I was not raised religious; my mom tried with no avail to get us to go to Church on Sundays, but no bribes of donuts or exciting day trips afterwards could sway me. When I was around ten, my Sunday School teacher told me I was going to burn in hell, because I was not baptized at birth -- a result of my ex-catholic father and all-loving mother who wanted me to make my own decisions regarding if and when I wanted to join in on religious practicing. I never went back to that church, but my mom did take me to an Unitarian Universalist church, a place where all people from every walk of life were accepted and welcomed with open arms; I didn’t mind the church, but eventually my busy athletics schedule overtook my Sunday mornings, and it has been almost 9 years since I stepped back inside a place of worship, and that is where I offer my opinion from.
Religion should not be about exclusivity. It should not be about superiority, or having only one path be the “correct” one. My peers and I live in a time where religion divides us more than ever before; we are too young to remember 9/11, but old enough to witness the hateful repercussions or a government out to destroy all those who disagree with the deeply seeded roots of christianity in our country -- our supposedly secular country. As I watch innocent people get gunned down, not only in my country but in places all around the world, for praying to a different god, I find myself more disillusioned with religion than ever before. What God says it is alright to shoot another living, breathing human being? What God teaches his followers to hate those who are a different race, creed or sexuality? Not the God I want to be praying to. And the problem is magnified by the fact that the Christian God, despite many biblical phrases that might suggest otherwise, is one that is said to preach loving thy neighbor -- or perhaps the more timely of the commandments: “thou shall not kill”?
Religion is not meant to divide us. Religion, whether you pray to God, Allah, the Eight Dharmapala, is supposed to breed love. Religion is supposed to instill kindness. Religion is supposed to bring those together in times of need. Religion, at is core, can be practiced by anyone, anywhere. No one book or teaching is “right”, there is not an order of validity or dominance over other religions. Religion should be about loving one another, helping those in need, giving men and women the choice on how they want to live, who they love, who they raise a family with, how they teach their children.
I’m 20. On the surface I haven’t experienced many of the world’s evils yet, I haven’t been faced with decisions or choices harder then “where do you want to go to school?”, but I have lived. I have lived knowing that at any moment, someone with hate in their heart could come to my classroom, a concert I’m attending, a movie theatre I am watching a film in, and murder people in the name of Christ, in the name of “White Supremacy”. And this hate is all bred from religion; a gross injustice of devoutness if one were to ask me. To make matters worse, these attacks are followed by “thoughts and prayers”, a useless tactic employed by those who deep down sympathize with the attackers, who aided Trump in getting to the White House -- your thoughts and prayers are not saving my life, your thoughts and prayers are not making it harder for people with evil hearts to buy guns, your thoughts and prayers are not protecting your children when they go to kindergarten.
A white murderer is called “mentally ill”, “misunderstood” and pictures of his smiling face are plastered all over the news -- but no one calls them a terrorist, no one makes a ban on white men going into public places or entering the United States, the president even claims there are “many good people on both sides” of the White Supremacy and reinstatement of Nazism in the United States. However, if a killer happens to be a different race people come out in masses against them, calling them a a terrorist and subsequently attempting to ban all travel from the countries in which few shooters are from, but rather making an assumption based on the practice of Islam. Islam is a peaceful religion, the Quran teaches its readers virtually the same moral concepts that the Bible or the Torah does, but because of the United States government's warped sense of ethnocentrism, they have demonized the practice, based solely on the fact that those who believe pray to a different god, wear different clothes and are of a different race.
Now, I am sure that some would argue that Muslim beliefs are anti-female, and how could I, as a woman, defend their right to practice? For starters, the deeply seeded misogynistic beliefs are found in almost every religious text, including the Bible which wishes for the women to submit to their husbands -- in fact, one of my classmates recently posted a blog link to a story about why she wasn’t a feminist: because God didn’t want women to be equals. So don’t tell me that one text is more discriminating than the other; the overall foundations of religion are all the same once you remove the glamour and glitz of fables and stories where the people’s names are different or the way life is portrayed is dissimilar to our own.
Religion, regardless of whom you pray to or what you believe, should be about grace, kindness, acceptance and love, and I hope as my generation takes charge that we can make changes so that the world is a better place for all of humanity to practice in peaceful harmony.