A Religious Opinion by Richard Bleil
Through the years, I have enjoyed reading a great many different texts from major religions; the Bible, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Tao te Ching, the Koran, and so forth. It fascinates me how these books have different stories, different approaches, but they all seem to lead to the same lessons, and the same morals.
I mentioned this to a friend of mine in graduate school. He told me, “Of course they do. Truth is like a pyramid. It may look different as you approach it from different directions. It’s not until you get to the very top that you see how they all meet at the same point.”
There has been a lot of badmouthing about different religions. Our religion is the only true one if you don’t want to end up in Hell. That religion calls for violence. It’s amazing how many books, including the Bible, can be interpreted to call for violence.
Because of our ongoing conflict with people from the Middle East, the Koran has received a LOT of bad press claiming it calls for violence and oppression. But here’s an interesting tidbit that many people may not realize; the Koran is based on the teachings of a name you may find familiar, specifically, the teachings of Moses. Yup, it is founded on the same spiritual leader as the Torah, and the old testament. The names look and sound different, but insulting the Koran is an insult to Judaism and Christianity since all three are based on these same beginnings.
Just about any religious book is open for interpretation, and can be interpreted as a call to violence and oppression. If you don’t believe me, we can ask the Klu Klux Klan which is based on Biblical passages. I’ve made this argument to friends before who shoot back with “well, you can’t blame the entire Christian faith on the actions of a few radicals.” That’s true, both for Christianity AND the Muslim faith.
It’s the American Way to dehumanize our perceived enemies, which really feeds into the roots of our prejudices. In World War II, the soldiers weren’t fighting the Japanese, they were fighting the “nips”. In World War I, they weren’t fighting the Germans, they were fighting the “krauts”. By dehumanizing the enemies, the soldiers forget that they are fighting human beings, fathers of children and families who are fighting to protect their own families and homes, who in peace want only to find the food and resources for their families, who, like the American soldiers, are simply following the orders of their governments. These prejudices, unfortunately, follow through after the war is over, and prevail until some outside third voice raises the issue of prejudice.
It’s all too easy to pick a religious book based on a region we wish to demonize for political purposes and interpret it in a foul manner. One of my favorite books (which I take as inspirational rather than religious, but that’s just how it touches me personally) is the Tao te Ching. This lovely little book was written by a suicidal teacher, Lao Tzu, about three thousand years ago, and can be interpreted as the “owner’s manual” for the living. However, written in one of the ancient Chinese languages, of course it had to be translated to English, and there are several interpretations out there (my personal favorite translation is by Stephen Mitchell (
ISBN-13: 9780060812454), apparently first published in 1900, but there are also versions that I simply do not like. The reason, as it turns out, is that there have been interpreters who published versions that were intentionally meant to demonize the religion to create negative sentiment towards China.
The truth converges, but hatred, bigotry, and political maneuvering can pull it apart. How we choose to live our lives is really an independent choice. We can choose to demonize those who follow religious books that have different titles than ours, or who look different than we do, or who live in different regions of the world. We can follow the dehumanizing practices of old, the rhetoric of warfare and the path of destruction. Or, alternatively, we can realize that we are all the same. We all want to find the resources to feed and protect our loved ones. We are stronger as a collective, than as individuals, and if we learn to work and live together, to respect and honor each other, we’re all better off. Personally, I’ll choose to walk the path of light. In whichever religious textbook you wish to choose.