Tag Archives: religion

Does Being Religious Make You Narrow-minded?


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.

Holy Simpletons

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?



Bjorn Karlman

Sweden’s Latest Invention: File-Sharing as an Official Religion

I wasn’t sure whether to feel patriotic or embarrassed at the news:  Sweden has officially recognized file-sharing as a religion.  No this is not a joke. The basic idea doctrine of the church is that it is right to file-share.  The church’s website states that “information is holy and copying is a sacrament”.  Some other out-there language (complete with awkward Swedish-to-English translation):  “The community of kopimi requires no formal membership. You just have to feel a calling to worship what is the holiest of the holiest, information and copy.”

Why did it have to be Sweden?!! Not that I am overly protective of my native land but we have enough weird stereotyping going on already:  Burly mountain men, naively goofy blonds, female volleyball teams… Why did WE have to be the ones with the fake religion announcement??

Of course there are the concerns about piracy that come up with an announcement like this.  “Hopefully, this is one step towards the day when we can live out our faith without fear of persecution, says Isak Gerson, spiritual leader of the Church of Kopimism.”   Gerson hopes that file-sharing will now be given religious protection.  If it achieves this status it will be harder to crack down on piracy.

But here’s the bigger question:  How much does this water down the idea of the need for religious freedom and protection?  If you can seek religious protection for downright ridiculous causes (apologies to my file-sharing enthusiast friends), what is to stop society from saying enough is enough and drastically cutting down on religious freedoms and protections?

The language of the church appeals to the religious cynic:  “The church, which holds CTRL+C and CTRL+V (shortcuts for copy and paste) as sacred symbols, does not directly promote illegal file sharing, focusing instead on the open distribution of knowledge to all”.   Yes, anything can be declared sacred, anything can be made holy.  Apple should get right behind this and make their logo sacred… enough people treat it as such anyway.

Sweden is famously secular, downright hedonistic and revels in neopaganism.  Hopefully Kopimism will quickly be relegated to the weird corner occupied by offshoot sects and political parties.  Until then, remember to show a little more reverence when you copy and paste.



Bjorn Karlman

How to Go from Tourist to Insider In Four Easy Steps

femme afroI hate tourists.  They walk around obliviously, slowing everyone down as they consult flimsy, hotel-issued maps and fuss over pictures in front of every street corner with an assortment of cameras hanging around their necks.  They ask the dumbest questions, wear the most outdated fanny packs and Hard Rock Cafe Roma (This is STOCKHOLM, Stupid) T-shirts and have an odd affinity for cheap, mass-produced crap like glow-in-the dark Eiffel Towers and organic, phallus-shaped chocolate Towers of Pisa.

Some of my hate has to be inwardly directed though, because I have so often been the tourist stopping traffic as I chase down the illegible street map that has blown out of my hands and into the busy street.  Not fun.  And not what your next trip has to be like.  Here’s your fast track to insider status:

Get Religion: Or at least visit something like a church, synagogue, mosque or even a local chapter of a club that you are associated with at home.  These are great places because locals tend to be friendly in them and WANT visitors.  Suddenly, you are no longer an annoying tourist.  Instead, you have been transformed into an exotic guest that they will want to invite home, show all the best places and generally entertain.

Volunteer: Enjoy doing something service-related once in a while?  No better place to do this than while on a trip overseas.  Not only will you feel the satisfaction of having helped people out, you will connect with trustworthy locals who are like-minded and will want to get to know you.  If you are stumped for short-term service projects abroad try woofing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) where you get free food and lodging around the world in exchange for volunteer help on organic farms.

Skip the hotel and Stay at the Home of a Local: This is not as impossible as it sounds.  Don’t despair if you don’t know a soul in your destination country.  Check out www.couchsurfing.org.  The organization has a network of people around the world who let guests crash at their places for free. Membership is great because the idea is you can host or be a guest whenever it suits you.

Forget the Blitz-Krieg Tour: If you want to feel like an insider, there are two advantages to planning prolonged stays in one place as opposed to city hopping.  First, a stay of a couple weeks to a couple months will ensure that you have a rudimentary lay of the land and know the basics like good local eats, the price of a taxi and the time wasters to avoid.  Second, the locals will invest more in you the longer they think you will stick around.  If you are back on the train in a couple of days they won’t even bother learning your name.  If you are there for a few weeks you stand a good chance of forming some relationships and learning to dodge the tourist traps in favor of some authentic local experiences.

A final word:  Generally speaking, people in most places are about as comfortable with you as you are with them.  If you show some real warmth and interest in them, chances are they will reciprocate.  So don’t sit around feeling awkward and out of place.  Insider status is yours for the taking.


Bjorn Karlman