Identification with something abstract to have some sense of validation of our sentience is what we humans do best. Maybe to be sentient is to worry about whether we are sentient or not. Religion is one of the strongest and pervasive type of identification that most of the population of human beings on this planet subscribes to. Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Jewism are a few of the many variety of things that people would place in their top lists of “who am I?”
Take me for example:
1. I am a man
2. I’m muslim
3. I’m absolutely amazing
4. I’m an Bangali-American
But even though I would strongly identify myself as a Muslim, I don’t really know what that is. When I think of “a muslim,” I have this image of a person wearing a white panjabi with a tupi on his head prostrating in prayer.
But I don’t go around praying and wearing a tupi all the time yet I don’t drop the identity of being a Muslim. So I don’t think what I wear has much to do with the religion that I identify myself with. And that’s true for a lot of other things. The language I speak doesn’t identify me as a Muslim. The color of my skin doesn’t identify me as a Muslim. The food I eat, the friends I have, the country I’m from, none of them identifies me as a Muslim. Those are all external things and are transient, they come and go and different Muslims have different aspects of each of them. I am not any more of a Muslim than a white Bosnian Muslim who has never heard of a tupi.
So what does make me a Muslim? Is it because I pray? I don’t though.. not five times a day like all good Muslims are supposed to. Does that mean I’m not a Muslim? If so.. then I think that statistics of how large the population of Islam is in the world would be cut in half if not more.
How about the Prophet that I prescribe to? As a Muslim, we hold our prophet, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in high regards. We try to eat, breathe, walk, talk, and even procreate like the Prophet did. Christians prescribe to Jesus, Buddhists prescribe to the Buddha. It seems to make sense, it seems to fit. We need to identify ourselves to something versus something else. And it’s easy to choose a person of high integrity with lots of charisma and unimaginable compassion to follow and idealize. But I think we easily forget that the prophets were just a sign post, a set of directions to something larger than them and us and anything.
Do you believe that you, as a Muslim or Christian or Jew, will likely to go to heaven anymore than anyone else? Why? Because you love Jesus or Muhammad and those other people don’t?
Do you believe that you’re a nicer, kinder, better human being because you want to be like the Buddha? Orbecause you think about what Jesus would do in certain situations?
Do you believe that you are more worthy of life than others because you think Abraham was cool?
I think most of us are missing the point.
Intolerance, racism, hatred, superiority, fear, despair, hopelessness. These are the things that every religion tries to overcome. Those are the things that every prophet, messenger, saint, priest, or enlightened being tries to get rid of in society.
Yet for some reason, it seems that religion becomes the largest cause of intolerance, hatred, fear and all the rest. And I don’t mean in large scale like wars and terrorism. But in small scales like when you devalue another human being purely because he or she subscribes to a different religion than you.
I think its wrong when we try to prove to each other that our Prophet and our religion is better. I think it’s wrong when we stop ourselves or our children from learning about other people, other cultures, and other ways of living due to religion. I believe it’s wrong when we think that other people of other religions are going to hell because they don’t prescribe to the same Prophet that we do.
We think we’re on a journey towards something yet most of us have stopped walking and we’re admiring a signpost we found on the Way. We love our signpost and we look down on people who are following any other signpost besides ours.
I think I’m going to buy a giant American flag and look for my tupi now.