Religion is a sensitive subject in this day and age. In practice, nobody should be defined by the religion they practice, but as we all know it happens all the time. It’s easier to not judge someone for their religion when you know enough about how religion works.
Why you should learn about other religions
Why do you need to know about religion? This is something that’s asked every day, especially in an increasingly atheist society. If you’re not practicing other religions, if you respect other people’s rights to practice religion isn’t that enough?
It is important to respect others’ beliefs but to really understand other people you need to get into why they believe what they do. Religion defines a large part of a person’s life, so understanding religion means you can get started understanding others.
Learning about other religions helps dispel myths and rumours about them, too. Thanks to the modern media, sometimes it’s easy to see a certain faith as un unknown, frightening entity. As with all religions though, in fact it’s a group made up of people just like you. Getting to know about religion means you can see the people behind the headlines.
All religions share similar goals
The most important thing that you may not know about religion is that all religions will share similar goals. This can be surprising, as they can seem so very different. Do the people who practice Islam really want the same things as those who consider themselves to be Christian?
Indeed they do. When you delve deep into religion and examine the basic principles, most religions share several fundamental ideals. These include:
– Peace towards others, and maintaining good relationships
– Raising and working for the good of your family, bringing your children up in the religion to carry on these ideals.
– Being charitable towards those who are less fortunate.
– Respect for all life, and the idea that taking someone else’s life is wrong.
– The idea that taking property that doesn’t belong to you is always wrong. This can include adultery, the ‘stealing’ of another person’s spouse.
– Living modestly. If you’re not focused on accumulating wealth, then you can focus on more spiritual matters, such as helping others. This can include dressing modestly too.
What you should know about religion
So you know the fundamentals that most religions share. That’s not everything you need to know, though. Here are some facts about religion that you do need to know.
It’s a socially defined culture
Religion does not occur in a vacuum. To properly interact with their faith, a person has to meet up with others who share it. This is most commonly done at a place of worship. As such, this fosters a sense of community where people help and support each other in all aspects of their lives.
It informs all aspects of daily life
If you have faith in any religion, then that faith is going to have an impact on every decision you make. For example, a Christian may decide to engage in volunteering, as doing so is a way of showing respect towards those who are in need. Of course, an atheist may do the same thing for similar reasons. Religion informs how you should live your life, so a religious person will take their faith into account when making decisions.
Organised religion is receding
Organised religion as a whole is receding in numbers. For example, in the US, the amount of Catholic residents has dropped by around 3 million since 2007. This doesn’t mean faith itself is declining, though. What it does mean is that people are finding new and more meaningful ways to express their faith.
All religions promote peace
As you can see in the shared goals mentioned above, all religions share a goal in making peace in the world. This can be surprising for you, as you can think otherwise thanks to what you see in the media. If you do some digging though, you’ll see that most religion’s directives point towards helping others, not warring with them.
No culture shock needed: interacting with other religions and cultures
So, now that you know about what other religions have in common, you need to know about how to work with cultures that are different to your own. Why is this? Different cultures share a lot of beliefs, but they go about their daily lives in different ways. It’s incredibly important to respect that, otherwise it can be impossible to work together.
How do you do this? First of all, you need to understand your own culture. You may not have a religion, but you will have a culture. Where did your ancestors come from? What religion did your grandparents or parents practice? Were you a wealthy or poor family? Where do you live? All of these things play into your culture and how you see the world. Once you know that, you can then try and understand where other people are coming from.
Understand and work with people of different faiths
Now you understand yourself, you’ll be able to understand why others react differently to you when it comes to the world. Here’s how you can use that understanding to work together:
Make the choice to befriend those of different faiths
Without meaning to, it’s easy to build a friendship group made of those who have similar beliefs to you. Of course, this makes sense to some degree. You’re not going to get along with someone whose personality clashes with yours. However, it does mean that you’re never exposed to the ideas of those with differing faiths.
Seek out friendships and working relationships with people you would never have worked with before. You’ll find that you’ll learn an awful lot, and feel much more comfortable working with people who are different to you in everyday life.
Examines your biases
The best way to deal with this is be honest with yourself. Why do you feel the way you feel about a religion? Is it because of what you see in the media? Is it because of experiences you have had in the past? Learn to question what you see and hear about that faith. Look for the evidence of what’s being claimed about them. More often than not, you’ll find there’s very little evidence to back these claims up.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
The only way to break down barriers is to be open to learning. Once you begin talking to someone of a different faith, ask them about their experiences. It is possible to do
Read up on different cultures
A great way to learn about other religions and cultures is to read up on it. You can learn a lot, and you’ll be able to see things from a different point of view. When you do this, be careful with the reading material you choose. You’re better looking for peer reviewed journals and books, rather than news articles and online posts. They’ll be more informed and free of bias. That’s not to say that online posts, especially written by those of the faith, can’t be useful though.
Don’t assume the majority is always right
It’s ok to be confused by the way those from a certain faith approach things. For example, you may not understand why those of the Muslim faith choose to pray five times a day. However, don’t assume that because the majority choose to do something one that, the people who choose a different path are in the wrong. Look into why they do this, and see the benefits and drawbacks for yourself.
Don’t worry about making mistakes
Many people avoid mixing with those of different faiths as they’re afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. This can backfire though, as avoiding others means you’re helping segment the world further. If you make a mistake, or feel as though you’ve put your foot in your mouth, own that mistake. Apologise, and learn from what you did. Others will appreciate your honesty and willingness to learn.
Stand against discrimination
Finally, if you’re to learn how to live with those of different faiths, you need to be able to stand up to discrimination when it occurs. By taking a stand, you’re showing the world that those of different faiths can easily live together, and that discrimination is something that should not be accepted in this day and age.
This has only been a brief guide, but as you can see there’s a lot about different religions that is actually the same. If you take a little time and care, you can bring different faiths together. Try these tips for yourself and see.