The Tolerance of Belief

Inney - Farmington Hills, Michigan
Entered on October 25, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

From the time I first learned what religion was I was against it. The idea immediately seemed barbaric and oppressive to my young mind. How could people live their lives by the strict creed of this imaginary man? Why didn’t they just live here and now instead of living for the afterlife? The idea was unfathomable to me. As I grew older, my arguments accumulated validity and intellectualism. I could argue religion was the primary historic cause of prejudice and violence, and stood still only to separate people, a constant and preemptive precept always waiting to erupt in intolerance and corruption.

My parents were never very religious, but when my mom adopted Buddhism I found myself suddenly surrounded by faith. As I listened to these people who came to my house every week to pray and talk, discussing their beliefs of peace and love in a very familial context, I was gradually softened. I came almost to the point of accepting Buddhism, the most open of all religions in the common perception, when two things happened that made me realize my true problem with religion. The first came when I challenged one of the Buddhists as to why he would, at least it seemed to me, pressure others he met into joining Buddhism; he met my qualm with a question. “What if I told you I was once terminally ill like so many others, and I found the cure, the medicine, should I not share it with others?” I began to mull this over with deep thought as that night’s meeting began, and something else happened in the next few minutes that would bring light to my response, a revelation if you will.

My parents were originally from India, and so the walls in my mom’s house are decorated with various Hindu decorations. That night, before the prayer began, one of the group leaders pulled my mom to the side and asked her to take down the decorations. He said they interrupted the purity of their prayer, and my mother grudgingly obliged. Later when she told me about it, I was completely appalled, and slightly confused. After all, aren’t all religions geared towards a common god in the end? The more I though about this the more I realized I was guilty of the same thing. I realized there is no one medicine. There is no one cure, and the sooner people can accept that, the closer we can come as a common human race to unified prosperity. Buddhism worked for that man, and there was no denying it, but I had seen others achieve the same confidence and happiness through Christianity, through Judaism, through Hinduism, through Islam, and through atheism. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I too aimed to achieve the same thing, although through different means. I now believe all people try to reach “God” in whatever form they perceive him or it to exist.

I still reject religion personally and could still argue why; music and poetry are my prayer, but why should I withhold tolerance towards other’s means of coping with existence? While others may retreat to Jesus or Mohammed or Buddha I find solace in Nietzsche and Thoreau and Kerouac, but we’re all searching for the same thing, are we not? We’re all searching for our purpose and place in life, but most importantly we’re all searching for belief, and in an ironically relevant paradox, I believe there is no one belief, including my own, but only the importance of having something to believe in. I believe in common ground between individual outlook, I believe that understanding is the answer to prejudice, and I believe quite simply in the power and universal right of belief in all its forms.