Your religion (or lack of one) is wrong

We’re all guilty of it: assuming that our beliefs unconditionally trump the beliefs of others, or that a lack of belief — a refusal to accept things that cannot be physically explained — somehow makes us more intelligent than others. We could go on for days (and the media often does) about the horrible things that people are doing because of their religions, or lack thereof. But it’s time to change the conversation.

Proselytizing: it’s a big word for an equally big and complex problem. Constantly attempting to convert people to your religion, or to explain to them why their religion is incorrect isn’t getting anyone anywhere. I know you might think you’re saving their soul; you might think you’re making the world a better place; you might think you’re enlightening them by explaining the logical fallacies of their belief system. Well, you’re not.

whycantwebefriends
Why can’t we be friends? Photo from Blogspot.com.

I recently attended a presentation by Pastor Ben Collins, who challenged his listeners to change the way they think, talk and write about religion.

“The words that you say are not always the words that are heard,” said Collins. We need to stop looking only at the negative, and stop trying to change people. If someone else practices a different religion than you, learn from them. They have a whole new set of experiences that you’ll never have. Absorb what they have to say, even if it’s not necessarily something you personally believe. When you stop listening for all the ways in which they are wrong and start listening for all the ways they’re right, the conversation changes.

Recognize the value in other people’s opinions, even when they’re different. Religion isn’t set in stone. Even the Bible isn’t law — it’s open to interpretation. Disagreements about religion are healthy, but only when you’re really listening.

Combat ignorance. You may think you’re more intelligent than your neighbor, but that arrogant thought probably means that just the opposite is true. Collins suggested that we step out of our comfort zones. Atheists should go to a worship service. Christians should go to a mosque. Jews should sit and have a conversation with a Buddhist for an hour. I won’t even go into what Westboro Baptist members should do (you can use your imagination).

The analogy that Collins used to finish his presentation was of a fence. Religion shouldn’t build fences where people are forced to separate into groups on the two different sides. Religion should be a trampoline. “Because when you have a trampoline, you invite people to join you,” said Collins.

Foster dialogue. Invite different opinions. Even if you don’t agree with them, engaging with other people and valuing their opinions will expand your own. There’s some good to be taken from every religion or lack of one. We as a culture tend to focus on the negatives of everything, and this needs to stop. Stop proselytizing. Stop being ignorant and arrogant. Stop assuming that you’re always right, because you’re not.

The issue that I’ve always had with religion is a religious person’s stubbornness and inability to see anyone else’s perspective. I’d always hear ignorant people saying things like, “Other religions are wrong because they just are.” It made me hate religion all together. I didn’t want to be a part of something that fostered negativity and claimed their opinions as fact. I attended Collins’ presentation before I knew he was a pastor, and if I’d known beforehand, I’ll admit I probably wouldn’t have gone. But boy, am I glad I did. I opened my eyes and ears to his perspective, and it changed everything.

If the good you have to say and spread isn’t for everyone, then it isn’t good. Good news isn’t biased, isn’t exclusive, isn’t discriminatory. Despite all the bad we see and hear, I believe that there’s good in everyone. Stop trying to change people, and accept them for who they are. Religious or not, we’re all human beings, and it’s about damn time we started acting like it.