One Mann's Opinion
10/27/01

Recently the State Dept. published their annual report on religious freedom. The Taliban leadership of Afghanistan was sited as a "particularly severe violator of religious freedom". All Muslims are required to take part in prayer five times a day, with attendance at mosques compulsory for men but forbidden for women. Non-Muslims are forbidden to build places of worship, criticize Muslims or share a residence with them. A decree in June made proselytizing by non-Muslims punishable by death or deportation.

The report was also critical of two of our coalition "partners" in the war against Terrorism, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan as well as Israel. The report stated that "freedom of religion does not exist" in Saudi Arabia and that Saudi authorities had even taken action against non-Muslims seeking to worship privately. Pakistan and Israel were sited for not protecting the rights of religious minorities within their borders.

How many other times in history was organized religion used to isolate and discriminate against others or to justify outright genocide? How many Crusades, Inquisitions, Pogroms, Ethnic Cleansings and Wars were waged in the name of religion? When did the survival and self-perpetuation of any institution whether it's an organized religion, a corporation or a government become more important than the people that comprise that institution?

If you are not a member of a certain religious group then you are an infidel, a non-believer, you are damned to Hell forever. No matter how good a person you are, you will never be admitted to Heaven unless you are part of "my religion". We've even heard similar statements in our country where one of our most cherished tenets is the separation of Church and State and the absence of a State religion. How can any of us be so arrogant to claim ownership of
G-d or fully know his intentions?

In my opinion, the root cause is that most people can't empower themselves so they look to some external institution or cause to try and make some sense out of life. When they say that their religion is better or truer than any other religion, the implication is that they are better than everyone else, that they have some secret knowledge or special privilige.They can't make this happen for themselves but they can if they belong the "right" religion.

Religion is supposed to be a moral compass, a foundation, that we build upon as we grow through life. Too many of us get wrapped up in the trappings and rituals that we forget the basics of all religions: the existence of a higher power and the sanctity of all life.

We forget that G-d and religion are not always the same thing. If you have a personal relationship with G-d, why do you need a hierarchy of priests to act as a conduit or to interpret G-d's message.Why would we need to proselytize or convert others if we spent our time trying to become the most decent people that we can? Why do I really care what religion other people practice or whether they practice any religion at all? Does it somehow threaten my beliefs? If we all just followed the golden rule and did unto others would we really need any organized religions at all?

Well it's just one Mann's opinion!

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