Can’t We All Just Get Along?

People might be surprised by my views, but at least they know that I am speaking authentically. That habit has been both a blessing and a hinderance in my life from time to time. My mother used to constantly get onto me for thinking I was ten-foot tall and bulletproof with the inability to filter myself. Sometimes I’m a little hard to take, I’ll admit that, but it’s never my intention to make people hurt or worry over what I say. My previous posts about religion & spirituality were very straightforward, but I’d rather be honest than camoflauge my views to cater to the people around me.

Since I’ve talked about contemplating peace & the theory of good and evil, I need to go further and get to the heart of the matter. Want it in a sentence? Here it is: It’s possible to coexist peacefully so long as you both approach one another from a place of respect. This idea is not a radical philosophy.

I was born into a house where two religions coexisted without conflict, and grew to be a nonbeliever while happily participating in both. My Christian Mother and Hindu Father respected one another implicitly and therefore had little strife between them. When I was growing up, we celebrated both Diwali and Christmas, with equal enthusiasm.

Likewise, in my professional life, one of my business partners is a devout Southern Baptist and the other is a devout Hindu. When we celebrated the inauguration of our offices, we performed both Christian and Hindu blessings. Just this summer Naga and I went to an ancient Hindu temple, and when Jay and I go out to lunch together, he always says grace to bless our meals. I’m happy he feels comfortable enough with me to bow his head in prayer with me, just as I am happy that Naga feels comfortable including me in his faith as well. Neither of them judge each other–or me, who doesn’t prescribe to either notion. We respect the autonomy of one another’s faiths and have that “live and let live” philosophy that so many seem to have issue with.

The universe seems to have circulated this idea to me, not once, but twice in my life. Peaceful coexistence isn’t as hard as everyone makes it out to be. If it was, there would be no way it happened so stress-free in the lives of the people I know. And I see no reason why peaceful coexistence shouldn’t extend to other frames of life. After all, diversity is what makes this world, and this country in particular so great. Whether you pray standing up, kneeling down, rolling around, sitting in a pew, or are simply a nonbeliever–it doesn’t matter. We can all respect one another.

When people discuss religion being a negative influence, I don’t believe they mean all religion or even some religions. I truly believe religious extremism is the root of many problems in the world. When religion comes to the point of disputing everyone else’s beliefs and fundamentally disliking all those who are different from you, that is when religion becomes a toxin. Whether you are Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, or something else entirely, if you hate or attempt to change other people, violently if necessary, there is something fundamentally wrong with that belief. Likewise, the non-religious or unorganized religious can fall under that category also. Attacking religion because you don’t believe as someone else does is as wrong as the extremists who attempt to do that to others. The one thing we should all agree on is that extremists of all kinds who try and force their way of life on others should be held accountable and completely shunned for their views. Live and let live. If you don’t like someone else’s beliefs or nonbeliefs, the world is big enough that you don’t have to be friends with them.

In India, there are walls around homes & businesses. It’s just how they build them. Every so many feet, they place posters displaying different symbols to discourage graffiti. There might be a OM, the Hindus symbol, next to a Christian Cross, next to a Muslim Star and Crescent. No one sees this as strange or unnatural. No one is excluded, and no one gets bent out of shape about their placement together. Maybe it’s because, deep down, we all recognize that even though we’re all different, we’re all equally important. If we could use just a drop of the respect and difference gained from putting those religious symbols together to dissuade graffiti, think of what that drop would do for the state of humanity.

If I could rewrite all religious texts to include one more sentence, it would be this: Respect one another’s differences as not to be a conglomeration of jerks.

Maybe that would fix all the world’s problems, or at least most of them.