May 2007

Faith and the conundrum it evokes

By Galen Larson

I must be honest. I am not a person of a mysterious faith, a believer in heaven or hell or a figure employing mystical powers from a throne on high. Yup, I am (as the righteous refer to me) an atheist.

Why do I bring this up? I was reading an article in one of the many different newspapers and magazines from both sides that I enjoy. In Canada, the U.K., and here in our religiously tolerant country, a number of people were arrested — identified as Muslims and in the same breath as terrorists. It struck me as strange that these persons of faith were identified by their faith first and deeds later.

In contemplating this it comes to mind that I have never read, in my numerous years, an article about anyone arrested and charged with some other dastardly offense to society who was identified as a Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, or any other denomination of faith. To me these were evil men, but did their true faith have anything to do with their guilt? Let’s put this faith thing in perspective. Like ice cream, it all starts from vanilla, then as people’s wants change, we come up with strawberry, cherry — close in color but different in taste — then chocolate. Then the creme de creme for some, French vanilla (or should that be Freedom vanilla, like our Freedom fries?). Our leaders didn’t study or have a clue, it seems, as to what part faith would play in this butchery that we are involved in. Should I hate those who prefer chocolate, strawberry or cherry because I think I know that my basic vanilla flavor is the “purest” one?

As to why I can’t in good conscience follow a certain mystic direction to be a decent person. I’m not saying I’m always a decent person. I’ve had and most likely will have some transgressions before this journey is over. I believe that in this short period of life I should do my best to help my fellow man and leave the planet in a better state so those with which I have propogated the world will have as good a chance as I.

In the interim I should also extend as much help as I can to those around me or come in contact with that are not doing as well as myself. One of the things that upsets me most is those people who unabashedly proclaim, “I am a self-made man.” To be really honest, one should give credit to those along the way who lent them a hand, whether parents, teachers, employers or someone who referred you to a job and then of course the person who gave you the chance to show your abilities. It is not in me to look down on those that do not have it as good as I nor be in awe or jealous of those who have it better.

Back to this organized battle of the faiths. Whether one wants to believe we crawled out from under a rock, fell out of a tree or were created from mud or a rib, we were all the same in configuration and color at one time. Whence then did this battle begin and why now that we are supposedly more educated and more tolerant can we not realize that the money spent killing people of different faiths and beliefs is such an extreme waste? Employing those moneys for the good of humankind we could all be happy in a new Garden of Eden. It seems we are the only animal that revels in killing while at the same time professing the horror of it. The lion kills for food, the human, it seems, for sport and glory. How grand and glorious is it for parents, wives, children to give up their loved ones for democracy and faith, and the other side being indoctrinated that they will have 71 virgins when they die?

That’s another topic. People of faith make a big deal out of virginity, even stoning to death, in some countries, those who give in to their hormones or even are raped. All the while, in many faiths, the man can take as many wives as he can afford. Women always get the short end of the stick. Don’t forget that it wasn’t until 1920 in our own great country of faith that women finally received more status than the family pet.

In my youth I once met and dated a Catholic girl. When I met her mother she politely told me I could eat at her table; if I were sick she would care for me. But I would never marry her daughter, because I was a Protestant. She was the sweetest person you could meet, but because of her faith she did not like me.

Why do I mention this? Because it shows how an unprovable belief can destroy our tolerance for each other. In each faith people discriminate against one another to the point of hate. It is one thing to discuss provable disagreements and work toward a compromise. But to buy into a myth perpetrated by sharlatans who preach one thing and practice another and to do it through fear is incomprehensible to me.

Isn’t it strange that we can civilly sit down and discuss differences on concrete matters but on matters of faith we are led to hatred and war, with each side professing to offer the same mythical rewards and truths. Maybe if we understood faith as defined first in the dictionary, “allegiance to duty or a person” instead of arguing about an unprovable destination after death, we would be more tolerant of one another. Religious faith seems to be based on fear instead of love and acceptance. If you profess allegiance to your faith then practice what you preach and respect other faiths as you do your own.

Galen Larson writes from rural Montezuma County.