Saturday, January 28, 2006

Best Friends Forever

I just got this t-shirt in the mail:

It is SO my style.

I have spent years studying religion and thinking about spirituality and religious history (oh, but quick disclaimer, I have no delusions that this makes me an expert of any kind).

Raised by a deeply moral card-carrying atheist (that's you Pa!) and a lapsed but spiritual and loving Catholic (hi Ma!), who consider spiritual and religious matters very private, I really wasn't required to think about these things. I just wanted to. (Melvellous says this proclivity is in my chart.)

So it recently dawned on me that many of my closest friends are religious. While a handful are, like me, not officially anything, a good number of my pals are Jewish, and lately I've developed really lovely friendships with a few Christians. Some folks in my extended family are very open-minded, tolerant Christians. The Jews I know are likewise true to their faith (in whatever way they choose to practice it), while being non-judgmental about the beliefs of others. I suppose I have a couple of nominally Muslim friends too, but they are pretty easy going about it. I get the sense that the role of religion for all of them is that it acts as a forum for spiritual (and in many cases, cultural) expression, and is a way of connecting with a community of similarly committed people who support each other in their efforts to be better people in the world.

"Believe those who seek the truth; distrust those who find it."

This pretty much sums up how I feel about religion. I had a big talk about it with my aunt today (one of the uber-tolerant Christians in the family), and we found we agreed on a lot of things. We both think that the world could actually be a better place if everyone took time out regularly and made space for thinking about abstract things, their morality (how to make the world a better place, how to be a better person), their spirit, their place in the world, and their relationship to the mystery of the universe, or to God, or to a reasonable facsimile.

But both of us are wary of those who believe there is one path or one way to do this, and of those who hope for a day when the world is finally all Christian, or all Jewish, or all Muslim, or all whatever. (I personally believe this wish is futile, misguided, presumptuous.) As one religious friend wisely said to me, "While I do my best with what I've got and how my heart, brain and spirit guide me, I would never dare to limit God's grace to my understanding."

We also strongly dislike the feeling of being looked down upon as a spiritual second-class citizen, a poor lost soul, because we're not of the same faith as someone else; or that someone is just smugly waiting for us to convert or see the(ir) light.

I would much rather dream of the day that the Buddhist, Christian, Jew, and Muslim (and throw in a Zoroastrian, Hindu, etc.) skip through the streets holding hands and giggling, best friends forever. Though wonderfully, miraculously, beautifully, it sort of happened here once, which you can listen to, or even watch here.


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