Thursday, September 18, 2014

Religions Are What We Say They Are

Just a quick thought.

I just saw another article with a title like, "Is ISIS Really Islamic?" I didn't bother to click through, because I've seen enough of these, and not only about ISIS. Every time some radical group claims to be religious, it starts the same debate--is this really what that religion is about? What is the core nature of Islam/Christianity/Judaism/whatever?

I'm kind of sick of it. Because, I'm pretty sure it's a meaningless question. Islam is precisely what Muslims say it is. For some, it's a religion of peace. For some, it's a religion of extreme hatred and violence. Christianity is precisely what Christians say it is. For some, it's a religion of love. For some, it's a religion of violent proselytization. Judaism? It's either thoughtfulness, or narrow-mindedness. Peace-loving, or kill-all-the-arabs-ness.

The idea that a religion has a true, core identity, independent of the actual people who live it daily, simply makes no sense to me. Religions are human constructs, and they exist within our human lives. They are precisely what we say they are. They are precisely what we live them as.

If someone sees it differently, I'd love to hear them explain how and why. But, absent that, can we please stop with this simplistic, inane and fundamentally divisive conversation?

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