A Quick Religious Comparison: We’re Not So Different

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Remember when we were all kids who fought over whose mom made the best cookies, whose uncle belched the loudest, or whose dad was actually a super man? As we grew, we learned those petty points of contention were never going to be solved; everyone’s own mom, dad, or uncle were the best, at least by their own perception. It’s also likely they were probably all quite similar, just as many of the things we fight about as adults. Unfortunately, we no longer work out our angst with do-overs on the ballfield to prove who’s the best. Instead, we wage literal war against one another not only with words, but also real military weapons, fighting over whose god is best, or who is the most righteous.

While these deadly battles play out in villages and towns torn to shreds while children look on, the looming question is: what does any of this matter? Just like everyone’s dad was a superhero in his own right, each religion has their own important figure who is probably wonderful. Moreover, just like all the dads were similar in that they held similar positions: worker, father, provider, protector, each religion is strikingly similar.

Admittedly, this comparison leaves out a great many religions. It will not cover eastern or pagan religions. It completely excludes atheists and agnostics. The focus here is on the big three: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Why? The answer is pretty simple. We don’t see many wars fought over Buddha, nor do many Wiccans commit terrorists attacks in the name of a sacred crystal. That statement is only recognizing fact. It’s not meant to say any religion is superior.

Having an attitude of moral and spiritual superiority is what causes us to fight in the first place, so let’s put that aside to investigate how three religions are similar rather than constantly pointing out why one is right or wrong.

I’ve included a nifty Venn diagram I found on the net to help compare some of the bigger components. It’s not my own, but I think it’s fairly accurate. I also think we can add to it.

religion

As we can see, great parts of the beliefs are the same. Only a very few are different. There are some other similarities we can add:

• Head coverings—
All three religions include some component of females covering their heads. Catholic nuns wear the habit, which includes a white coif. Married Orthodox Jewish women wear the tichel, or mitpachat. Lastly, Muslim women wear hijabs.
We tend to micro-focus on Islamic religions requiring head coverings for women, but as we can see, they are not the only ones. Furthermore, none of them feel oppressed when they wear them. It’s simply a part of their religious tradition.
We should also recognize it is not only women who cover their heads. Although the traditions vary and may not necessarily be religiously required, Muslim men may wear a prayer cap called the taqiyahs. Jewish men wear the kippah. Although men in Christian religions do not normally cover their heads, Roman Catholic cardinals regularly wear head coverings called the zucchetto and the biretta.

• Beards—
Another common denominator betwixt the three is beards. No matter Jewish, Islamic, or Christian, beards can be required. Because of the media, we are more familiar with the Muslim beard, but the Old Order Amish also require beards, as do Orthodox Jews.

• Modest Dress For Women-
While it seems Muslim women are the focus of many discussion concerning their modest form of dress, all three religions may require women to be covered and dressed in a modest fashion. This may include sleeves to cover elbows and dresses long enough to cover knees in the Orthodox Jewish and many Christian religions. It could also be a complete covering from shoulders to ankles in the Muslim and other religions. Regardless, the Islamic religion is not the only one to require women to cover themselves, especially if they are married.

• Raising Devout Children
Although we often hear words like “brainwashing” used to describe the way children are raised in the Muslim community, all three religions begin teaching children from birth, specifically when they are old enough to attend school, in the ways of their respective churches. The Catholic Church, in fact, provided all the education and educational materials for most of Europe until secularism gained popularity during the late 19th and early 20th century. While secular teaching was used as early as the late 17th century and was the subject of many philosophers like Locke and Voltaire, church-led education was still the standard until well past the Enlightenment. Yet today, if one so chooses, they might send their child to a Christian or Hebrew school. Muslims do not own the market on educating children in religion.

• Conflict—
There has been no shortage of conflict between the three religions. From the earliest crusades to now, the three have had obstacles between them. The Jewish and Christian communities do not have the long-lasting war we see between the Muslim and Jewish communities, but we cannot overlook the fact Hitler used religion against the Jewish community during the genocide he and others committed in WWII.

To say we have all been peaceful in our religious practice would be what we might now call an “alternative fact.” However, I’ve only listed a short amount of similarities here, omitting the similarities between these and other religions not listed. Why we continue this battle between whose religion is best astounds me. We’re all great in our own ways. We all have downsides. Most importantly, we’re all humans trying to attain the same thing.

It shouldn’t matter what word we assign for “God”. It shouldn’t matter on what day we worship. It shouldn’t matter what book we read the message from. All that should matter is if we would all stop killing each other, we might actually be living the way all three texts expect us to. If we all quit fearing one another, maybe we can see we’re more alike than we ever imagined.

( Since this is not meant as a scholarly paper for publication, I did not cite the information in this piece. All the data and facts are easily searchable, and most is basic common knowledge, anyway. The source of the diagram is watermarked inside the graphic.Thank you for reading. I’ll include a couple links in case you’d like to fact check me.
The history of secular education: http://science.jrank.org/pages/11240/Secularization-Secularism-History-Nature-Secularization-Secularism-1914.html
Islamic Male headcovering:https://www.reference.com/world-view/muslim-men-wear-heads-1cdc44449fd15f2f
Traditional clothing for Orthodox Jewish women:http://www.orthodox-jews.com/jewish-clothing-for-women.html#axzz4XS3f9gRB
)

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A Direct Response to Those who Say Women Had No Right to March:

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Social media has been abuzz with opinions in the past few days, mostly involving the women around the world who chose to march in response to, what many assume, is the election and inauguration of Trump. While I would never deny many of us are left feeling disenfranchised by the surreal reality of what’s transpired, let’s get one thing clear, he is not important enough alone to warrant these marches. He’s just gasoline on a pile of smoldering discrimination many experience every day.

For those, including women, who say women are not discriminated against in the US, there is apparently a disconnect between realities. It’s undoubtedly some level of privilege that allows some to say “I’ve never seen this or that”—a privilege many would love to live. However, to be clear, one person’s reality does not mean it is the realty for all. We cannot know what every woman in this nation experiences by glancing through our own windows. To be understood fully, we have to look through all the windows from every level—a task only possible by listening to the qualitative data—the voices—so many like to deny, or worse, squelch. Maybe some have never been mistreated or disrespected as females in the US, but some have. To say we American women have it made as a whole is a damaging misconception at best, a despicable lie at worst.

Here’s the truth many would like to shove off the playing field we call protest:

If you have never been humiliated, belittled, or damaged by the process of reporting a rape within the US, you do not get to say women & women’s rights are important here.

If you have never been slut shamed for wearing the clothes you choose, or worse, been blamed for your own sexual assault because of them, you do not get to say women are held in high regard.

If you have never been denied a medically necessary abortion because a group’s religious beliefs interfere with the process of medical care, you do not get to say women always have the right to choose.

If you have never tried to attain a promotion or raise in a male-dominated field without being told to “get in the kitchen, “ being forced to flirt, or being forced to perform sexual favors, you do not get to say women are treated equally.

If you have never had to fight your insurance company to cover preventative tests, like pap smears or cancer screenings, while insurance is regularly covering Viagra for impotence, you do not get to tell women their lives matter.

If you have never been forced to either abstain from sex or get pregnant, even in the context of a marriage, because you can’t afford the birth control your insurance won’t cover, you do not get to say women have the same choices as men.

If you have never become pregnant as the result of a rape, and then been forced to give your rapist visitation rights of that child, you do not get to tell women they have the same control as men.
If you have never reported domestic abuse, only to be asked what you did to make him mad, you cannot say women have equal protection.

If you have never had to fight your employer for maternity leave, a clean, private area & the time to pump breast milk for your child, you do not get to say the workplace is “woman friendly”.
If you have never had to tell a man you have a boyfriend to stop his advances because “I’m not interested, “ or “No” were not enough, you cannot say men value women’s opinions.

This is just a short list of the discrimination women face in the US. It doesn’t even begin to touch on intersectionallity, or the discrimation felt by other ethnic and religious groups. No, it’s not Saudi Arabia, Guatemala, or India. No, we do not have honor killings and female genital mutilation, although those things happen in the shadows. However, the argument that we don’t have it as bad as them is as ridiculous as saying someone with lung cancer shouldn’t complain because someone with brain cancer has it worse. It’s still cancer, which is exactly why women rose up to meet the occasion.

We stand and fight because a man who not only openly scoffs at, but promotes the degradation of women and other minorities represents the cancer that has lived so long within this country. Trump isn’t the only problem. It’s everything he represents. Sure, maybe he is a good businessperson. Maybe his failures are fewer than his successes, but it’s how he became successful we should worry about. The way he speaks, the way he openly degrades, women, people of color, Muslims, immigrants, and people who live with disabilities is sickening. To allow his presidency to become a larger reign of terror is to let us all implode.

You see, we don’t march so we can have casual Fridays, free cable, or even because we don’t like the word “pussy”. We march because when he says “grab,” “wall,” or “register,” we know what that connotes: assault fascism, and the end of the freedoms so many of us have fought for—not just for ourselves, but for ALL.

4th of July: Independence for All, Not Only Some

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As the 4th of July nears, here is a thought to ponder:

If you do not support equal rights and opportunities for everyone—even those who are vastly different from yourself, you’ve completely missed the point about what it really means to be American.

The United States is not homogenous, albeit some hate mongers would have it that way.  The US is made up of many ethnicities and cultures—so many I can’t list them all here. We are one country made up of every nationality, culture, and ethnicity under the sun, yet we are not a “melting pot’. That term was never correct.

Cultures did not necessarily melt together to become one here. Instead, we live side by side, complementing each other. That’s something special. It’s something to be proud of, really, that so many different people can live peacefully together to form a nation, not just a country. Unfortunately, some would like to keep us from having this wonderful community of people.

There are those who would block equal rights and opportunity, promote hate with archaic, unnecessary symbols, and deny religious freedoms. There are those who only protect the rights of those who fit their own molds. That, folks, isn’t “American”.  It can’t be. Because while the colonies were originally formed to break away from England, specifically the Church of England, and to form a Puritan society, that endeavor was short lived. New people came to the colonies. We expanded and moved beyond Puritanical life. We are not those people who came here, appropriated land, and massacred millions of innocent people in order to have a “pure” society. That is not us, or at least I hope not.

I would like to think we have evolved into people who can recognize the value of people different from ourselves. In 2015, we should be able to see that our own beliefs do not trump those convictions of others; they’re certainly different at times, but not “better”. We should recognize by now that there are many paths in life, not just one, and we can celebrate the cultural practices of all who live here. We can also support people who look different, have different lifestyles from ourselves, who carry different religious convictions, or who identify sexually in a way we do not. We should be able to do these things, but we don’t.

We don’t because we’re still too preoccupied with creating enemies—“the others”. We still believe it is our job to “save souls” in some invented theocracy we have never been.  We still haven’t let go of the past enough to move forward.

If we don’t want to keep repeating the past—a past filled with hatred and atrocity, then we have to recognize our need to progress. We must not remain those people set out to make our society “pure”. No society is pure. Ours, made up from so many different people, surely is not. When we admit our faults, confess the atrocities of the past, celebrate our diversity, and give everyone the independence–the autonomy and freedom— we claim to represent,  then and only then will we be what we often mistakenly call ourselves: a Nation.