Here we are in America in a culture that seems to be arriving at a position that doubts the efficacy or the truthfulness of organized religions (although, this viewpoint is hardly universal even in America).Many people feel that much harm has been done in the name of one religion or another and that perhaps it is best to adopt a sort of diffuse spirituality that is more moral than religious and, in awe at the size of the cosmos and the tininess of us, hopes that there is a beneficent force (God) that will call us home when our time here is done.
We don’t have a very old Testament view of what constitutes a sin these days, although most of us would probably subscribe to the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments, which, when adhered to, help keep human societies from descending into savagery. We tend to believe in lots of hedonistic entertainment especially between entering college and committing to a career or a relationship or both. We drink, we dance, we tweet and text and gossip and flirt and even bully. We (at least some of us) enjoy sexual relationships that are somewhat indiscriminate. We swear and listen to loud music and we look like great big sinners.
Coming up against a religious group that is devout and has absolute faith in the teachings of their prophet, we appear blasphemous and disrespectful, Godless and sinful, when at least the sinfulness part is not our intention at all. This “silly fraternal nonsense” has become very much a part of the American psyche and, although not indulged in by all, is often behavior that is described as “cool” and a sign of social acceptance and belonging. This image is possibly one that will go away in time, but still seems to be a dominant lifestyle choice among young people.
That Islamic people may feel that it is their job to bring sinners back to God and to make the world a more moral and serious place to live and worship in should sound very familiar to us from our own Christian roots. While I am not saying that either group is correct or incorrect in its behavior I am saying that, because our religious thinking has evolved in different ways it is inevitable that we should find ourselves at odds with each other. How do two cultures that treasure such different things learn to coexist? Do they learn to coexist? That is the issue that is creating some of the current hate and misunderstanding in the world in these early years of the 21st century and it is the issue we must resolve to live at peace with each other. When our religion has come to hinge on our personal freedom to enjoy life as we see fit, and when their religion sees our behavior as shocking and corrupting and as undermining their devoutness, it will take an awful lot more effort on both of our parts to give each other room to live in the same world and yet live such different lives. I hope we get the hang of it real soon.
Here’s a link to a Daily Beast article which suggests that religion is not the real issue: