Faithfully Yours

Published: Friday, September 14, 2012 at 10:38 AM.

I feel that interfaith outreach is crucial. Unfortunately, there are people, even in this day and age, who feel that discriminating against others on the basis of religion is acceptable. For all of the advances that humanity has made, there's still much work to be done in terms of promoting understanding among the world's religions. Society has made incredible progress, but it's a mockery of that progress when people squabble like pre-school children over religious differences. Instead of using religion to elevate the world, there are those who use it as a force of division and intolerance. When religion is used to tear people down rather than to build them up, something has gone terribly wrong.


A lack of understanding and cooperation can even arise even within one's own religion. I remember visiting a certain church when I was a child. The church had a rack full of gospel tracts, and on that rack were pamphlets bashing other Christian denominations. They felt that it was okay to make malicious comments about fellow Christians. Even from my vantage point as a kid, I felt embarrassed for them. I don't have any problem with theological debate, as long as it's conducted in a civilized manner. But treating other people as if they're enemies just because they hold different beliefs does nothing whatsoever to promote peace. Spreading strife in the name of religion is something that should have been overcome centuries ago, yet it still persists today.


It's easy to criticize other belief systems when you don't understand them. One of the goals of interfaith events is to promote understanding across religious and cultural lines. During my youth, I was told "facts" about other religions that turned out to be completely false. I discovered those statements were false by speaking directly with practitioners of other beliefs, by doing research, and by visiting their services. If someone makes a claim about something I'm interested in — and I'm definitely interested in religion — I'll often seek further information. Don't just accept someone's word at face value. Do your own homework. It might save you the embarrassment of spreading bad information even further.


Imagine the benefits that could befall any community if the time wasted on trashing other people's beliefs were turned toward building up our towns, neighborhoods and schools. Even a half-hour sermon knocking other religious groups could, instead, turn into a half-hour of examining ways to unite and provide a better community for everyone.   

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