In one of the first columns I wrote for this paper, I quoted John Lennon’s “Imagine” in which he sings about there not being religion or nationality and people living in peace. While that is a Utopian view, I can’t help feel that over 10 years since I quoted the lyrics, things have stayed the same — or gotten worse.
I remember the emails I received once the column ran saying I didn’t have faith and, clearly, I wasn’t a Christian. To me, that’s indicative of the issues we face with religion.
When I think of religion, I think of the origin of human beings and a belief system. I don’t look at it as a means of telling others what they should do or use it to hide behind bigotry, sexism and other discriminatory acts. I believe each person is entitled to believe what they wish and that it should be respected. Yet, that seldom is the case.
To me, the issue isn’t so much living in peace, it is just letting people be who they are.
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I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to travel to places throughout the world, and I feel that I’ve grown from being exposed to different cultures, religions and social customs. Being subjected to differences shouldn’t be a means to try and change people – it should be a means of expanding one’s knowledge. I’ve never quite grasped the concept that I should try to make people who aren’t like me be like me. I get enough of me as it is!
My main gripe with religion has been that it seems to operate on a strength by numbers sort of philosophy – that the more people who have the same belief system, the better the chances they are “right” about the supreme being they believe in. In turn, it becomes an exercise to nudge, cajole, or apply outright blunt force to achieve a common groupthink. From my point of view, the desire to homogenize thought will almost always have the opposite effect of tearing people apart; If somebody resists the advances, they are labeled as a heretic or a non-believer, and are judged harshly and swiftly.
You can shake your head and say that doesn’t happen, but it most definitely does.
I can’t imagine peace because I can’t imagine people putting aside their own biases long enough to appreciate what the world has to offer. I don’t believe there are enough people who understand the difference between religion and faith and ironically enough, there are a fair share of people who make a living exploiting that lack of understanding.
“Imagine” debuted in 1971 and 46 years later its lyrics remain true. Lennon may have been a dreamer thinking the world will live as one. Having spent almost a half-century on this planet, I have no such dream.
Scott Cost: firstname.lastname@example.org