Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Imagine True Religion


 
It has been a few days since the world witnessed the events of November 13 in Paris. The initial words used to describe the event were naturally filled with emotion: “Paris mourns,” “an act of war,” “World War III,” “Blood-bath,” and “massacre.” Now that a few days have passed, I am in a better place to look at the nature of what happened and I pray that you are as well. Of course, anytime someone or some group of people intentionally kill innocent persons, it is evil; but some who speak of these events then go on to attribute the blame to religion and say that if it were not for religion this would not be happening. Some, specifically blame Islam and label it a violent faith. This is wrong thinking.

I admire the man who towed his portable baby-grand piano to the heart of the zone of destruction and then began to play a song of peace, but unfortunately his choice of song does more than simply call for peace. John Lennon’s “Imagine” has a beautiful melody and the words are inspirational; but it also calls for an abandonment of all religion: “Imagine there's no heaven; It's easy if you try; No hell below us; Above us only sky; Imagine all the people living for today.” The song assumes that world peace would naturally arise when we abandon all religion and live for today. The reality is that people are never at their best when they only live for today because we all have a tendency to live for ourselves. Living for ourselves and living for today is a bad combination that leads to taking care of our own, looking out for number one, and continuing to live a consuming life that depletes the earth of her resources. Getting rid of religion without curing this fatal flaw in humanity could only make our world a more dangerous place.

Other voices have said that “there is no religion in terror.” This is a way to try to describe the fact that those who commit terrorist acts, by remorselessly killing innocents, are not religious and are not part of the true faith. I tend to agree with this but there is a better way to say it. That is, “there is no terrorism in religion.” The great books of the faith, the Old Testament of the Bible, the New Testament of the Bible and yes, the Quran contain admonishments to seek to do good toward others. The Old Testament of the Bible, regarded by Jews, Christians, and Muslims tells us that “the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) The New Testament of the Bible regarded by both Christians and Muslims says that “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27) The Quran admonishes Muslims to “compete with each other in doing good.” (Surah al-Baqarah 5:48)

You will notice that I have not referred to Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, or other religions in quoting these three passages of sacred writings. I will leave that to others to find the relevant passages in their sacred writings. But the fact is, a religion that encourages the slaughter of innocents, is no religion at all. True religion is caring for widows and orphans. It is not true religion if it creates widows and orphans by killing innocent husbands and fathers. Of this we can be sure.

So, what is it that we desire? I do not desire a world with no religion. I desire a world filled with good religion. I imagine a world where good religion succeeds, and truth and grace are held as the highest of all standards by those who are true followers of true religion. Can we imagine that?

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