Posted by: Jim | November 23, 2004

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Religion, Part V: The Problem with Pants

I would posit that Christians in America are Christians because they were born in the U.S. If they had been born in Pakistan, with wise and loving parents, they would very likely be moderate Muslims. For as zealous as I was as a lad, I might have been one of those suicide car-bombing types.

It’s amazing how many “seekers” of the truth happen to find it in their local religion. How many Americans seek for truth and find it in Islam? How many Arab youths seek for truth and find it in Christianity? If I were to throw a dart, I would say it is fewer than 1/100th of a percent in both cases. Which one is true? Is one group better at seeking out the truth? Is one group horribly deceived? Is one group “chosen by God”?

I believe that we pick our religions like we pick our clothes. I wear Levis because they are convenient and everyone else around me is wearing them, and it solves my problem of needing pants. In Egypt they wear those big poofy pantaloons (okay, let’s say they do for sake of argument) because those are common in their region. But the difference between religion and pants is that people don’t kill each other over whether Levis are better than pantaloons. From the “plain folk” perspective, both Levis and pantaloons do the job. Same with religion. Both Christianity and Islam give its “plain folk” followers acceptable answers to life’s tough questions. They both also help with establishing social order. They give us a “framework” around which to build life’s milestones: birth, marriage, and death. Plus, I would also posit that there are many wise and true principles that you can find in Christianity. I’ll get into those later.

But alas, there are some fundamentally wise principles in Islam as well. Aye, there’s the rub. If you look close, you will see vast differences between Islam and Christianity. Unless truth is relative, they can’t both be true! Because truth isn’t relative, people sometimes cling tightly to their religion and say that one is true and the other one is not, is where all the trouble starts.

My old Christian friends think I’m arrogant to spout such things. To them I must point out that people who assume that their religion is correct, and that the rest of the world is wrong, are really the arrogant ones. I was raised to believe that all Mormons, Jews, Hindus, Muslims and Zoroastrians were going to Hell. God “loved” them, but was going to send them to eternal fiery torment because they did not accept blah blah blah blah … I can only laugh now.

OK. Deep breath.

These last three posts have probably seemed like a rant. Sorry, but my friend Bert really got me in a tailspin. It’s his fault. Yeah, that’s it.

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