Tag Archives: religion

Is atheism a religion?

Sometimes in criticising that which we believe to be closed-minded, we become just as closed-minded as those we aim to criticise. For example, non-religious people can be very critical of the devoutly religious, but in their criticisms, they become just as closed-minded as the people they seek to criticise. It is important not to become closed-minded in seeking open-mindedness. In attempting to discredit something for being ignorant, intolerant and dogmatic; it is important not to become ignorant, intolerant and dogmatic ourselves.

Atheism can be just as dogmatic and impenetrable as theism. Believing that God exists or believing that God doesn’t exist can still be narrowed down to believing. Sometimes believing in something makes us so focused on our specific belief that we fail to take anything else into account, including the lack of logic in our own beliefs (I think the same can be said for knowledge). In the words of JP Sears*- “Rebel against dogmatic religious terminology by dogmatically using spiritual terminology…You don’t see that you are actually still subscribed to the exact same belief system, you’re rebelling against; because now you are expressing the same concepts just with new words.”

Theists believe in God and seek to prove that God exists, and atheists (who do not believe in God) seek to prove that God does not exists…both are trying to prove something- and this proof usually comes in the form of intolerance towards anyone who has an opposing belief. This intolerance usually manifests itself through venomous phrases such as- “Religion is the root cause of all the violence in the word” and “Genocides have been committed by atheist, like Mao, Pol-Pot and Stalin”

What makes atheism or religion either violent or peaceful are the individual people who subscribe to either atheism or religion. We cannot afford to make blanket statements like “all religious people promote violence” or “all atheists are immoral” because these stereotypes are simply not true. Both atheists and theists (hopefully) want to build a peaceful world without wars and violence, they just want to go about it in different ways- without God and with God. In putting each other down, we take steps further and further back from our goal of building a more harmonious and peaceful world.

For me personally, whether atheism is perceived as a religion or not is irrelevant. Forcing people to adhere to your ways, whether you are an atheist or a theist is wrong (For more on this point, please read my blog post titled “Do you prefer tea or coffee?” ) What matters most is finding a way for everyone to respect, appreciate, accept, understand and finally coexist with one another.

http://steve.rogueleaf.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/140308-Tit-For-Tat-Atheism-Religion.png
http://steve.rogueleaf.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/140308-Tit-For-Tat-Atheism-Religion.png

* Check out the video “How to be Ultra Spiritual (funny) with JP Sears- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kDso5ElFRg 

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Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled“Introduction…”.

Do you prefer tea or coffee?

This post has been inspired by the following image that has been shared on Facebook-

subway bunnings

(*Subway is an American fast-food restaurant franchise that sells sandwiches; and Bunnings is an Australian hardware and household chain)

Whenever I have discussions with people about sexual preferences and religion, I usually always refer to the following analogy-

You like tea, and the person next to you likes coffee. If you convince the person next to you to drink tea, will your tea-drinking experience be somehow enhanced? Will it make your tea taste better? Likewise, if the person next you convinced you to drink coffee instead of tea, would their coffee now taste better as a result? Given that the obvious answer is “no”… converting a tea-drinking person to coffee of a coffee-drinking person to tea, will do nothing more than make a tea-drinker adhere to a coffee-drinker’s personal choice, or make a coffee-drinker adhere to a tea-drinker’s choice. A person, who freely elects to drink tea or coffee, should understand that others are just as free to make the same decision. There is a reason why both tea and coffee exist.

“Tea” and “coffee” can be substituted for “heterosexual” and “homosexual”, or “religious” and “not religious”, “vegetarian” and “not vegetarian” etc. I really cannot understand how people feel entitled to get “offended” by someone else’s decisions to prefer “tea” over “coffee” or vice versa. If you feel entitled to make a “choice” between “tea” and “coffee”, the person next to you is just as entitled to make the same “choice”. Their choice should not offend you, and your choice should not offend them.

As long as we have mutual understanding, mutual acceptance and a mutual desire towards peace and coexistence, it really doesn’t matter who drinks tea and who drinks coffee.

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Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled“Introduction…”.

Bikinis, niqabs, oppression and assumptions.

assumptions

Image:  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/547539267167376074/

I recently had a conversation on a Facebook thread with a close friend of mine after I had shared an article with the following feature image:

WaterWorld-Stoke-on-Trent-waterpark-burqa-Muslim-584338

(The article can be found on http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/584338/WaterWorld-Stoke-on-Trent-Muslim-Islam-waterpark-women-only-bikini-ban-clothing-veil-burqa, but this post relates to the feature image, rather than the content of the article itself)

My close friend (who is a Muslim female) had left a comment stating that she found the image to be an ‘interesting’ depiction of what is ‘Islamically appropriate’. I followed on by saying that a niqab (a form of veil that covers everything other than the eyes, as depicted in the above image) is not the only form of female attire that is considered ‘Islamically appropriate’. My close friend followed on to say that what she meant by her initial comment was that the opposite of ‘Islamically appropriate’ doesn’t necessarily mean bikini.

My close friend went on to say that a lot of non-Muslims associate Islam with a niqab and opression in the same way that a lot of Muslims from Islamic countries associate non-Muslims with open relationships, provocative attire and prostitution. Obviously these sorts of stereotypes are intolerant and incorrect. Islam doesn’t equate to niqab and not-Islam doesn’t equate to open relationships and provocative attire. To quote my close friend- “I think we need more knowledge and less assumptions” I couldn’t agree more and I couldn’t have said it any better myself. Islam is much more than a niqab and non-Islam is much more than a bikini.

As I have already mentioned in my post titled “Does he drink alcohol? Does he eat pork?” religion can be followed to various degrees and there is no single unanimous expression of a particular religion. The same goes for culture, national identity and much more.

In my previous post, I suggested that the best way to combat intolerance is through education, positive reinforcement and love. Likewise the best way to fight assumptions is though actual knowledge, not further assumptions that only lead to more and more intolerance.

Below, is another image that highlights the unfortunate nature of assumptions, which also suits the given theme of bikinis, niqabs and oppression.

opression Image: Cartoonist Malcolm Evans

 Unless the woman on the right lives in a country that makes any other form of attire other than a niqab illegal, both women are exercising their free will (if there is such a thing) to dress how they wish; and both women are making assumptions about one another. The woman on the left probably doesn’t think she is oppressed and the woman on the right probably doesn’t think she is oppressed either; yet oppression is the exact conclusion they have each reached about one another’s choice of attire.

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”- Isaac Asimov

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Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.

Does he drink alcohol? Does he eat pork?

Much to my surprise, and perhaps to your surprise, apparently there is an implicit and silent prefix of ‘devout’ before the word Muslim. At least that’s the impression I get from people when I tell them that my husband is of Muslim faith. The typical follow-on questions I usually receive are “Does he drink?” and “Does he eat pork?” I don’t really know if this is intolerant or not and the answer to that depends greatly on context.

If my husband and I are invited to someone’s house for a meal asking such questions may be considered on par with asking about someone’s dietary requirements e.g. ascertaining whether or not someone is vegetarian, has allergies or intolerances. However, outside of this context I find these questions if not at least a little intolerant then definitely strange.  The reason I feel this way is because I highly-highly doubt that if I had told someone that my husband is of Christian denomination they would have go ahead and ask “Does he go to Church every Sunday?” or “Did you both abstain from having sex before marriage?”

The other reason why I think it’s intolerant is because when I apply the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” tactic, the person I speak to gets confused at best or offended at worst. Upon being asked whether or not my husband drinks alcohol or eats pork, sometimes I respond by asking my interlocutor whether or not they adhere to everything that their religion prescribes. Apparently, while its okay to ask a Muslim if they drink or eat pork, it’s not okay to ask a person of Christian denomination if they abstain from sex before marriage. Personally, I don’t see the difference, but the person I was speaking to sure could.

Furthermore, if I am to answer “yes” to the questions, people then question how my husband is Muslim in the first place. Does that make it okay for me to question someone’s Christianity if I know for a fact that they practice sex before marriage? Obviously, people hold various degrees of religiosity. So why is that common sense when it applies to Christian denomination, but not so much when it comes to Islam?

People follow religion to various degrees and at times pick and choose which elements of that religion suit their individual needs. One Muslim woman chooses to wear a headscarf while another doesn’t; and each woman feels just as Muslim as the other. One Jew chooses to observe the Sabbath while the other Jew doesn’t and that doesn’t make him or her any less Jewish. One Christian practices sex before marriage, while the other Christian abstains, yet both occasionally go to Church on Sundays and consider themselves to be religious. When someone says that they are of religion X, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they follow each and every element that religion X prescribes. Moreover, just because you are born into a particular religion, doesn’t automatically mean that you are devoted to it. Religion can be an individual experience and an individual expression.

So, to answer the questions of whether or not my husband drinks alcohol and eats pork…He married a Russian-Orthodox Jew, for crying out loud! What difference does it make if he eats pork or drinks alcohol? He’s definitely more open-minded than some of the people who ask about his drinking and eating habits.

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Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.

Colouring Perception

Image: http://www.seeyosemite.com/print-out-coloring-pages.html

Unless you are spiritually enlightened or I’m just really primitive, usually the people we meet colour our perception of that given person’s nationality and/or religion.

For example, if we had a pleasant interaction with a person of religion X or nationality Y, we are more likely to perceive religion X or nationality Y favourably. Conversely, if the interaction with the person was unpleasant, we are more likely to impute that into our perception of religion X or nationality Y. I have been both victim and perpetrator of this phenomenon.

On one occasion someone said to me that I was the first nice Russian person they had met, and that prior to meeting me, they thought that ALL Russians were bitter. There’s about 150 million people in Russia. Lets presume that the person I spoke to met 19 Russians in their life prior to meeting me. Having met those 19 bitter Russians allowed that person to render the remaining 149,999,981 Russian people as bitter. Then I came along and changed that, so now that person only considers 19/20 Russian people to be bitter, with 1/20 Russians being nice. While it’s an interesting statistic, I highly doubt that it actually reflects the bitterness and kindness of Russian people. The example does, however highlight that the interactions we have with people will make us either biased against or in favour of that person’s nationality or religion.

In a similar fashion, I denied my Jewish identity (or rather failed to acknowledge the 50% of my identity that happens to be Jewish) until I was about 16, simply because I didn’t like the attitudes of my Dad’s side of the family and didn’t want to be associated with them. My dad’s side of the family had unfavourably coloured my perception of Judaism. That changed with time, partially because I had met a lot of really nice Jewish people and partially because I grew up and realised that my Dad’s relatives don’t represent the attitudes of the entire world Jewish population.

In ANY religion, nationality, tribe, group etc. you can find good and bad. There is no need to paint everyone with the same brush. The choices that we each individually make along with the attitudes we exhibit represent only ourselves, and not the religions, nationalities and organisations that we form part of.

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Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.

“What are your kids going to be?”

Image- http://smh-assist.ca/about/silhouette-group-of-happy-children-playing-on-meadow-sunset-s/

This is another classic question I love being asked. It’s not even -“What religion will you raise your children with?”, which I can accept to be a valid question and reply with- “all of them”; but, -“What are your kids going to be?” – I don’t really know how to dignify that with a response, so I usually resort to saying:

“MY KIDS ARE GOING TO BE HUMAN.”

I grew up in a poly-religious household and turned out alright (debatable, I know), so I presume that my unborn children are going to turn out alright too.

My husband is doing his best to learn the Russian language along with Russian customs. He has come with me to church when I felt the need to light a candle for humanity and he celebrates annual Jewish festivities with me at a close family friend’s house. Likewise, I am doing my best to learn Farsi and accommodate myself with Persian culture. I have celebrated Norooz (Persian New Year) with my husband’s family and have attended the holy shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad, Iran.

We are trying to incorporate one another’s backgrounds into our lives, to better understand each other. I will never forget one night, late last year where the lighting of the 5th or 6th Chanukah candle (Chanukah is a Jewish celebration), fell on the same night as the Persian celebration- Yalda Night. My parents, along with one of my husband’s friends (who is Iranian) came over to our house for dinner. We each took turns to light one candle on the Chanukiah (a 9-branched candelabrum used for Chanukah) after which we ate grapefruit and watermelon to commemorate Yalda Night (it is a custom to eat red fruit on this night). Multiculturalism at its finest.

That is the sort of environment that I would like to raise my children in. I want to expose them to different bits and pieces of each culture and religion that make up my husband and I. Hopefully, we won’t confuse them too much. Personally, I loved growing up with two religions and two cultures. It meant that I received lots of presents and had a lot of excuses to eat and drink. My parents taught me about and celebrated Christian Easter, Russian Orthodox Easter, Jewish Passover, Christian Christmas, Russian Orthodox Christmas, Chanukah, Normal New Year’s, Russian New Year’s and Jewish New Year’s. In addition to that, the offspring of my husband and I will get to celebrate Persian New Year as well a lot of other Islamic and Iranian festivities.

If anything, my future children will just be happy to take more days-off school for ‘religious reasons’ than any of their peers. I always used my several religions to my advantage. Not wanting to attend compulsory Saturday sport at school, I told my teacher that I couldn’t go due to Shabbat (Jewish day of rest and abstention from work), which precluded my parents from driving a car on a Saturday morning. On school camp I demanded a Kosher (Jewish dietary requirement) meal one night, declaring that I’m Jewish on Tuesdays. My kids will have even more material to play with- I’m looking forward to see how creative they’ll get.

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Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.

“Which one of you had to convert?”

Image- http://ssje.org/sermons/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Conversion_Wordle.jpg

As well as having to answer the “Not Without My Daughter” question (refer to my previous post titled “Not Without My Daughter”, I have also faced some other gems for questions including:

“Which one of you had to convert?”

My preferred response is “We flipped a coin for it” making the stupidity and primitive nature of my answer aptly reflect the stupidity and primitive nature of the question.

I mean it’s just wrong on so many levels, that I don’t even know where to begin. At school I was taught that you could always find the answer, or at least part of the answer to your question in the question itself. So, the person asking this question had already answered some questions for themselves- that either myself or my husband had converted AND that this conversion was obligatory.

This offends me. It offends me due to the  fact that my Mum is of Russian Orthodox faith and my Dad is a Jew and neither one of them converted to the other’s faith. Surprisingly, their decision didn’t bring about the end of the world.The concept of converting for marriage has always been a bit foreign to me because my parents didn’t feel the need to do it, so naturally I didn’t feel the need to it either. Even if I did feel the need to do it, it would have been by choice and not by obligation. I’m going to make myself clear and say that I have nothing against people who choose to convert to their partner’s religion. It’s totally cool, however it’s just something that I was not prepared to do myself, or ask someone to do for me.

I made it very clear to my now-husband on our very first date that I am what I am- a daughter of an Orthodox Mum and Jewish Dad and that I intend on staying that way. Take it, or leave it. I told him that if he has an issue with that or can envisage his family having an issue with my faith/(s) that he should tell me now so that we could walk away from the table as friends. I also let him know that it was nothing personal and that it had nothing to do with him being Muslim (this is actually the case, this isn’t another example of my intolerance).

Had I been dating a Jew, who later told me to revoke my Orthodox faith, I would have told them where to go- somewhere nice, but far away from me. Had I dated a person of Orthodox faith who asked me to denounce my Judaism, they would have joined the Jew who disagreed with my Orthodox religion. Prior to marriage,  my underlying message to potential suitors was as follows: if you want to change my religion- don’t date me. It’s that simple.

Before I answer “Which on you had to convert?” let me start off by first reframing the question: “Did one of you need to convert to make your relationship work?” No. Thank you for asking.

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Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.

Introduction…

human being

Image: http://christanncox.blogspot.com/2013/03/gay-rights-world-so-hateful.html

As an individual with roots in differing cultures and not only differing but contradicting religions, I have reason to believe that we can all harmoniously coexist. I would like to share my personal interfaith and inter-cultural experiences, particularly the challenges and rewards I have reaped from my various religious and cultural backgrounds.

I have created this blog to illuminate the theme of tolerance from my personal experiences where I have been the victim, perpetrator and everything else in-between. Hopefully this space will inspire people to spot our similarities, not our differences.

Love and Light ❤