Religion is Segregated

Jessica - USA
Entered on December 3, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: tolerance
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This I Believe

Religion in the United States is segregated because people feel uncomfortable learning about traditions that are different from their own. Discomfort prevents people from learning about why another group would adhere to what they believe and practice. Without knowledge about other traditions, it is easy to view the beliefs and practices of other groups as strange and therefore wrong, eventually rejecting the tradition all together. However, segregation between religious groups is unnecessary and is preventable through acquiring knowledge about why adherents of other traditions believe what they believe.

The Nation of Islam’s beliefs about the White man being the devil made me feel uncertain and very uncomfortable when I began reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X. But when I continued reading and began to look at why Malcolm X, and particularly why any African American would believe in that tradition, it reduced my uncertainty. I could empathize with why African Americans would adhere to that tradition because of their history of oppression in the United States. Through the Nation of Islam, African Americans were finally able to re-write the history of the White man being superior to the Black man and raise up their own race with dignity. And once I was able to empathize with why Malcom X chose to adhere to the Nation of Islam, the tradition’s beliefs and practices didn’t seem as strange to me.

Over the course of the semester, I’ve seen this pattern of uncertainty causing people, including myself, to reject religious traditions that are different from their own over and over again. It can be seen in my experience reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I felt uncomfortable because of a belief at the beginning of the book, but I kept reading and kept learning about the reasoning behind the belief. Eventually this helped me to accept the tradition and choose not to reject it. Religious traditions in America differ from each other in their outward practices and their internal beliefs, but differences don’t need to lead to segregation. Empathizing with beliefs and practices can lead to an understanding and acceptance of different traditions.