Religion and Isoculturalism

Have you ever been hurt by someone from a different religion?  Has anyone who practices a different faith than you, ever disregarded who you are because of how you express your faith?  Have you ever felt that a religious people group is pushing their beliefs on you without being willing to listen to how you feel about them?  Unfortunately, Religion can tend to bring this out in people.

At first glance, it is unfortunate to say that many world religions appear to be quite egocultural.  That is, many religious people simply tolerate others from other cultures, for their own gain.  Religious gain such as doing the “right thing” so that they will be rewarded in their own personal expression of heaven or their specific faith’s reward/karma teaching.  This is an extremely dangerous way to express faith, and is at the least, a sad reflection of the world we live in.

While I am not an expert in all the religions of the world, I have been able to travel around the world, and study them at an academic level enough, that I believe I have seen a clear pattern emerge.  Unfortunately, the pattern of most religious thought, is not the same as most religious action.  In Western terms, a good majority of religious people around the world, simply, don’t practice what they preach.

Coming from a Western Christian background, I have experienced and felt the need to accept others because it would give me more crowns in heaven (a typical western thought).  But from my own religious teaching, Jesus said that there are two rules in life that trump all other rules.  Love God, and Love People.  He never taught that these were the right things to do so that you will be rewarded, but he taught that when you do these two things, your life will be good because you will fall in love with those around you.  In my Christian thought, we teach love; in Christian tradition, we teach tolerance.  We perhaps don’t practice what we preach.

Simply put, do you like to be tolerated?  Is your ideal for life someone putting up with you?  These are not good things in any religious system.  While we must work hard to love others and work together, tolerance is like a group of dogs in a cage learning how to not bite.  This seems immature for a global citizen in an evolving global community.  But we must use religion as an opportunity to care for others despite ourselves.

I have seen evidence of this in all the religions I have come across.  And from my own Christian teaching, I believe that Jesus continually sacrificed his own culture, to see others find hope and peace.  In the words of the apostle Paul from the Christian Bible, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might give some hope and peace.” (1 Cor 9:22) He continually gave up his own culture and rights to help others for their gain, not his own.

My hope for us, is that we can learn to use our religious traditions to help others, and humble ourselves.  For humility brings peace, but tolerance breeds hate and discontentment.