Monday, January 14, 2013

The "Dangers" of Being Open to Other Beliefs

What's better than a great question you can mentally wrestle with for hours?

The questions which come from attempting to answer the first one.

Andrew Hackman, of Hackman's Musings (jeez, if I continue mentioning this guy any more in my posts I may come across as a stalker), shared on Facebook a gem of a question, along with this comic, I'd like to pass on to you like the flu. I hope I infect you.
"What if you expected yourself to be as open to another faith as you desire others to be open to yours?" 
This question is geared more towards people who believe they already have the truth and want to share their truth with you. Of course they'd rather not have you share back, evangelism can't work if you're BOTH open-minded. Dialoguing with another person is a great way to get infected with foreign ideas and concepts.

But what really are the dangers of exposing yourself to other beliefs? If you have confidence your faith will not waiver by a handful of words what harm will come by simply listening to others? If anything it can be a good test of your faith. If a thought provoking conversation with an unbeliever causes your spiritual knees to wobble then wouldn't you want to discover why? Not everyone is born to the faith they follow, at one point in their life they may have made a decision to follow their current beliefs, they were once open to then foreign beliefs and ideas. Why stop there? Why stop being curious?

A believer's easy answer would be "I have the truth now so everything else is irrelevant", but that answer doesn't cut it for me. I believe in the insatiable curiosity of humankind and our desire to connect with one another. To crush or hinder that spirit saddens me and, in my opinion, feels like you willingly accept to entrap yourself in a cage in hopes of receiving a false sense of hope and security in a chaotic universe. The universe is fluid, it keeps changing, evolving, and growing, so what makes us think we don't change as well? As an Agnostic/SBNR (ugh, I despise labels) I try to expose myself to a wide variety of beliefs (which there ain't too much here in the South) because I find religion and spirituality are beautiful expressions of our humanity. The language of religion, stories, and rituals gives us a way to connect with one another, so exposing myself to other beliefs helps me to connect to more of my global neighbors.

Being open minded to other beliefs doesn't mean you HAVE to agree with others, it means being attentive and actually listen to what others are sharing. Wrestle with it, find the commonality and the differences between you and the foreign beliefs. Most importantly, again in my opinion, find out the why behind what they believe is important to them. When you discover that your global neighbor shares in similar hopes, dreams, and fears you will find that we are all cut from the same cloth, or if you prefer, molded from the same clay.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Do I Offend?

Religion is a touchy subject, it has its pitfalls but it also has those beautiful awe inspiring moments found in the stories they tell. When I speak about those stories I do so with full respect to the people who place their faith in them.  I'm not here to pull the rug from under anyone's feet, that's counter productive. I do however shine a light on the evils caused by men using religion to carry out their unjust deeds. Even Agnostics have morals and values, we're just as human as everyone else. Every now and then I'll write a post or make a passing comment related to religion which causes a Facebook friend to "delete" me, or I find myself on the receiving end of a long winded speech as to how I'm going to Hell. These don't phase me anymore I just find it curious as to why people find it necessary to act this way. First,  I do become a bit discouraged that a long time friend would sever our digital friendship over a difference of opinion/belief since social networking sites is the main way I keep in touch with many of my friends. (A busy stay at home dad working to finish a M.S. on a tight budget doesn't get out to socialize much.) So unless I run into them by chance at the grocery store I may never see them again. (By this point I realize that if they get THAT offended over a string of words we weren't very good friends to begin with.) Second, threatening me with eternal torment in Hell is like threatening me with a flock of evil, flying (but decently dressed) monkeys. I'd just find it amusing.

So I asked myself, how did I offend others? Was it my choice in words? Was it the method in which they were delivered? Was it the message itself? Or was it simply because I'm on the "wrong team"? I'm a fairly friendly person, so much so that my wife says I'd be friendly to Hitler. I don't go around spouting hate either. What I've concluded ( those offended please correct me if I'm wrong) is that I'm simply batting for the wrong team. Once you're seen as the "enemy" all sorts of walls go up. Some will try to convince you to come over to their team so that they won't have to view you as the enemy. Others will cut off all interaction so that they don't become infected with your beliefs. Either way things change, people change. And as we enter into a new year let us ask ourselves how we will change? Will your changes make a difference in the lives of others? Or will your walls seclude yourself from others causing you to fear them?