Mixed Thoughts On Religious Tolerance…

Calling 9/11…

In the days after 9/11 people went to books stores and got online in droves to attain, read and better understand the Qur’an. Presumably, so they might better understand the motivation behind the attack on the World Trade Centers. Huston Smith once wrote, “nobody ever curled up on a rainy night with the Qur’an.” Honestly, on the heels of 9/11 the need to better understand Islam never crossed my mind.

I guess I was fortunate inasmuch as I didn’t feel a need to read Islamic text to better understand Muslims. I simply saw them daily and up close. I had two Muslim clients at the time; hardworking business people with dreams, beliefs, shortcomings, puppies, and tonsillitis – just like me. Because we were social in and out of the gym, I saw firsthand through their extended families and friends what their surface lives looked like. With the exception of names which were often difficult to pronounce, their lives and mine were surprisingly similar.

My friends, both female, didn’t dress in what we think of as traditional Islamic women’s attire – unless sweat pants and ponytails fall into that category. From their gym memberships, to their favorite chocolates, to Wiggles concerts and all in-between, they were Americans.

They didn’t remain clients too long after 9/11, though they do remain friends. Despite that they dressed and conducted themselves like normal Americans, they had middle eastern names, darker skin, and did little to hide their Muslim faith, though they were not overtly Muslim. Their Islam, like many people’s religion, was just something they carried in their back pocket, to be taken out as needed.

Celebrate difference...

Celebrate difference…

In a conservative town though, it became increasingly hard for them to go out without having their faith publicly questioned, and often persecuted by the ignorant. In watching this take place I would learn that ignorance can be overpowering. So overpowering that my two friends eventually left the area in favor of the more forgiving downtown San Diego where there is a more broadminded populous.

To think, from that singular day in 2001, and from the actions of only a few, every day thereafter my friends, like many Muslims in the US, would have to pull their Islam from their back pocket and present it like some kind of cultural ID card to be scrutinized whenever questioned by the ignorant. How old that must have gotten. Rarely do I see Christians and Jews have to explain their beliefs or justify their intentions while buying detergent, based solely on the act of a few on a given day.

Broad Brush Strokes…

I was asked recently by a young woman I mentor about the differences between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I was quick to channel her toward seeking the commonalities between them, explaining she would learn more by directing her attention to how similar the 3 faiths are. She kept pressing me though, as if she might discover some major difference(s) if I were to better divide the 3 religions for her.

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I explained that broad brush strokes usually paint blurry pictures, but I would do my best to reduce it to three fundamentals differences which I see to be as much cultural as they are religious:

– Christianity is fundamentally about forgiveness over indiscretion.
– Judaism is about repairing indiscretion.
– Islam is about living life in a way that there is no need for forgiveness or repair.

None of those 3 explanations is more noble than the other two. I’ll even suggest that it is the goal of each faith to combine all 3; to forgive, to repair, and to move forward in a better way, but that each tenet noted above is central to its corresponding faith. However broad those brush strokes might be, I actually stand with them. I feel very good about offering this perspective to my young friend.

Atheism, Islam, And Prejudice…

One of the great ironies I see in the social media era is this: I have a network of liberal, open-minded friends who would fight to their death to protect my human rights. If I were gay, transgender, or preferred to have sex with monkeys, they would support me. I find an unsavory duality with the knowledge that many of those open minded friends are against all religion and call themselves atheists.

By the way, being against religion doesn’t make one an atheist. It makes one an anti-theist. In an even more inverse irony, many of these anti-theist friends are now standing up for immigrant Muslims, yet take a hard stand against American Christianity. This makes no sense and can’t be explained, only rationalized.

Simply put, if a person is against religion as a collective, or any particular religion, that is a form of prejudice – period. To be against anyone’s beliefs in favor of their own is an undeniable act of bigotry. So please, don’t defend my right to have sex with monkeys if you won’t also support my right to pray to a god – any god, or every last god in the pantheon.

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Religion has been part of our cultural DNA since hunter-gatherer times. Like any trait of biological evolution, if religion did not serve a sound purpose in carrying our species upward and ahead, cultural evolution would have weeded religion out long ago. Clearly it has not. Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there is this from Jellyfish. Enjoy!

In Chaotic Times…

I first wrote this a couple of years back — on the heels of the Tsunami in Japan.  On the heels of the recent presidential election, this is a good reminder that in a chaotic world, rigorous exercise can be a welcome break — if only for a moment…

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A View To A Time

I long to be in a simpler state…

Taking inventory of the events of the day – of these days, is better disclosing to me all the chaos within; the chaos within me, within the world, within an idea, or and within an atom.  We are doomed, yet we may only be probable at a given moment.  Humanity itself is either my illusion, or is god’s own Ponzi scheme.

The events in Japan have been heart-wrenching to watch unfold – from my comfortable sofa, wine glass in hand.   Earthquake, tsunami, radiation, and logistical chaos add up quickly to become guilt for me not being there to receive god’s ass-whoopin’ myself.  Rarely do I get included in disasters, warfare, or turmoil anymore.  Put me in Coach Yahweh, put me in…

Like many of you, I want to give Japan a big hug, or to roll up my shirts sleeves and help them dig out, but $75 via PayPal will have to suffice.  I feel like a donation is not enough.  I feel helpless.  Still, the events in Japan won’t change the facts that my bills need to be paid, my dogs wake me up barking every morning at 3:00am, and I have accrued some unsightly fat on my belly and am concerned that people will judge me for its presence.   And at the end of the day, I ride my bike 18 miles, and on completion I run 3 more, that I can feel good for a moment.

Pundits Of Doom

After watching 10 minutes of Glenn Beck today I asked myself,

How can intelligent, educated, and successful human beings buy into this…?”

Still, day-in and day-out many intelligent, educated, and successful people from all parts of this nation grasp Mr. Beck’s values and ideas as though they were the seat cushion which doubles as a flotation device as the jetliner of America must prepare for a ‘water landing’.  Not to mention, the uneducated, less-than-intelligent, and more easily influenced passengers on this jet of whoa, who also cling to Mr. Beck’s wisdom.

A Christian friend once told me,

If you call yourself a Christian, you are either a missionary or a liar.” 

That ideal is just dangerous.  It’s dangerous to the billions of people who are not Christians, and more dangerous still, to the hundreds of millions who are Christians but who don’t subscribe to that ideal of  proselytization.  That statement is an emotional bayonet pointed in the back of a would-be religious prisoner of war.

This nation might fare better if we could return to the good old days of suggesting to each other, my god is better than your god, and so too is my candidate.  Each month though, we are falling deeper into the trap of, my god is the only god, and so too is my candidate.  This nonsense needs to stop – please…

And at the end of the day, I lift weights for an hour and stair-step for another 30 minutes, that I can feel good for a moment.

The Hurt Locker Guy

Jeremy lives across the street from me.  He is a bit younger than me, career military, the father of 4, and one of the most well adjusted men I have ever met.  Oh, and he’s a veteran Hurt Locker guy.  When he’s home, Jeremy is an active and engaging father, and has a calm and present disposition – almost Zen-like.  I know him scarcely, but know that he defuses bombs for a living, and has done four deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan during the last eight years.

When I spoke to him on Thanksgiving day, he told me that he would be leaving for deployment number five in several days.  He then chuckled and asked me if I needed any help with my yard.  When I saw his car pull into the garage a month later, I asked Jeremy’s 8-year old son, who was playing soldier in our cul-de-sac, why his dad was home from deployment early…

“Oh, he’s dying of cancer” the boy told me, “and the Marines gave him back to us.”   I was gulp-smacked into the next week, and had no idea how to respond.  I just closed my eyes and tried to transport myself to Mayberry.  When that didn’t work, I went for a hard trail run, that I might forget the plight of Jeremy and his family, and feel good for a moment.

Making Sense Of It All In Chaotic Times

My view to modernity has become surreal in recent months; I feel like a passenger in the front seat of a car which is driving a long distance in reverse.  I’m looking ahead, but ahead is moving further away from me.  It occurs to me; time may not be moving forward as most believe.  Rather, time might be moving backward, and humanity, I’ll suggest, might just be looking out the wrong window.  That’s my analogy and I’m sticking with it.  And at the end of the day, I will exercise with some degree of intensity, and feel good for a moment.

Oh, and if you’ve come to this fitness blog expecting tips on lunges, chicken salad recipes, or thoughts on how to lose weight, I’m sorry to have disappointed you.  To compensate, I will now share everything you need to know about the concept of fitness:  Put down the cookie, and lace up your shoes.  Be well.  rc

a footnote:  although jeremy, the marine i referenced in this essay, and i are no longer neighbors, i’m glad to say that i spoke with him last week and has been deemed cancer-free.

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head…

Oh, and there is this from Singer/Songwriter James McMurtry.  Enjoy…