KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The New Taboo

Religious extremists of all kinds are making many truly spiritual people fearful of living their religions' principles anywhere but at home, in private. This was illustrated recently in a discussion on an e-mail list to which I subscribe. No, it wasn't a list for discussing religion; surprisingly, it was a list for copyeditors.

One list member told of a family member's experience with an overtly religious Christian. Her relative experienced a business problem. In response, the Christian customer took the hands of the businessman and his wife, prayed aloud that God would resolve the problem, and asked blessings on the businessman and his family and community. The businessman, not religious himself, felt that the customer was sincerely trying to be helpful, so he went along with the prayer session and said nothing. The list member, however, asked the list whether the customer's actions could be considered obnoxious.

List member Fox Cole eloquently responded:

He was being as sincere and secure in his own faith as he knows how to be. That is respectable.

In my opinion, it doesn't matter what belief one follows, but it does matter to believe in one. Many of us have heard "live and let live," "to each his own," "do unto others," etc., but do we practice them? I don't hold mainstream religious beliefs, but I would be grateful for this man's clear sincerity and faith. He is spiritual in his own way, and connected to his faith to express it wholly and without shame or embarrassment.

Of course, the very nature of belief means that religious conflict will be among us for as long as we are [hu]mankind. To believe is to hold in our own heart the acceptance of what is true to us. What that means is, if ours is truth, then no other belief can be. It is a multifaceted paradox: belief requires our commitment to truth; all spiritual beliefs are truth.

Together, unimaginably, they create a wonderful but incomprehensible whole.

However, because of that paradox and the nature of belief, we have throughout all history railed against each other and loudly declared our own faith to be the One, the chosen, the only true religion ... ad infinitum. Because of this, combined with the social overcorrections of "political correctness," any expression of religion at all is now becoming sadly taboo in much of Western society. We should be celebrating our religions, and respecting our differences. (Should be, even though we cannot.)

Had I been that customer and felt compelled to pray aloud with the businessman and his wife, I wouldn't have done so without first asking whether that would be okay with them. But more likely, I'd have prayed silently, never letting them know what I was doing. Why? As I responded to the list:

I am a practicing Christian, of the Presbyterian stripe, but I do not feel that my beliefs are the only truth, and so I do not proselytize. It saddens me when people point fingers at one another, saying, in effect, "Bad, bad religion" or "Bad, bad atheist" or "Bad, bad agnostic." And it saddens me that the extremism of some Christians tars me and those like me. That defamation by association made me hesitate to even write this post.

Why can't we all just respect one another's differences? We are each worthy of respect and honor.

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