Volume 9, Issue 3 University of Houston
Religion should not divide societies
by FLORIAN MARTIN
The most recent Christmas holidays have been the culmination to a month-long discussion about the use of the phrase “merry Christmas.” It was argued that Christmas is a Christian holiday and that wishing someone a merry Christmas could insult people of different beliefs.
While it’s good that there is a lively discussion about religion and our daily lives, the question of whether one should say "merry Christmas" or "happy holidays" is not a particularly helpful one and doesn't focus on the real problem that religion causes for quite a number of Americans.
About 76 percent of Americans are Christians. They go to church and pray regularly; they read the Bible and many preach that we should all strive to be like Jesus. Some of these same people will not even consider dating someone with different beliefs or denomination because they feel their partner could keep them from worshiping Jesus. Some fear that they could care more for their partner than for God -- which to them would be unacceptable.
Christianity should not be a restriction on its followers. That can’t be what Jesus -- believe in him or not -- would have wanted. Religion, at its best, improves people's lives. It makes sure we treat our fellow creatures with respect and give them love, that we do what's right, that we not only feel responsible to the law of the community we live in but also to a higher law, uninfluenced by man.
The reality, however, is different. Religion has frequently been taken out of context -- be it the Crusades, conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East, or, most recently, the war between Muslims and Christians. The latter example especially can be seen as more of a conflict between different ways of life and cultures than between religions. But religion is used to emphasize the differences and involve more people in the conflict.
While some take the Bible literally -- which often doesn't work, considering the time the book was written and the different way of life then -- religion is up to interpretation. Many things written in the Bible can only be understood when interpreted the right way. And that's where the problem starts. The right way is also open to interpretation. For some people it is to discriminate against gay people, to put people to death for killing someone or to convert different cultures to Christianity under the threat of force, as has happened many times in history.
This problem of interpretation has caused the creation of hundreds of splinter groups that disagree on everything but the worshiping of Jesus. Many share the same culture and grew up with the same values and morals, and still they separate themselves from each other. It is like an artificial wall that people put up, one that is completely misplaced and unnecessary.
Instead of dividing ourselves into thousands of different little cultures, we should try to unite as best as possible. This is particularly important in the United States, a country made up of cultures from all over the world.
These groups should try to overcome their religious boundaries in order to be part of one society -- a society with differences but one that doesn't exclude people for their faiths. A good way to accomplish this is to “interbreed” with other religions and not lose the focus on what life is all about.
Martin, a communication senior,
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org