Coexistence Requires a Leap of Faith

by David T. Bruce

btn_peace_relig_symbls_275Recently, my wife’s sister decided to compel her school-age children to regularly attend church, and she wrote about this new practice and the motivation for doing so on the blog they host together. It was a bit of a revelation in itself; neither my wife nor her sister ever attended church as children. When I first read this article, I brought my own bias that renounces organized religions and the implication that if a person or a culture does not subscribe to the idea of a singular faith, then that person is of questionable character. After reading this article to its conclusion, I found my bias to be unfounded.

Faith by definition suggests that we believe in something without substantial proof that it is real. Spirituality asks us to submit to the possibility that what defines mankind is not necessarily of a physical nature. These two concepts are frequently used in tandem to imply that the only way to understand their meaning is by being of a particular faith or being spiritual; in other words, a person must be religious and go to church to understand.

Exploring faith and spirituality is laudable, and the journey is always a personal one. Society in general, however, places emphasis on organized religion. If a person does not go to church, that person is typically considered godless and immoral. As Tiana discusses in her article, we do need to give direction to and instill faith in our children. This does not necessarily have to happen under a steeple. If this works for the individual or the family unit, no one has the right to speak against them. Of course, being a part of the majority, the choice of the individual to attend a church typically goes uncontested. Those that opt to worship in their own way or choose not to worship at all are sometimes silently and often publicly condemned by society – sometimes by those same people who claim the cloak of faith and spirituality.

None of us are immune to religious prejudice. We may giggle in regards to a particular idiosyncrasy of a given faith we find absurd. Many of us, me included, did more than raise an eyebrow in respect to the recent announcement of the end of the world. If we take a critical look at ourselves, however, it’s easy to see that our approach to the fringe sector of society that embraces Rapture is no more productive than when the majority of society perceives atheists as sacrilegious. What harm would come to pass if each of us let one another live by the principles of their faiths, stipulating that we do not go out of our way to injure one another?

Above all else, I have faith in the belief that all of us as individuals inherently love our families and neighbors. I have faith that we emotionally and physically cringe when others are hurt. Reflexively, we want to help when people are suffering due to acts of violence or as a result of a natural disaster. The awareness of the difference between good and evil is intrinsic among all cultures.

This faith in the good of man is what we should bring to our children and those around us. This faith is what we must foster. Whether we choose to adopt a religious practice or frequent a church to foster this inherent sense of compassion is, as I say, a personal choice. In the end, how we choose to communicate this sense of compassion does not matter, as all religious faiths ultimately seek and speak to this common moral value.

Whether a person is an atheist, agnostic, or of a Jewish, Christian, Hindu, or Muslim faith (or a denominational fragment thereof) is, on a global scale, insignificant. What our hearts and minds commit to in terms of our inherent love for one another is what binds us together culturally and spiritually. We can affirm this faith by attending church if we choose, but a daily belief in and understanding of other forms of belief and other ways of exploring spirituality is paramount in realizing what it truly means to coexist.

We must all explore our faiths in the way that each of us finds most agreeable, while letting others do the same – even, and perhaps especially, when their ways differ radically from ours.

We can instill this same sense of compassion and understanding in our children, and this is a journey we can all embark on and benefit from. We do not need to force our religious principles upon others, for we are all on the same journey. Not one of us is spiritually better than another, and if there is an end, we will all meet whatever, wherever and whenever that end may be.

Make Every Day an International Day of Compassion

by David T. Bruce

Image courtest of Baby Boomer Yearbook
Image courtest of Baby Boomer Yearbook

Inspired by Dr. Patch Adams, today has been set aside for bloggers to unite for compassion, with the hope of eclipsing the pervasive global violence that has become a staple of our collective cultures.  Following in the footsteps of the Dalai Lama, the impetus for this movement is to encourage each person to show compassion for another.  The Dalai Lama said that “true compassion is not just an emotional response but a firm commitment founded on reason.”  He also said that “our prime purpose in this life is to help others, and if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”  If we are to learn anything from this movement, it should be that if we embrace this sentiment, we can all show compassion, at least passively.

Much of the momentum behind the writing in Ethical Revolutionist is a response against the aforementioned violence that is most often justified by religious or corporate dogma.  Our various cultures (the United States included) strike or condemn in the name of God (or other deity); we colonize other lands under the guise of guardian; we extract and extort from one another to acquire various resources.  These are not compassionate behaviors.

Without argument, our society has been wronged.  We have been unfairly attacked and judged.  We have responded accordingly, understandably with a combined measure of arrogance and dignity.  I do not suggest that we should turn the other cheek, nor should any society that has been unjustly mistreated.  Justice demands to be served, and honor needs to be satisfied.  Such is our nature.  At the same time, we must choose at some point to embrace other cultures, setting aside our differences, allowing others to live their lives as they choose.  And if we cannot embrace them, at least we should not deface them.  This is compassion.

If we cannot walk outside of our homes and help one person with an act of compassion for whatever reason, we can choose to not hurt a person.  This is compassion.  “If you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”  Yes, we are currently locked in a dogmatic, moralistic confrontation with various political and societal constituents of the Middle East.  At one point, however, do either of our cultures or both of our cultures make the choice to leave the other to live as they choose, keeping our opinions and our ways of lives to ourselves?  When and how do we decide to stop? Such a choice is a show of compassion.  We will truly follow in the footsteps of Dr. Patch Adams and the Dalai Lama when we choose every day, not just today, to at least not hate if we cannot love.

The late Leo Buscaglia, a professor at the University of Southern California, once said:

I believe that you can control your destiny, that you can be what you want to be.  You can also stop and say, No, I won’t do it, I won’t behave his way any more.  I’m lonely and I need people around me, maybe I have to change my methods of behaving and then you do it.

We cannot control the destiny of another; we can only control our own destiny.  Compassion starts with each of us.  Today is a good day to start.