I’ve long been fascinated with religion and the ways in which the best of intentions can become so completely screwed up.
On the weekend, I attended the 7th World Religions Conference — an Interfaith Symposium held at the University of Victoria entitled: Religion: Resource for Peace or Reason for Conflict.
I know what you’re thinking: If that’s what he does for kicks on the weekend, what kind of a boring git is he the rest of the time? I want to party with that dude.
So, it wasn’t the most exciting four hours I’ve ever spent in a lecture hall. There were no impromptu fist fights, beat-box contests or a surprise appearance by the Cheesecake Burlesque Revue.
And, in truth, despite the best of intentions, neither was it the most enlightening. Hearing from distinguished scholars of Aboriginal, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Sikhism, it was clear that the topic of religion and faith is just too large for a layman to fully comprehend. Some speakers were naturally better at shedding some smidgen of light on their faith than others, but the fundamental question of whether religion is the path to peace or the root of conflict is something that has troubled humanity for thousands of years — and will likely continue to trouble us for thousands more (if we survive that long).
The one nugget I did glean, however, was that the seed of all religion is peace. Every prophet from Muhammad to Jesus, Buddha to Guru Nanak, abhorred violence. Which just goes to show how easily we humans can take something that is considered divine — the voice of our creator — and twist it into a horror-house travesty of itself.
And by humans, I actually mean men. All religions at their core tout men and women as equals (how can we not be?) but in practise, the egotistical, war-hungry male has suppressed this gospel at his peril.
Growing up in Glasgow, Scotland, I witnessed first-hand how people who worshipped from the exact same holy book could turn to violence when someone wore the wrong colour shirt or scarf in the wrong part of town. In Glasgow, green meant Catholic; blue was Protestant. Green meant you supported the Glasgow Celtic football team; Blue meant you supported the Glasgow Rangers. You didn’t have a choice about this. It was stamped on your forehead at birth.
Oddly enough, I never read anything in the Bible that said: “On Saturday, thou shall worship eleven players kicking a pigskin ’round a green field, and fill thine heart with hate for thy neighbour (who shall be separated from you by a wire fence topped with steel barbs and guarded by uniformed police) whether your team wins or loses.”
And if two religions based on the same holy book can’t get along, what possible hope do we have to bridge the gaps between all the holy teachings? Even the scholars didn’t quite have an answer for that one.
But maybe if more people read the scriptures for themselves before jumping on the agenda-heavy bandwagon that others are preaching, they just might see that every prophet’s prayers can be boiled down into five simple words: “Be good to one another.”
Song stuck in my head
“JCB Song” by Nizlopi.
If you’re a son or a dad, it’s difficult not to get choked up when listening to this emotional, catchy and engaging song about a young boy hanging out with his builder dad on a giant yellow digger. M