I write articles about things that matter to me. That means that sometimes I write about my faith. This has led to occasional confrontations from those who seek to denigrate my faith.
How do I respond?
I ask them to respect me as I respect them.
I never push my faith on anyone.
If I write an article about it — well, you can choose not to read it. Even if you like to read my stuff, there are plenty of articles that don’t mention my faith at all. Because I’m not a fanatic, and I do think about other things, you know.
If I’m in a conversation with a friend, my faith may come up. That’s because I don’t self-censor. If it seems relevant to our discussion, I may mention it.
One time, I was having a discussion in a coffee shop with a friend and religion came up. It was a private conversation. Our voices were not raised. We were really getting into it, because we disagreed on a few points, and we were exploring our differences.
That’s when a random person came up and asked us to stop talking about religion because it made him uncomfortable.
It took me aback.
I had to wonder — where did that person’s sense of entitlement come from?
I could have understood if my friend and I had been talking loudly. A request to keep our voices down — that would have been fine. But to monitor what we said, in a public place?
Here is the thing.
Respect is a two way street.
I respect the rights of others not to believe in God. I do believe. This is MY choice. Someone else’s non-belief is THEIR choice.
Why not respect each others’ choices? How hard is that?
In a world that has become increasingly grim, where we are all dealing with a pandemic, political chaos, economic uncertainty — do we really need yet another source of drama?
I have friends of all faiths. Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, B’ahai and Wiccan. I even have a couple of friends who follow Abraham. And of course I have friends who are agnostics and atheists.
How do we manage to remain friends?
We show each other respect. I may personally think a particular philosophy is nonsense, but I don’t denigrate my friend who believes in that philosophy. And they do me the same favor.
It’s not hard. There are plenty of ways to have meaningful conversations without being disrespectful or mean.
Of course, it does require a certain basic level of humility. You have to concede that there is the possibility, however tiny, that you might be wrong.
Failing that, you must agree to allow others to be wrong. This means that you respect their right to make their own choices, even if you KNOW that those choices are wrong. It means you respect them enough not to try to control them.
Which really is just another variant of the golden rule. None of us want to be controlled. Just as we want to be free to have our own beliefs, we need to give others the same freedom. Even if we know they are wrong. It’s a matter of respect. And it’s the only way to live in peace if we want to be part of a truly diverse society.
This post was previously published on shefaliohara.medium.com.
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