I try not to judge a person for what they believe. Instead, I believe people should be defined by their actions. This is why, while I’m not pro-religion, I’m not anti-religion. Because if someone wants to believe that the divine is looking down on them, and it makes them feel better about their life, why should I care? Some people, for instance, don’t believe robots are awesome. Those people are wrong, but I allow them to be wrong so long as they allow me to enjoy awesome robots.
With the recent protests in Libya and the Middle East, some of it related to religious unrest, I was struck by how often we spend time worrying about thoughts, not actions. There are certainly Islamic extremists willing to do a lot of crazy, destructive stuff. But to say Islam is the source of this is to ignore the number of Muslims who aren’t so crazy.
Maybe it’s because I’m not a religious person, but I have a hard time siding with one religion over another in terms of believability. And I also have a hard time with any philosophy (religious or secular) that claims to have tapped into some sacred truth that only its believers have access to. I hope that doesn’t offend any religious folks out there. I’m not saying that you’re wrong. I’m just saying I don’t believe it. But as a reasonable human being, I also admit that just because I don’t believe something doesn’t mean it’s not true.
So, in the interest of clarity, I will say that I don’t believe any philosophy of any kind has ever really nailed down the essential nature of the human experience. The history of the world, everything from religion, philosophy, science, etc., is one big mistaken assumption after another. Every fifty years, we all look like idiots, and while I’d like to believe we live in a time when humans finally got it right, I’d also like to believe that one day my brain will be implanted in a dinobot body. This is unlikely.
Each of us experiences our own private universe, and I could no more experience your life than you mine. And if you say you have an intimate connection with the cosmos via Jesus, Mohammad, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Mighty Robot King, I can’t argue with you on the basis of facts. There are no facts to be had. Only experience that can never truly be shared.
That’s why I care so much less about what someone believes and so much more about how they behave. I don’t have to believe what you believe. Nor do I ask you to try to believe what I do. Instead, I only ask that you treat me with respect and tolerance. If that’s too much, then I only ask that you ignore me.
The times I grow intolerant of philosophies is when they begin to step on the rights of others, specifically the rights of non-believers. We are all allowed to impose whatever strange values and rules we want on ourselves. But to push those onto others is overstepping. And being offended by something doesn’t give one the right to respond violently.
The only reason I ever get angry about religion is because religion is one area where this sort of activity occurs most regularly. No one kills another person over which Star Trek captain is better. Nobody riots because Tron: Legacy was an awful movie. It is mostly in religion that these things happen, and while it’s easy for one religion to sit in judgment of another, to do so is to overlook one’s own awful history.
Okay, politics can sometimes do this too.
And it makes sense because religion and politics are about something. There’s certainly more at stake when it comes to perception. Fans of Transformers might feel betrayed and enraged by Michael Bay’s films, but in the end, they’re just movies. If people started believing Optimus Prime was real and that his depiction was sacrilege, they’d no doubt start rioting too. Because it’s not about the medium. It’s about people and perception.
The problem isn’t that people often take things too far. The problem is that they don’t do so consistently. I would certainly be against Islam if every Muslim was out for blood at the slightest offense. I have seen Christians that chill me to the bone with their hatred and rage, but I also have met plenty of nice Christians. So it’s not as if we can look at a philosophy and say, this is always bad. If we could, it’d be a lot easier.
We are all on this planet, experiencing this life, and it is unfortunate that so many of us cannot (or will not) respect the life and experiences of others. Instead, we assume that we are, somehow, experiencing THE LIFE and everyone else is doing it wrong. Tolerance isn’t found in accepting people’s differences. It’s in acknowledging our own limitations and the limitations of our short lives. It’s in understanding that, at the end of the day, we are probably all wrong about everything but as long as we keep trying, maybe it’ll work out in the end.
That’s my personal philosophy. Yours is probably different.
And, hey, as long as you aren’t trying to burn down my house, we’re cool.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,