Tolerance in the Face of Tragedy

“We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race.”- Kofi Anan

The recent tragedy in Japan is testament to the unpredictability of the world. Rightfully, people from all over the world have begun to band together to send relief to this unfortunate country and its people. As a Christian, I think the right thing to do in this situation is to do just that, help our fellow human beings through this horrible crisis. Unfortunately, there are some of a similar faith to mine who are claiming this is God’s punishment for the number of atheists among the Japanese population. While not entirely surprising, as religion has often been used as an excuse to commit and say things that are contrary to the good these faith are trying to do in the world, it is unaccetapable. The problem this creates is only amplified when those who criticize such action portray the entire religion in a negative light. When to do so, is just as ignorant. In order to coexist on this planet and to truly live a good life it is necessary we value everybody, not just the one’s who happen to agree with our faith.

As a liberal Christian, I encounter a great deal of beliefs from both side of the spectrum. The problem most prevalent is that both sides unfairly look down on the other. Religious individuals tend to look down on those who they see as unbelievers or impure when they should be living by example instead. In the Christian’s case their Messiah was said to have hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes.  Considering his is the model life, it would make sense to take a page from his book and stop judging the world.

On the other side of the spectrum we have the atheists, agnostics, and more secular individuals. Many of who have been wronged or disenfranchised by the religious. While there is no excuse for the behavior of those who have committed acts that have caused others in society emotional or physical harm, it is equally unjust for the victims of this behavior to look down upon an entire faith, solely based on the actions of the most extreme elements. Sadly, this happens quite often. Reacting to the fringe extremism of one group with overarching attacks and criticism is just not an equitable way to interact with one another.

Considering many people’s values and belief systems run deep, it is sometimes difficult to treat one another equally. However, it is vital we do. While I am not an expert on many of the world’s major religions, from what I do know, it seems like most of them promote living in harmony with one another. To paraphrase the golden rule, to treat one another how we ourselves would like to be treated. The same holds true for those who do not see any wisdom in subscribing to a religion. Most political and philosophical ideologies, at least in principle, encourage working together for the greater good.

With the amount of natural catastrophes our world has seen lately, it is more important than ever we put aside our differences.  We must stop blaming entire groups of people for the actions of a few. We must not hide behind our religion to justify reprehensible acts contradictory to the very ideas our religions were founded upon. Likewise, if we are wronged by a group of individuals we must not retaliate with an attack on the entirety of their religion. Natural disasters, like the recent tragedy Japan, the devastating earthquake in Haiti, and Hurricane Katrina should never be viewed as divine retribution. Even in the unlikely event it were true,  it is not an excuse to assert the individuals affected had it coming. The true test of humanity lies in our willingness to work together to making our planet an ideal place to live.


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