I remember having a conversation with a missionary of a different faith when I was living in the Pangasinan province of the Philippines. We got to a juncture where it was clear that we disagreed on something. Her helpful comment? “I am right and your are wrong.” Classy.
I have always hated this about some religious people. They often tend to be the most annoyingly narrow people I come across. Don’t get me wrong. I have always seen myself as religious. (Yes, for those that prefer the term “spiritual”, I see myself as a spiritual person.) But what is it about religion that draws the intolerant and the simpleminded? The types that have to be right? It’s nauseating.
Give and Take
I believe in a higher power. I believe that life has meaning in and of itself and that I do not “create” its beauty and texture, I discover it. I could go into a long list of the things that I believe in but I have never seen CultureMutt as a place to score any sectarian points.
I am, however, very interested in promoting understanding and patience between people of different cultures and beliefs. I really enjoy some give and take, some mutual learning. I am always interested in ways that people from diverse faith and cultural backgrounds can actually dialogue.
Is the Answer to be Agnostic?
I certainly sympathize with agnostics who simply do not believe that truth is knowable. To a certain extent, I agree. Truth, in its perfect, ultimate form is not something I believe we will ever grasp. But I certainly want to be open to discovering more and more of it as I go through life. Is my faith getting in the way of this? Is the fact that I am actually a member of a Christian denomination (Seventh-day Adventist, to be exact), a hindrance to my discovery of truth?
People have different reactions when I ask this kind of question. There are some who, being believers themselves, immediately get on the defensive. “How could you say such a thing? You have the truth don’t take that so lightly!” I’ve met other churchgoers who are more sympathetic. They say that it is a good thing to be open to a fuller understanding of life, reality and truth. I’ll let you guess which type I associate with when I go to church.
The Flip Side
But enough scrutiny of the churchgoers. I have found equally narrow-minded people that profess no faith whatsoever. They are religiously convinced that religion and any articulation / organized understanding of reality has to be wrong. They write it off before even considering it. It kind of reminds me of political diehards (myself included from time to time) that are so busy calling out the other side for their partisan narrowness that they forget to remove the plank in their own failed policy eye.
The antidote to narrow-mindedness then, can’t be the mere act of embracing or rejecting religion. In a way, your status as far as faith is concerned is not the point. Your willingness to experiment and to be generous enough to give others 50% chance of being right is where it has to start. Is this messier than the blessed assurance of those that think they have it all or those that are dead set on disallowing any chance of truth’s discovery? Of course. But what good is assurance if it is built on blinkered, sinking sand?