How Do the Insults Help?

In recent weeks more than most, I’ve been noticing a passionate, almost spiteful anti-religious attitude from many people in my generation (not that we’re the only ones guilty of this). Tonight, two very nice gentlemen came to my doorstep and invited me to feel welcome to come back to church, and the discussion we had brought this to the front of my mind again.

I’m not currently active in any organized religion, but I have a problem with sweeping generalizations condemning millions of people adhering to their faith. Saying things like “Those Mormons all have way too many kids and eat way too much jello” reflects just as much prejudice as saying “Those Asian kids are taking all the good science jobs in this country and they eat way too much rice” or “Those white kids all get smartphones when they’re five and eat way too much macaroni and cheese.” Clearly there’s endless variation to the spitefulness of these statements, and the subjects of these statements. But that’s not the point.

What I am going to ask is this: if you have a problem or a complaint about a religion and the people who affiliate themselves with it, please ask yourself WHY.

Why do I have this bad feeling?
Why do I dislike people of this faith?
Did I have a bad experience with one person who practiced this faith?
Do I actually know the principles and common beliefs of this religion, and its history?
Have their religious tenets caused me or my loved ones personal harm?
Has someone of this religion looked down upon me, scorned me publicly, or embarrassed me?
Do I really believe that every single person who is of this religion is exactly the same and they all deserve my condemnation?

Insulting the people of a religion at large is not helpful. And if the insult is an attempt to make you look openminded because you don’t ascribe to an organized religion, it sure isn’t working.

Back to this evening…

The two gentlemen who showed up on my door were very polite. They asked a little bit about me, the same things you’d ask anyone you were just getting to know. Where are you from, what’s going on in your life at the moment, hope your family is doing all right…you know, the usual. Then they asked why I don’t come to church anymore.

Rather than slinging an insult at their (and my) entire faith, I told them because I had been disappointed in the political involvement of the upper leadership, and also of the local leadership, of the church in recent years. I told them that I now choose to communicate with the higher powers I feel in a less organized way, one that doesn’t rely as much on other people. I told them how grateful I was to have had the church in my life at certain points, and that no matter where my journey takes me that’s something that will never be erased. I told them that I prefer to exercise my faith and my spirituality and my callings more quietly, more privately. They didn’t try to convince me that I was a terrible person, or that I am doomed to a dreadful afterlife. They reiterated that I am always welcome should I choose to come to church again, invited me to a party on Friday, shook hands with me and we parted ways politely. I’m glad they took the time to come by. I hope they were too.

We had a conversation. I ask again: how do the insults help? I’ve never heard of a single instance in which a sweeping generalization was either true or useful in opening up dialogues.

Generalizations don’t prove a point. They just shut down the opportunity for understanding.

So next time you’re talking with someone and they make a statement that lumps a whole bunch of people into one monolithic group, ask them WHY. Start that conversation.

Love, peace, and unshakable belief in specifics,
Sumiko

 

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1 Comment

  1. Char

     /  July 12, 2012

    I hate generalizations too. 🙂 Though I think everyone is guilty of thinking that way on occasion.

    Reply

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