Last night, after having been overwhelmed by hateful opinions and hypocritical drivel, I came home and wrote a short article. Although I stand by much of what I said, I feel it’s necessary to clarify a few points. Had I contemplated these thoughts more thoroughly last night, a follow up would not have been necessary – note to self.
First, I realize that much of what I said was intended to make myself feel better. I say this for two reasons: (1) I didn’t earnestly rebuke this man, and (2) I was fishing for reassurance. By the latter point I mean that I wanted you, whomever you are, to reassure me that this sort of nonsense is less common than I fear. After talking with a very close friend of mine this morning, he set my mind at ease on both accounts. He said, firstly, that rebuking this man is not my responsibility. Although it’s not my responsibility, however, if I choose to do so, it has to be on my terms. In other words, have a goal in mind. Did I want to simply argue with him to make myself feel better, or did I want to change his mind? If I wanted to change his mind, be prepared to fail. And if I wanted to make myself feel better, there is no need to argue, for by the nature of wanting to argue, I have proved to myself that I am better than he is.
Next, I made some hateful generalizations about religion and didn’t differentiate between the religious, and the religions themselves. Buddhism is not a philosophy of violence. If people within Buddhism choose to perform violent acts, that should not reflect poorly on Buddhism itself. I personally don’t feel the same about Christianity and Islam, as there are certain verses within their texts that preclude the notion of peace. That is not to say, however, that all Muslims and all Christians practice these verses, or even marginally endorse them. The Qur’an is especially troublesome to criticize because of its frequent abrogations, but it’s not impossible to find clearly immoral teachings. Likewise, Christianity and Judaism have some particularly immoral tenets that aren’t actually abided by – when was the last time we stoned unruly children to death, for example? Moreover, many people do not feel encumbered intellectually by their religions. What a foolish and narrow-minded thing for me to say. How could I make such a regretful comment when people like Francis Collins contribute so much to scientific discovery?
So what was I trying to communicate last night? I wanted to express my concern with judging people by their self-imposed labels. Buddhism and Jainism are often viewed as peaceful, but not all Buddhists and Jains are in fact peaceful. Christianity and Islam proclaim to be peaceful and moral pillars of our society. There are certainly examples of them fulfilling this proclamation, so I’d be wrong to deny the veracity of such claims entirely. Though, there are individuals and certain denominations thereof that are not representative of the aforementioned proclamation. Similarly misrepresented, atheists are often portrayed as immoral and distrustful. Hence, my reference to Gallop polls – we have continuously been labeled as the most distrustful demographic in the United States. To be sure, there are definitely immoral and distrustful atheists, so we are not free from criticism. My point, rather, is that these misunderstandings have profound consequences. If the Buddhist and I were to run for public office, for example, the electorate is far more likely to select the intolerant Buddhist over me. On what grounds? Because he’s purportedly spiritual? Ridiculous. If you learn anything from my successive rants, I hope it is to judge people by their personal opinions, and more importantly, by their actions; not, as we so often do, by their self-imposed labels.
This message was approved by R.L. Culpeper, Presidential Candidate, 2016.