Would I ally myself with a particular religious tradition?
Like participating in Christmas? Or going to Sunday service? I’m honestly not really sure what this question is asking. I don’t like the word “ally” though. I don’t really ally myself with anything religious. I practice how I feel I should, not how I’m told. Because I’m a rebel! /flex
Could I get any more caught up on semantics? Most likely. That would require putting in more effort though, and I’m pretty content with the level I’m at.
I participate in the traditions my family acknowledges, like Christmas. It’s not a big deal for me personally. Neither is my birthday. Or Halloween. I’m sure some of the people who have read my past writings are thinking, “Wait… What?… Aren’t you like, part Pagan or something? Wouldn’t that be the one holiday that is important to you? Wouldn’t there be some weird tradition you participate in?”
Days are just days to me.
Traditions sort of suffer from the same mentality. Traditions are just things, actions. It is up to us as individuals to give them importance. If it is important to you, than practice it. If it’s not, then don’t. It is meant to solidify something about your faith to you, for you. If it doesn’t do that, then it’s just a hollow action taking away from finite time. I have better things to do then something I feel is pointless and empty.
My personal opinion, don’t ally yourself to anything but yourself. Be true to you and what you feel. Just because it doesn’t line up with what other people collectively think doesn’t mean it’s bad… And I say that from the Wiccan rede, “And if it harm none, do what ye will” mentality.
Do I know people from other traditions?
What do I think I can learn from the faith and beliefs of others?
So many things. Mostly acceptance. The more I learn about other people, cultures, religions, customs, and traditions, the more I learn that my way is not the only way. My belief is not “right”. But neither is it “wrong”. It is merely a way. One single way of existing within a world, a single, tiny planet spinning through the vastness of space.
There are so many other things to get caught up over, so many actually worthwhile issues, other than, “The way I’m told not to kill people is better than the way you’re told not to kill people!”
I mean, essentially, in my limited experience, that’s what most of religion / faith boils down to. Don’t be a jerk. Treat people how you want to be treated. If we’re all following the same rules, they’re just written in a different book, isn’t it really still the same thing?
Can’t we look at how we’re similar rather than how we’re different? Couldn’t we be happy that someone has a connection to something that brings them happiness and inner peace rather than being pissed that it’s not the exact same thing that we choose to follow?
A good example of this the Day of Ashura. On this day of the Islamic calendar some people, not all, still practice the tradition of self-flagellation. For those who don’t know, that’s where you whip yourself. Participants will use chains with blades attached to them and whip themselves across the back to show their sorrow for not being at the Battle of Karbala to save their martyr, Imam Hussein.
We’re so quick to jump to saying how this practice is wrong. I know I was when I first started writing my paper on it during my Social and Cultural Anthropology class. How can causing yourself harm be an ok thing? We are only given one body. How could they defile the most precious gift we are given? It didn’t help that almost everything I found relating to the tradition used language such as “self-harm” to describe it, which self-harm is considered an extremely negative thing connected to depression and mental / emotional instability.
My teacher helped me see it in a different light, though. How is plastic surgery or tattooing or scarification ok, but self-flagellation is a huge, uber, unforgivable no-no?
Really, it’s all body modification. How is some of it ok, but others not, and who are we to say which is which?
With Day of Ashura at least there’s some spiritual significance for the pain rather than the shallowness of feeling like perkier breasts will improve your life, or that a drunken tribal tattoo on your bicep makes you more badass.
Those words may be harsh, and they may sting for some people, but how can you berate one person while not holding up a mirror to yourself? So you don’t agree with what they are doing. Does it affect you or your body? No. It doesn’t. Does it go against something you believe? Maybe. It’s not like they’re forcing you to participate.
What good does it do to be angry, disgusted, or to hold onto whatever other negative emotions within yourself over something that literally doesn’t affect you or your life?
Live and let live.
They’re not saying you can’t go get Botox shot into your face. Give them the same respect and freedom to do what they want with their bodies even if it’s not something you would do to yours.
Do I agree with the Dalai Lama that in our interconnected world understanding across different religions is essential?
Yes. I do. I feel like religion and culture are very closely connected. In a way it’s like another language. How can you interact properly with a person if you only understand half of their language?
Yeah, you might be able to communicate to some degree, maybe even have full conversations depending on the topic(s). But to truly understand another person you have to understand, in my opinion, their core values and where they stem from. For most of us that in some way incorporates religion.
The more involved you get with someone, the more likely you’re going to step on toes or cause some sort of offense by not understanding, or caring, about another person’s mentality. Again, you don’t have to agree with it, but when we are conscious of how another person is different we increase our chances of having a harmonious interaction with that person.
One the flip side, don’t be super sensitive if someone accidentally says something that goes against your beliefs. If you tell me Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays I’m not going to hunt you down and jump you in a dark ally.
Not everyone is out to cause offense. Sometimes we need to bite the bullet and accept that no everyone is as aware of other religions. They may not even know you belong to a different faith. How often to you walk up to someone and ask, “What religion are you a part of?” And what do you do when the person you asked is atheist and now feels alienated because they don’t actually belong to a religion?
Again, live and let live. Don’t intentionally give offense and don’t go out of your way to take offense.