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Volume 68, Issue 132, Monday, April 14, 2003

Opinion
 

Believe freely but don't judge

Aaron Schlanser
Opinion Columnist

 Karl Marx once said that religion is the opiate of the masses. Those words ring far truer for some. Some people wrap themselves in religion and look with disdain on those whose views differ from theirs. They believe themselves superior because their faith is supposedly unwavering, and a kingdom of paradise awaits them upon death.

 But can faith truly be unquestioning when a person feels the need to look down on other beliefs? Can it be true faith when the most important thing isnit to be true to it, but instead to force it on the rest of the world?

 People give all sorts of reasons, such as wanting to share their enlightenment with others, but in most cases, they are lying. One doesnit share enlightenment by belittling and condemning those with different beliefs. I donit believe Jesus spent his time telling the Romans to convert or they would go to Hell.

 I have a theory of my own regarding those who feel the need to push their views on others. These people want to believe, think they should believe, but just canit. Unable to admit this to themselves, they choose to force these beliefs on others in order to validate them. After all, if enough people believe something, then it must be true. Preaching is not spurred on by faith, but rather, lack thereof.

 For many people, religion is simply a crutch, something that gives their lives meaning, that saves them from the despair that would otherwise envelop them. 

 This isnit a generalization of all people of faith. In fact, many retain true faith and love their God, happy in their beliefs and not judgmental of others whose beliefs differ.

 But the world is far too full of those whose motivation is avoiding a seat in Hell rather than love and faith.

 Of course, atheists donit get a free ride on this issue either. As they celebrate their intellects and reliance on reason instead of faith, they often find themselves scorning those who believe in a higher power. They become exactly like those whom they belittle, the only difference being a faith in science instead of a faith in a God. The most common insult Iive heard is that religious people believe blindly and unquestioningly, that they donit keep an open mind. But neither do atheists keep an open mind, as they offhandedly dismiss the idea of a higher power.

 I too am guilty of this. Once an atheist, I denounced and dismissed the existence of God until, in a moment of self-reflection, I came to the realization that in my heart, I do in fact believe in Him.

 Itis shocking that something meant to promote love and togetherness has been so instrumental in creating conflict in the world. It is a commonly known fact that more wars have been started in the name of religion than any other cause. This is frightening indeed, since it essentially amounts to "My imaginary friend is better than your imaginary friend, and Iim going to kill you if you say different."

  But the fact remains that no one knows for sure if there really is a God or whether his or her religion is more accurate than anyone elseis. Thatis why itis called faith.

 Tolerance, unfortunately, isnit something thatis likely to become universal any time soon. We often hear stories of how women are oppressed or people or killed in other countries due to intolerance, and as Americans remain smug, wondering how anyone could be so unenlightened.

 Yet here at home, James Byrd Jr. was murdered because he was black and Matthew Sheppard because he was gay.  Abortion doctors are being murdered by those who claim they value the sanctity of life. Hypocrisy and intolerance often go hand in hand, with people violating their own religious tenets in an attempt to force them on others. Condemning intolerance is itself intolerant. 

 Just remember to have faith in your beliefs, and believe the hell out of them while allowing others to do the same with their own.

Schlanser, a junior university studies major, 
can be reached at intruder@cwal.net.

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