That freedom, however, is killing innocent American citizens and will continue to be a platform for hatred and bigotry if people do not start thinking independently and making an honest evaluation of the viability of their faith.

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2 responses to “The Importance of Knowing What You Stand For

  • MaryAnn McHugh

    Religions seem to me to be different culture’s ways of seeking God…God being whatever a person views as the spiritual force in life. The journey of seeking God can transform humans at the deepest level of their being. It can help us be our best selves. We see that in all the great seekers – Jesus, Mohammed, Ghandi, Buddha….but we are human…sometimes our zeal is not spiritual, but mixed with other things. Radical extremists who kill and say they are acting out their faith, may be instead acting out being indoctrinated by views of leaders who are not on any spiritual journey. Agreed. It is important to know what you stand for, what you believe, and who you are, and what humans are capable of – both good, and bad.

    • mark1712

      I agree that the capacity for humans to be spiritual is essential for human happiness. However, I do not believe that religious dogma needs to be attached to such spiritual journeys. What you would call “finding God” I think could be translated into more secular terms that do not involve gods at all, and in fact could become more meaningful without the boundary of a god. Losing oneself in the natural splendors of what is available to us I think would prove to be a deeper and more meaningful journey. Basically, instead of labeling “God” as the end point of the spiritual journey, one would accept the non-fixedness of the journey – by identifying the journey as one that ends with “God,” I think you’re actually limiting your spiritual capacities. Spirituality, I think, is about losing one’s sense of self and becoming one with our surroundings. I think that attaching religion to spirituality is a needless mistake that only limits our capabilities.

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