I am not at all religious, but I respect religion and religious people. Honestly, I find religion fascinating–what people believe and how their beliefs motivate their actions. That is part of what separates humans from animals. Humans are belief-motivated beings. Religious belief is one type of belief and like all other types of belief it is subject to human frailties. True religion is tolerance.
One very human problem with beliefs is that some people like to believe that their beliefs make them superior to those who believe differently. We find this in people who brag about their beliefs about food, art, sports, politics, and so on. Religion is no different. The sad truth is that while most human beings are generally tolerant and perfectly happy to get along with other people, a significant minority are not. Some people prefer to belittle others to make themselves feel better and they will fight about anything.
People are people first and they are their religion second.
.. and we can add to that “they are their <blank> second.”
Meaning that no matter what religion teaches, people are people and since some people are by nature self-centered, arrogant, and intolerant, they will act that way regardless. But true religion is tolerance and those who personify religious faith are peaceful, generous and tolerant of others.
Crusaders, terrorists, and fundamentalists aren’t religious, they are assholes.
Case in point: A friend of mine recently told me about this book, A Spirit of Tolerance. Tierno Bokar (1875–1939) is a Malian man who took religion seriously, understanding that people are people and that every individual has their own truth, but there remains The Truth. He was a sage, a mystic, a teacher, and a writer. He also was an advocate for his people against French occupation. Standing for peace and justice is what real religion does. Telling women they can’t control their bodies or telling same-sex couples they can’t marry is not religion, that is bigotry. Bokar didn’t hate others of different religion or try to dictate their lives to them. The same is true of all great religious sages and leaders throughout history who worked for people to improve their lives not work against people to restrict their lives.
Because Bokar is African, he is virtually unknown in the rest of the world but hopefully this new English translation of this biography will introduce people to him. A Spirit of Tolerance shows that true religion is tolerance. True religion is tolerance. To condemn others for their religion is just plain pathetic.