Religious Tolerance | Teen Ink

Religious Tolerance

January 4, 2009
By Anonymous

"What's your religion?" "What kind of religion are you?" "Do you worship anybody?" Every time I meet someone new and talk to them for while, the conversation eventually turns to religion and, from there, to politics.

I know the basic rules of speaking to new people: start off easy with something like the weather, or work, or school. But whatever you do, don't bring up religion or politics. Unfortunately, rules have a common habit of not being followed.

So begin the questions. "What is your religion?" Answer "Christian," you're safe. Answer "Jewish," you're still safe. But anything else, from Buddhism to nothing at all, you are officially considerred dangerous or an evil satanist. And to top it all off, starting at middle school, kids get more narrow minded about thngs like religion.

I know because I am one of the lucky people who has a different religion. I follow Native American ways. I would not consider that a religion, and most people don't. "Yeah, but what kind?" they ask. Well, I truthfully don't know. My family doesn't choose one Native way of doing things and firmly follow it. We respect all Native ways (and non-Native ways) as a path to the Creator of All Things, or "God".

Upon hearing my "religion", people tend to quickly change the subject or, more often, pursue the subject. This is generally either an interrogation about my ways or a genuine curiosity about what I do. It used to be the latter. But ever since I transferred to a middle/high school(grades 7-12), people have been more insistant that their religion (and only theirs) is the "right" way to do things. This has only happened when I was talking to christians. They generally seem kind and thoughtful, merely trying to guide you to a pleasant afterlife, but occasionally I have met people who not only interrogate me, but threaten me.

"Do you go to church?" I go to a sacred gathering on Sundays, but I certainly would not consider it a church. "No." "If you don't go to church, you'll go to hell." They have their retort ready as if in court. "I don't believe in hell." At that, the interrogater is completely flabbergasted and I can hurry off someplace. But I am never treated the same. I am dangerous, a disease that they could catch, and they must stay away from me to prevent that.

But it is the attitude that matters. The fact that people will openly judge you because of your religion... it is sickening. This should never happen. I've never interrogated someone about their religion. It just doesn't matter. I don't care if the person is Christian, Wiccan, Jewish, Pagan... they're all a path to 'God'. As long as you are truly acting on your religion, "Walking your talk" as my father would say, then you are as religious as you say. You are truly seeking 'God' and/or enlightenment.

So don't judge people on their religion. Judge them by how they act upon their religion. And no, trying to convert someone to your own religion doesn't count. The person will either be spiritually healthy and whole, or they will not be. This does not necessarily mean they need your help. And this does not necessarily mean you should go to them for spiritual help. All in all, a pretty simple way to avoid confusion: when speaking in groups of people, don't bring up religion or politics.

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This article has 2 comments.

on Apr. 7 2009 at 8:17 pm
Riverine14 PLATINUM, Pinedale, Wyoming
32 articles 0 photos 16 comments
It's pretty sad when you think about all the people, not all are christians although some are, that believe that jsut because you are not part of their great religion you are a horrible person a murderer even. But tell me this, when does following your own path lead to becoming a horrible person? If you are truly a good person, you make mistaks AND learn from them, you help other's when you can and are good to yourself, you dont' become an ax murderer, then shouldn't you get to go to your happy place, what ever or where ever that may be? I think so. Now I just wish I coudld convince the other several thousand people that don't agree with me. Ignorance destroys us all. And ignorance is what is destroying me.

on Mar. 20 2009 at 5:03 pm
Mike Saxer BRONZE, Saint Petersburg, Florida
1 article 0 photos 1 comment
I can't agree more with you, and while I hate to point fingers Christians more then others tend to favor the 'join me or go to hell' motto. And then they wonder why they are in turn teased and cast aside, old vinegar and honey saying goes here I think. Again this is a great article, we believe what we beleive and shouldn't be forced to change that for others, there's no undeniable evidence supporting any single belief over the other and theres no right or wrong way to believe. Hold on to your beliefs and ignore what the others say, your happier when you follow your own way.