Sunday, January 16, 2011

Today, I'm Baha'i

Today is "World Religion Day" in the Baha'i faith. Its stated purpose is something against which I have had much to say: the journey towards, according to the official site of the event, the "establishment of interfaith understanding and harmony by emphasizing the common denominators underlying all religions." I have been a supporter of efforts towards recognizing and applauding diversity of belief, feeling that it is imperative that we as human beings recognize the humanity and precious worth of those who are "the other", people who do not dress or look or speak or think or worship, or see the world, the same way that we do. So....I am surprised at myself, when I realize that, at least for this year, I am going to try to adopt the Baha'i perspective on this day, and think about the underlying philosophical and social truth that may inform this perspective. Again, from the World Religion Day web site: "The prime cause of age-old conflict between man and man has been the absence of one ethical belief, a single spiritual standard – one moral code."

Now, don't get me wrong here. I do not apprehend this statement to mean, nor could I support it if it did mean, that everyone should acknowledge the same set of mythos, and worship the same deity, and follow the same commandments. I would feel, and would, I think, be justified therein, that the above perspective would be simply another cloak for religious fundamentalism. But...there is a difference, albeit IMO poorly phrased above, between ethics and commandments, between morals and rules. Ethics, morals, are that which inform rules and laws, the reasoning and the philosophy behind rules and laws. And yes, I do, oddly enough, believe that there is, and should be acknowledged to be, a single set of ethics that informs rules, laws, and the rule of law, everywhere, in every religion. Simply put, as it is stated on the World Religions web site, "Human unity and true equality depend not on past origins, but on future goals, on what we are becoming and whither we are going....... to see the whole earth as a single country and humanity its citizenry."

That is an ethical construct I can support. I would not venture to speak for the Baha'i faith, nor for its members, because I know very little about them. But I would accept and promote the idea that humanity is one thing, and people are human beings in every religion, class, race, culture, society and other division of life, and should all, must all, be granted the same human respect and dignity and love from other human beings in other places and positions. Religious difference has been the Great Divide in society for millenia, beginning even before the emergence of the Bible and the concept of "chosen people". Most of the world's wars, back as far as we have historical records, can be shown in some way to have been about differences in religion. People have been using war to secure peace, and committing violence and murder on a large scale to force their opponents to accept the peculiar "Love" of a unique and individual perception of "God" almost as long as there have been human beings. is World Religions Day. And on this day, I suggest each and all of you reading this try, for even a few minutes, even there in front of your computer where no one else can see or hear you, to cultivate a momentary acceptance of, and grounds for agreement with, a religious practice, belief, or denomination not your own. What could it hurt, for just a few minutes, to try to see the members of another faith, or one member of another faith, not as "the other", but as another human person, a brother or sister, trying his or her best, according to his or her own lights, to make a way through the complex maze of human existence and come out whole and safe on the other side. I am going to try to do this, because I do believe, in my deepest core, that no matter what your religious practice, or lack thereof, may teach or command, at the end of the day it is Love, all kinds of Love, seeing the other as a person worthy of love and respect and assistance and kindness, that is going to get us through this millennium and beyond it without destroying the planet, one another and our true Selves in the process. So, just for today, here is what I am going to do to celebrate World Religions Day. I am going to try not to make any anti-Mormon jokes today. I am going to try to feel some compassion for the likes of Jimmy Swaggart (unfortunate name for a servant of the Lord) and Glenn Beck. I am going to try not to rant and rave, curse and swear, about the Tea Party and all its ramifications. Instead, I am going to try to remember that people are all trying, as best as they can, to do and be what they think their God wants them to be. They're all human beings, and so they are like me. I fuck up, and so will they. But even people who hate think they are doing God's will. For just this one day, I will try not to hate them for hating, and in so doing become like those who hate. I will try, just for this day, to understand that we're all in this together and that if we're even going to have a slim chance of getting through existence in one piece, we're going to have to do it together.

If I fail at this, or if you do, here is a small list of tools to assist us in believing that there is, as World Religions Day attests, a basic similarity in all faiths that can help us along the way to human understanding. We might refer to it as the Golden Rule, but it does occur in some form in practically every religion of which I have any knowledge. Here ya go :

The Ethic Of Reciprocity, otherwise known as The Golden Rule, is found in the scriptures of nearly every religion. It is considered a condensation in one statement of all longer lists of ethical dos and don'ts. T.O.T.E.G. adopted it as the basic ethical guidline for our people in 1984, with the understanding that it must be intelligently and cautiously applied since there is no absolute standard as to what is helpful or harmful to everyone or everything The following is the way the Ethic of Reciprocity is phrased in many of the major religions of the world.

African Traditional Religions One going to take a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird should first try it on himself to feel how it hurts. [Yoruba Proverb (Nigeria) ]
Bahá'í Faith: And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbour that which thou choosest for thyself. [ Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, 30 ]
Buddhism : Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. [ Udana-Varga 5,1 ]
Christianity : All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. [ Matthew 7:1 ]
Confucianism : Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state. [ Analects12:2 ]
Hinduism, Brahmanism : This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you. [ Mahabharata 5,1517 ]
Islam : No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. [ Sunnah ]
Judaism : What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellowman. This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary. [ Talmud, Shabbat 3id ]
Shinto : "The heart of the person before you is a mirror. See there your own form"
Taoism : Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss. [ Tai Shang Kan Yin P’ien ]
Zoroastrianism : That nature alone is good which refrains from doing to another whatsoever is not good for itself. [ Dadisten-I-dinik, 94,5 ]
Jainism: A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated. Sutrakritanga 1.11.33
Native American Spirituality "All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really One." Black Elk
Plato: May I do to others as I would that they should do unto me. (Greece; 4th century BCE)
Roman Pagan Religion: "The law imprinted on the hearts of all men is to love the members of society as themselves."
Principles of Scientology: 20: "Try to treat others as you would want them to treat you."
Seneca: "Treat your inferiors as you would be treated by your superiors," Epistle 47:11 (Rome; 1st century CE)
Socrates: "Do not do to others that which would anger you if others did it to you." (Greece; 5th century BCE)
Sikhism: "No one is my enemy, none a stranger and everyone is my friend." Guru Arjan Dev : AG 1299
Sufism: "The basis of Sufism is consideration of the hearts and feelings of others. If you haven't the will to gladden someone's heart, then at least beware lest you hurt someone's heart, for on our path, no sin exists but this." Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order
Unitarian Universalism: "We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part." 7th Principle of Unitarian Universalism
Wicca: "An it harm none, do what thou wilt" The Wiccan Rede

(from the Toteg Tribe web site)


So, go ahead. Try it today. You might be surprised how much it helps.

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