Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Religious Tolerance

The New York Times had an article published June 24th, 2008 titled "Survey Shows U.S. Religious Tolerance." (Whew!! And here I thought we were all religious bigots!) Apparently, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life thought a survey necessary - and they came up with "nearly three-quarters" of Americans "say they believe that many faiths besides their own can lead to salvation." Really? I think this is funny.

It would be different if the majority said that they believe many faiths can lead to "fulfillment" or "contentment" or "happiness." But they didn't... they said "salvation." Which leads me to the question: salvation from what?

Supposedly, this report indicates a "broad trend toward tolerance and an ability among Americans to hold beliefs that might contradict the doctrines of their professed faiths." Well, okay. I suppose if you're a Catholic and you don't think you need to confess your sins to the priest, you might hold a belief that goes against the doctrine of your faith. But an "all paths lead to salvation" approach pretty much nullifies your faith, I would think. At some point, you're no longer subscribing to Christianity at all -- you're subscribing to a sort of quasi-faith, something that perhaps is simply a tradition in your life you wish to continue but has no real meaning. Sort of like Santa Claus at Christmas time.

According to the study, "70 percent of Americans affiliated with a religion or denomination said they agreed that 'many religions can lead to eternal life,' including majorities among Protestants and Catholics." Apparently 79 percent of the Catholics surveyed agreed with the statement and 57 percent of surveyed evangelicals agreed. Unfortunately, there are specific passages in the Bible which directly contradict this belief, such as "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father but through Me," spoken by Jesus.

More than 80 percent of Jews, Hindus and Buddhists, along with more than half of Muslims, apparently agreed with the statement as well. Never mind the Jewish Torah's claim of "One True God" (being Jehovah), the Buddhist's claim of no God (only higher self), and the Muslim Quaran's claim of Muhammed as the final prophet and the direct accusation that the Jews and the Christians messed up the message and the Quaran is finally getting it right.

Religious tolerance is, according to the NYT, not marked by the ability to allow other people their own beliefs and opinions... They gleefully include Michael Lindsay, assistant director of the Center on Race, Religion and Urban life at Rice University saying, "It's not that Americans don't believe in anything. It's that we believe in everything. We aren't religious purists or dogmatists."

According to the research, more than a quarter of American adults have left the faith of their childhood to either join another religion or make a move to no religion at all, with the greatest net gain being in the "no religion at all" category. Given the church's ability to make a mess of things, hurt people, and turn church into multi-million dollar businesses, I don't find this surprising at all.

According to the New York Times article, "The new report sheds light on the beliefs of the unaffiliated. Like the overwhelming majority of Americans, 70 percent of the unaffiliated said they believed in God, including one of every five people who identified themselves as atheist and more than half of those who identified as agnostic."

I guess we need to blur and confuse absolutely everything now, even atheism. If a person answers a survey saying that they both are an atheist and they believe in God, that doesn't show religious tolerance - that shows idiocy. Atheism is, by definition, a belief that there is no God.

Again, from the article: The most significant contradictory belief the survey reveals has to do with salvation. Previous surveys have shown that Americans think a majority of their countrymen and women will go to heaven, and that the circle is wide, embracing minorities like Jews, Muslims and atheists. But the Pew survey goes further, showing that such views are held by those within major branches of Christianity and minority faiths, too.

Scholars said such tolerance could stem in part from the greater diversity of American society: that there are more people of minority faiths or no faith and that “it is hard to hold a strongly sectarian view when you work together and your kids play soccer together,” Mr. Lindsay said.

Frankly, we can be indulgent all we want (and indulgence is different from tolerance) to faiths other than our own... but in the long run we really don't get to be the ones to decide. Given the text from the sacred writings of the various faiths, they are (for the most part) opposing one another drastically (with the exception of Judaism and Christianity being intertwined). Given that, it stands to reason that somebody is wrong. Logically, it's possible only for all faiths to be wrong - but not for all faiths to be right.

The survey also delved into whether or not a person's faith influences their decisions about cultural issues. Apparently, nearly two-thirds of those surveyed favor more government help for the poor even if it means going deeper into debt. Sixty-one percent say that stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost. Of course, no stating what that cost might be, which leads me to wonder if they happened to survey any thinking people or if they stuck strictly to mind-numbed robots.

A majority said the United States should pay more attention to problems at home than those abroad, but in the area of foreign policy, 6 of 10 said that diplomacy, not military strength, was the best way to ensure peace.

Truly, the American people, no matter their religion, have a great capacity for regurgitating what has been fed to them through the national media for years. We should be proud. Public education has certainly done it's job.

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