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Volume 68, Issue 52, Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Opinion
 

Religionis not worth fighting over

Matthew Caster
Opinion Columnist

When we were all young, innocent children, "religion" was simple. Chances are your religion while growing up was identical to that of your parents. If your parents were Catholic, you were Catholic. If your parents were Muslim, you were Muslim. If your parents were not religious, you probably werenit either. Things get complex when we become capable of making the choice ourselves.

Religion is supposed to help us deal with life, but the fact of the matter is the variety of religions in the world today causes a lot of problems. Right here at home, youive got a couple of Catholic priests in big trouble and evangelical ministers who have been caught embezzling money from their parishioners.

The situation gets even more out of control on a global scale. Muslims and Christians are at odds in the Middle East. The Buddhists and the Hindus are squaring off in the Far East. And everyone dumps on the poor Jews. On the basis of what? Religion.

Our society has almost progressed to the point where we donit judge people based on race, gender or sexual orientation ... but we still have a long way to go judging people based on religion. I have been accused countless times of hating Muslims because of my many pro-Israel, pro-bombing-the-snot-out-of-Iraq columns. Truth to be told, I have no problem with Muslims ... but I have a huge problem with people (the Palestinians or Saddam Hussein, take your pick) who deliberately target civilians.

If religion is supposed to be peaceful and personal, why keep fighting over it? Iive spoken with Baptists who honestly believe all Catholics are going to hell. Iive watched as Israel and Palestine have traded barbs back and forth; each side can say itis about land, but itis really about religion, since Muslims, Christians and Jews can all claim the main focus of their conflict Jerusalem as a holy city.

Judging people based on their choice of religion is wrong, and everyone is guilty of it. I honestly donit think it was meant to be that way; I prefer to believe that religion, whatever you hold that to be, was meant to be a personal relationship between you and something greater than you, be it God, Allah, nature or whatever. Our own country, a beacon for religious freedom the world over, has got some people in it who are totally intolerant of other peopleis religions, and totally neglectful of the fact that everyone has the freedom to choose.

My 19-year-old girlfriendis parents, for example, have forbidden me from seeing her because my religion does not coincide with theirs. Itis not because I abused her. Itis not because I have an inordinate amount of body art. Itis because Iim not Christian. 

I was Christian for the first 17 years of my life. My parents raised me as a Methodist, and I was a good little church boy who almost never fell asleep during the sermons. It was right before I turned 18 that I began to question my personal religious beliefs. I experimented with several different religions, some Christian, others not, until I finally found something I could sink my teeth into: Deism.

My girlfriend is totally accepting of my choice. Sheis Christian, and thatis fine as far as Iim concerned (so long as she doesnit turn into her parents). But her parents argue that because I am not Christian, I have no source of direction in my life. I am incapable of making a morally sound decision. And, by God, I am not going to drag their lovely daughter down with me.

See my point? It didnit matter how good of a boyfriend I am I am not Christian, and so therefore I am less than they are. Too many religious persons do this very same thing. People believe what they believe for a reason: They think theyire correct. But why canit someone else be correct too? Is there only one right answer? And if so, which religion is it? There are more than 300 different denominations of the Christian religion alone.

But what if everyone is right or everyone is wrong? Well, then weire either all saved or all screwed, so why do we have to fight about it? Religion should be a personal choice for everyone. It shouldnit be something you force on somebody else. Itis between you and whatever focal point you dictate.

Caster, a senior petroleum engineering major, 
can be reached at patrioticcatmaster@yahoo.com.

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