Actions of single devout worshipper does not mimic majority
I read on a couple weeks ago that my friend, Henry Grabbe, was attacked in the opinions section of this paper. That his defense of faith on a college campus was deemed “laughable.” Jonathan Finnerty, author of that article, invited open discussion on this. I would like to explain to Finnerty as well as the rest of the campus, some of what was behind Grabbe’s article.
Criticizing religion the way one criticizes policy is irresponsible. Religion, in its proper form, only affects the practitioner, not society (Catholic doctrine does not apply to me). Policy affects the population as a whole. Once laws are passed they apply equally regardless of social status.
Religion is also deeply personal. If one were to talk with multiple people who believe in different faiths, you would possibly not get a universal answer. Perhaps this was Grabbe’s point. Religion is based on that which cannot be proven, therefore much of modern society, including large swaths of the mainstream media, mock and ridicule religion because they fail to understand the purpose of religion.
Religion is more than belief in a series of fantastic stories. The prophet Isaiah called, “‘Comfort! Comfort my people,’ says your God.” This is the true purpose of religion. To comfort not only the practitioner, but also those around them. There are so many problems in an individual’s life, one healthy way of coping with this is through faith and practice of a religion. I have never found a religion that fails to say: clothe the naked, feed the hungry and comfort the downtrodden. Jews put no stock in faith alone. Catholics believe in salvation through faith and good works. Simply put, belief is only half of the picture.
Saying Christians have no moral ground on which to stand because of historical atrocities is plain wrong. When we look at Pope Julius II, the Warrior Pope or the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, understand that these people speak for all of Christianity just about as much as ISIS speaks for all of Islam.
I resent the fact that Finnerty lumps all religious people in the same boat as the homophobic Kim Davis or that all religious people are virulent pro-lifers, who threaten to shut down the US government over abortion rights. Finnerty, you have mischaracterized the issue. You have stereotyped those who simply practice a religion as “sectarian, genocidal tyrants.” Religion is personal, and people will do horrible things regardless of what they use to justify their motives — religion or otherwise.
The comparison of religion and politics being a “public spectacle” and “opens dialogue” misses the point of religion. Questioning faith and the belief in extraordinary tales is only a minute part. One cannot judge a religion based on a handful of practitioners. One certainly cannot judge all the devout in the world based on the actions of the few in one religion.
Religion is a dual-edged sword. Either one can use their faith as a comfort for themselves and those around them or one can use their terrible swift sword to destroy this beautiful world. It often speaks more about the user than about the faith when one invokes the name of religion in anything.
Alex Hamilton is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in Jewish studies with minors in religion and political science. He is president of Rutgers Hillel.