Saturday, August 6, 2011

Faith and the rest of the world

Today, I received an interesting comment about my faith. I was at my previous job, meeting a coworker today and another coworker had seen the stack of books in my hand. One of them was Karen Armstrong's book The Bible. As soon as my other coworker had examined the books I was carrying, she gave me the following,

"Wow, you must really trust this lady to interpret the Bible for you."

Then, she followed up with how she's never read the Bible.

I'll admit, I became defensive and responded by saying that I'm perfectly capable of reading and interpreting the Bible myself. However, looking back, I have to smile a bit. Here she was, assuming that I must rely on others' Biblical interpretations without coming up with my own, yet admitting ignorance. Of course, I should have asked her, why is this a mark of pride? In a nation and world of intense religious debate, not to mention a plethora of religious influence (in governmental policies, rock music, attitudes about morality and social justice), doesn't that mark you as slightly unprepared? Further, in an age where people need evidence for everything and place a high value on education, why would ignorance of any kind be a good thing? Also, how can you even formulate an opinion if you choose to be ignorant?

Of course, with all of this in mind, I will admit that most of us people of faith will rely on another's interpretation of our scriptures to some degree. Why else do we accept the way our religious services run or embrace certain morals and customs? At the same time, this does not excuse anyone for ignorance. Most religions encourage study and meditation of their holy works and there is plenty of room for interpretation. Our interpretations allow us to discern and make decisions about our lives. We may consult a cleric for questions and advice, yet we have to decide how we can best live in light of our faith. We keep other opinions in mind, but we have to sort through all of them in order to formulate our own.

Sadly, we live in a world where having faith is akin to being at best, an uneducated peon and at worst, an intolerant warmonger. Most religions are meant to be positive forces of change in the world. However, it takes education, skill, confidence, and good will, in order to make that change, regardless of what you choose to believe. Having faith is not the problem. Malevolence, apathy, and willful ignorance are. It's sad that people feel that they can accomplish so much with that very last one.

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