Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Let's Talk Objectively About Religion

I tried to avoid this subject because whatever you write, someone always gets offended. So, let's be open in our discussion, which, I hope, will benefit all of us.

If you're new to this blog, let me introduce you to my beliefs. I'm a Catholic by birth. It's in my blood if you want me to be more specific. I grew up in Basra, a city of religious tolerance until two years ago. During my life, I rarely encountered extremists. When I say extremists, I mean the ultra-religious people who think their religion is better than yours and the non-religious people who don't believe in organized religions and think you're just stupid because you have a religion. It could be my personality prevents them from judging me, or I'm just a lucky person.

During the years, I came to the conclusion that all religions are good, except for Satanism, as long as you don't go extreme. When I say all religions, I mean spiritual and Earth-based religions. I have Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, atheist, Pagan and Wiccan friends. You get the picture.

A few months ago, a reader sent me an e-mail wondering if Americans should've gone to Iraq armed with missionaries -- or something similar. I remember telling him it would've been a mistake. It would give Iraqi Christians a very hard time. I'll tell you why.

For 1,400 years, Muslims and Christians co-existed in Iraq with few problems. The Muslims' and Christians' "Code of Honor" was, "You have your religion, and I have my religion." We never tried to convert our Muslim friends to Christianity. They never tried to convert us to Islam. Probably, the only exception would be when two lovers are from different religions and the Christian lover would convert to Islam if they decided to marry. Usually those love stories ended in a break up unless the love is strong. Those few instances ended in marriage.

During the last few weeks, there has been a lot of talk about those missionaries who established their religious services in Iraq. I mean the evangelists who have already opened centers and started converting Muslims and Christians to evangelism.

First of all, why would evangelists be interested in people who already have a religion? Why do they tell the Iraqi Christians -- Assyrians and Chaldeans -- that they're not real Christians? We are not real Christians? Really? We kept Jesus' language alive for more than 2,000 years. We existed in a Muslim country and survived for 1,400 years. Should I continue my list?

And now they're trying to convert Muslims. May I ask why? I'll say for the record that I appreciate my Muslim friends more than any evangelical would think. I've met the finest Muslim people who would talk the talk and walk the walk with their Christian friends.

There's a misconception that God is not Allah. Let me shock everyone. Christian Middle easterners call him Allah too. So, as you see, we all worship the same God.

proselytizers make Iraqi Christians look like collaborators and cause them more problems. What's s*xy about trying to convert God worshippers, Muslims and Christians? Why not preach to the non-believers in places like Africa? Shouldn't the word of God be brought to those people instead of us?

We could speak to Jesus in his native language without needing an interpreter. Today, Iraq has enough problems and religions. They don't need more of either.

Religion is not a promotional item. It's a belief developed with time.

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