Cyrus McGoldrick, advocacy director for Council on American-Islamic Relations, makes a photo with his cell phone of an anti-Muslim poster on Sept. 24, 2012, in New York’s Times Square subway station.
Early in first grade, one of the nuns advised our class not to associate with children who attended other schools and believed other religions. My teacher, a younger nun, looked uncomfortable and quickly changed the topic. Later that day, I asked my mother about playing with friends who worshiped at other churches.
“Playing with other friends won’t change your beliefs,” my mother said. She was beautiful, devout and confident that her children knew right from wrong at an early age.
I have often wondered if those beliefs could have survived the Catholic Church’s child-abuse scandal, but she died long before the worst reports emerged.
Religions that insist that their adherents cannot read or explore other beliefs, testing their values, are insecure. Religions that try to thrive by insulting other religions are insecure.
The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) has purchased ads for the New York subway system that read:
New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority originally rejected the ads, asking for modifications, but a U.S. District Court intervened.
Intolerance, an ugly quest for power and control, relying on fear to motivate – the certainty of some in proving to another that his or her frame of meaning has no value – these all cheapen spirituality. Clamoring is increasingly loud and insistent, overwhelming the power of example, in a shrinking world that cannot escape globalization.
Religious leaders bemoan a loss of faith, driving some to desperate measures. The AFDI Web site claims that it’s “Fighting for Faith,” and most of us prefer faith fighting for peace. Ruthless, mean competition for adherents and power, insults and violence, give reason to Americans to distance themselves from religion and explore spirituality alone or among a diverse and comfortable group of friends.
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