Religious Interpretation: Come one, come all…

Islam is now intimately associated with terrorism despite the fact that everyone from Christians to Buddhists actively participate in terrorizing people the world over. People still don’t seem to realize that religion, and not Islam specifically, is the problem. People also don’t seem to realize that when referring to terrorists, we are indeed referring to people who actually believe what they say they do.

If it was truly simply a matter of political and economic disenfranchisement then we wouldn’t have seen so many wealthy, well-educated and mobile people take part. Further, it seems to me a tautology to say that when a people martyr themselves for a cause they believe in it. That may scare you, and to assuage your more reasonable, less hysterical mind you may convince yourself there is some misunderstanding or complex underlying socio-political reason for it, but in the end it is as simple as it appears. In this case I am referring to individuals, of course, not necessarily entire conflicts like that between Israel and Palestine.

The Catholic Church has long supported the wholesale rape and molestation of children by its active negligence and even overzealous protection of the offending pedophiles. American Christian Evangelicals have assassinated doctors on the street in broad daylight for performing abortions. Mormons have engaged in the sexual exploitation of minors through religiously sanctioned polygamy and some Jews have apparently found a way to give little boys blow-jobs and justify it through ritual.

These events range from extreme to very common, and rare to mainstream. But just as ISIS is not considered ‘true Islam’ according to the West, who is to say that these are not legitimate expressions of the various faiths? Where exactly does it say what Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are, objectively? Oh right…it doesn’t say that anywhere. Their respective books can be and have been interpreted many times over and in numerous ways.

The Bible is a great example of a book that calls for as much compassion as it does vengeance. But inevitably, especially in the West, always and forever in defense of religion instead of people, believers cry foul when violent practitioners are exhibited in the news. That’s not real Catholicism or real Islam. Except that it is – because here is the problem: there is no objective rubric, only some guiding lines that, as long as you fall between them, categorize you as one thing or another.

Broadly speaking there are two branches of Islam, Shia and Sunni, with numerous schools of thought between them. Who is to say which is correct? Who is to say which is truest to the Quran? And who is to say they are not both under a misapprehension?

There are even more Jewish movements. Which is most legit I wonder? And let’s not even bother counting the number of Protestant sects and then synods between those sects. Buddhism has 20 varietals apparently.

I say again, who is to say that they are not all wrong and the write interpretation of each has yet to be practiced? Simply because ISIS is inconvenient for one’s PR doesn’t mean they are incorrect. It just means you have interpreted the texts differently, and based off what? You may want your religion to be peaceful, while another person may want it to be imperialist. If you can use the core tenets to support either then both must be considered legitimate extrapolations of the ‘divine truth’.

See when you believe in magic, and when you forgo critical thought for wishful thinking and false consolation, you no longer have the benefit of consistency or coherency. Which means you can’t falsify claims or objectively scrutinize them.

Further, unlike gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and nationality, one’s religious faith is chosen. It is an institution that one gives active consent to be a part of. This means you have agency. You had and still have choices. Which also means that in the least you need to acknowledge the problems with your selected institution. And just because you don’t like some of its members doesn’t mean you get to dismiss their entirely valid interpretation of your mutually shared faith. As long as the core tenets are there, those that define it in its broadest sense, it is legitimate. This is why it is nice to be an atheist, because religion is an ontological/cosmological stance and atheism isn’t.

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