People Believe What They Believe

In the comments to the teawad post, Spocko writes:

I have a
quote from the neocon theocon rw radio host I never used because it
explains a lot. He said that he can not respect another religion
because then what would that say about his religion. To even
acknowledge another religion as okay is a “slap in the face”
That inability to be okay with your religion without attacking another religion shows just how weak they see their religion.

Which is close, I think. How do you prove your faith without running down that of others? How confident can you be in your own life if you can’t compare yourself favorably to another? How do you know you’re doing the right thing, if you can’t make out like somebody else is doing wrong?

How, in the face of someone else’s truth, in the face of someone else’s peace or joy or satisfaction, do you justify your own?

I was brought up in a serious religious environment: church on Sundays, prayers before meal- and bedtimes, Catholic school for 12 years. We had an advent wreath at Christmas and went to the holy day Masses. We weren’t casual Catholics, I mean, even compared to my Catholic school friends we were pretty hardcore.

But I had to ask my little brother, a while back during some other incident of religious stupidity, if he could ever remember, ever even once, hearing an unkind word about a Protestant or Jew or Muslim in our house, growing up. In general or specifically about an individual because of that individual’s faith. I had to ask him because I couldn’t recall a single incident in which someone else’s religion was put up for ridicule or seen as a threat or even commented on at any length.

Now, part of that might have been that it was a fairly homogeneous white Christian town and thus the opportunities for comparative religion seminars were limited, but still, we had TV, it’s not like we didn’t know the rest of the world existed. And the most I ever heard either of my parents say (possibly spurred by seeing someone in a yarmulke or veil) was that some people believed other things, but that we believed what we believed.

It was seen as No Big Thing that not everybody thought and practiced the same way, and I used to think it was because doctrinal debate was tiresome and everybody was busy and we were too young, but now I think the people I knew growing up just didn’t care, and I mean that in the best sense. It was a useful lesson: You don’t need to concern yourself. Your responsibility is to get your sinful ass to church on Sunday. Somebody else has another job.

Without running someone else down, how do you know you’re okay? You know because if you are okay, you don’t need to run someone else down. You don’t need to see someone else’s faith as a threat. You don’t see in every family speaking Spanish in a store the menacing brown immigrant hordes. You don’t look at a mosque being built as “the Islamization of America.” This is the way of the world. You look at them, look at yourself, and go on about your day.


12 thoughts on “People Believe What They Believe

  1. There is a difference between religion as Way Of Life and as Truth. Too many religious folks dwell on the latter while forgetting that it’s the former that sets you up for post-mortem judgment.
    My mom is pretty hardcore Hindu but she filled our library with many Hindu books, those of Islam, Buddhism and Christianity and whatever we wanted in terms of fiction and non-fiction. Again, she’s quite conservative but didn’t stop us from watching R-rated movies. I guess her rationale was for us to learn from the source of or actually experience the good and bad in any given concept, than have someone else interpret it for us.

  2. I grew up in suburban New York in a mix of Catholic, Protestant and Jews. I was Catholic all the way, parochial school, an altar boy, the whole bit. And like you, I never once heard a knock on another religion. On Saturdays my jewish friends went to temple and on sunday my protestant friends went to their churches and that’s what people did. Religion was personal and private and everyone seemed…content with that. How things have changed. I’m still wondering when this contentment was replaced by resentment?

  3. Religion is either a script you follow or it’s a beacon. You find your own path to a beacon. If it’s a script you can be led to believe anything. If people want to twist a line or two in the Old Testament to mean more than entire books in the New Testament you can’t stop them. I’m not very religious but to quote scripture something something we all see through a glass darkly something mote in the eye something.

  4. Went to Catholic K-8 in Baton Rouge (1969-78?), and we Catholic kids were told in no uncertain terms that OURS was the one, true religion Jeebus created on Peter’s rock…
    All the kids I remember knowing outside of Catholicism were Baptists in grade school.
    The nuns and priests were pretty firm: We could be tolerant of people of other faiths, but “they” were not going where “we” were going when the end came. Hell, purgatory, wherever, but they would not be going to the best heaven, Catholic Heaven.

  5. I wonder, is this because we learn more as we get older, especially in the world as it is today, when we are exposed to so much information from so many sources? In TPM a few days ago the point was made that the more educated you are, the less confident you are about what you believe. It is those who know very little, who can be 100% confident in their beliefs, and are not threatened by those who believe otherwise.
    When I grew up everyone I knew was a Christian Protestant. We didn’t follow the same denominations, but our beliefs were basically all the same. We were never exposed to people with different beliefs – no TV to watch, newspapers that were parochial, and our books all tended to be written by people like us.
    As I got older I realized that there were Jews in the world, people who believed far different things than I did. And, I found that Catholics didn’t believe exactly what I did. But, I also found that I enjoyed their company, and they were still just people. Non-white people became a part of my life during that time too, with their cultural differences.
    Now, I understand that religious beliefs are just that, beliefs. They aren’t the “Truth”. I’m perfectly happy with that, but if I weren’t I can see that I might become anxious and want to knock down those of different beliefs.
    Is that a major basis for what is going on now?

  6. In my experience, the more spiritual someone is, the more they have a mutuality with other spiritual people – regardless of the label. That there is a common grain in spirituality between Christian, Buddhist, etc.
    Then there is the group that may be fervent, but any difference is reason for outright war (Like Gulliver’s Travels going to war over which side you broke your egg on.).

  7. hop, I think what it does is make you question, and you can either see that questioning as healthy and normal and it’s okay to talk about, or you can shove those questions down into a dark place where no one is allowed to look. The latter path rarely leads to less doubt.
    These people see argument as the enemy in every context, not just religious ones. I think you’re right in that you’re forced, with new people, to figure out who you are and how to talk about that. Maybe it’s not for everybody. But I’d quarrel with the notion that these people are in any way confident in their beliefs. I think they’re fucking terrified. That’s why everything anyone says to them about anything is an assault.

  8. Good point, SoBeale…reminds me of the old line about not worrying whether god’s on your side, but whether you’re on god’s. Which I think you can be even if you’re an agnostic/atheist.
    Personally, I can’t conceive of an allegedly all powerful creator being as puny and small-minded as neocon theocon Spocko cites.

  9. Hi folks. The attacks on the Muslim religion are something that goes on constantly on that specific RW station.
    Here is the actual audio clip if anyone is interested.
    Besides misrepresenting Islam with self selected quotes from the Koran, he also misrepresents Christianity but it’s harder to say that because he has his own special brand in which Jesus is pro-torture and sends his disciples off with handguns to preach the Good News.
    This guy has been on the attack for years. He sees himself as a defender of the faith and a protector of the people. And his way of protecting the people is to suggest that we kill them before they kill us. How many does he suggest we need to kill? 10 million.
    How does he get away with saying this stuff? He will cite the First Amendment. I knew that so I addressed his advertisers, not the Government whose hands are tied on this issues. Then when advertisers pulled ads he said that he apologized for that comment. And then he said something similar and the cycle starts again.
    I don’t want to dip my ears back into the hate stream again but I’ll bet he is saying similar things today. He might have toned it down from previous comments after losing revenue. Even an old dog can learn new tricks if he is shocked enough times with a barking collar.
    I was always astounded how these hosts could single out people in another religion for preemptive murder on broadcast radio and remain sponsored. Substitute Jew for Muslim and they wouldn’t be sponsored.
    When they do make a sick comment about another faith they go on preemptive attack at the Muslim equivalent of the Anti-defamation League. After one horrific comment another host from the same station said, “‘Go ahead CAIR! Some old goat with a turbin wrapped around your head- let’s hear ya bitch about this!.”
    Imagine. “Go ahead ADL! Some old goat with a yarmulke on your head – let’s hear ya bitch about this!”
    Instead they work overtime to tie CAIR to Hammas and to terrorists. They want a holy war. My God can beat up your god.

Comments are closed.