Religions are belief systems which were started by thinkers, prophets, or sometimes, unfortunately, manipulators who were looking for people to follow them or their belief system. Surprisingly, many people have followed not only their believable but also their unbelievable messages.
Some individuals proclaim they have seen God, some contend they have met him in mountains or caves, and still some others say they have dreamt or meditated about God. God's messages have come to many through angels with explicit and implicit instructions on how to follow them.
These days it is almost impossible to read an article which does not bring religion into question. Recently, fundamentalist or orthodox religious members have captured most of the news.
Members of each religious group promote theirs as the only true religion and invite others to join them. Such people do not consider other religions as worthwhile. However, just as advertisers do not necessarily convert all consumers about the superiority of their products, so self-promotion of a particular religion by its advocates will not necessarily result in conversion of others.
Most religions show their believers a way to become good human beings who love and respect others and who love and nurture the creations of their Supreme Creator. The ways to attain such righteousness differ from one religion to another, and, even within a religion, there are varying belief systems.
In order to preserve harmony among religions, many religious leaders have advocated that "All religions are equal." Others may argue that all religions are the same in purpose; they simply take different paths to the same Supreme Creator.
Human beings should be free to choose any path in conformance with their belief system. Even non-believers have made a choice regarding religion. No choice should be ridiculed because it is different from another; the whole purpose of freedom of religion is the right to have such a choice, including the choice of no belief.
It is the weakness of a system, or a religion, to force people to accept it. Forcing people to accept a religious belief often has catastrophic consequences. In Sudan's Dharfur Province hungry people are often easy prey for those who exploit their vulnerability by bringing them into their religion. As has been often noted, in the course of history, more people have died in the name of religion than any other reason.
Fundamentalist in Saudi Arabia and Iraq who claim to practice the only true Islamic belief and who do not even consider other sects of Islam as Muslims, do not allow their followers to pray to their prophets, and force their God on others. Destroying religious places and slaughtering those who disagree with one's belief system will not solve religious differences and will only promote further violence in a vicious cycle of hatred and retribution.
Choosing a religion is not only a reflection of one's beliefs, it can also represent a pragmatic decision for career advancement.
Some fundamentalists believe they are doing God's work in forcing weak believers to practice their religion.
If we want freedom to practice our beliefs, then everyone must have such freedom, and all choices should be respected. Extremism of any kind is detrimental to religion and to society. Extremists are viewed negatively by other religious groups who regard their religious fervor as morally suspect. Proponents of violence come in many different forms; clearly we must avoid all religious zealots who promote hate and violence through their religious messages.
About the author:
Dr. Mohammad Ala is professor of Production and Operations Management who teaches both in Iran and the United States. Dr. Ala is founding member of Persian Gulf, Iran Heritage, and Iran Alliance organizations.
... Payvand News - 8/12/04 ... --