Respect in Religion

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Respect – we all know about it and we all know what it is. But there are too many people who don’t use it. People who do not believe in the importance of treating their fellow humans in the same way that they themselves would like to be treated.

Sadly, a lot of people do not just lack respect for others, they go out of their way to demonstrate disrespect for others. We regularly encounter individuals who disrespect people for the colour of their skin, their faith, appearance, health, social class and many other discriminatory factors.

We cannot be certain why they do it and frankly it beggars belief that some people think they have a right to disrespect others, yet go around like a mad Gorilla pounding its chest or Popeye post can of spinach as they demand respect for themselves from everybody they encounter.

These fragile souls are the kind of people I oppose on social media for their hate speech. Quick enough to run their mouths off when it comes to condemning others but incapable of responding to criticism or perceived ‘disrespect’ toward themselves. When it comes to action they cry for back up or hide away. As with most bullies online haters are intrinsically cowards.

A lot of the hate posts I have seen recently have been directed towards Muslims. The haters often claim to be Christians (a good example being the self-proclaimed ‘Christian’ political party Britain First) but who usually lack any understanding of the Christian doctrine. The Bible tells us to love your enemies, to love thy neighbour and to treat others in the way we would like to be treated ourselves. The two Chuckle thugs who lead Britain First have entirely failed to grasp those parts of the Bible and instead have chosen to perpetuate a growing wave of Islamophobic hate and bigotry.

Britain First in fact actually post so many anti-Islam posts that they are on track to post even more dishonest media than the US President himself…

Then we have other prominent far right figures like Tommy Robinson, Jonaya English and various squeaky members of the English Defence League throwing around further abuse, making false claims and using fear mongering tactics to promote their agenda of division. Yet even while these very same thugs abuse and ridicule others they continue to demand respect for themselves, alongside their right to ‘free speech’ and the right to bully anybody who stands up to their extremist values.

I recently carried out a survey for the purpose of this article. I asked a random selection people of various faiths about what Respect meant to them and their religion.

These were some of the responses from Muslims:

Islam teaches

  • To be respectful of others. Regardless of
    faith.
  • To offer charity no matter how small. Even a simple smile can be an act of charity.
  • To love their parents.
  • To respect other people, including those who are poor and homeless.
  • Love and understanding

It was clear from the Muslim responses that their religion (although much maligned by the far right) is one that values respecting all individuals, both followers and non-followers of Islam alike.

The responses from the other Abrahamic faiths – Christianity and Judaism were very similar.

These were some of the responses from Jews and Christians

Judaism teaches

  • God is good, and will always protect and care about people.
  • Judaism is the faith of the community
  • Judaism is a family faith
  • That people of all faiths (including atheists) go to heaven when aperson dies.

Christianity teaches that the way you judge others and the method you use, will be used against you by God upon your death.

 

I learned from my survey that all three Abrahamic religions teach the same thing – love. To love one another regardless of faith and skin colour.

At the core of all these three faiths was the concept of respect – to love and value fellow human beings even when there are differences between beliefs and the way people view the world.

The far right rail against Islam and Judaism (and hate toward Christians is slowly creeping in) but these faiths stand for the very values in society that the far right have rejected.

The tactics to divide by pitting one faith against one another to cause friction will not work. It is not religion but hate that judges others.

If we all respect each other then together we can all make the world a far happier and safer place to be. Hate would become a thing of the past, and instead of a world filled with hate we can embrace a world filled with love.

This is why we should have Respect it and use it.

Without Respect for one another, the world is doomed to become a place of misery, hate and anger and suffering.

 

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No Far Right Haters, You Are Not Pagans

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Ever since I had the misfortune of seeing Jack Renshaw, the leader of proscribed hate group National Action, wishing one of his white supremacist members a merry Yule I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the links various far right haters have been attempting to make with Paganism.

In much the same way that Britain First have tried to co-opt Christian values and ISIS have tried to usurp Islamic values I am starting to see my own faith become associated with a misrepresentative and unwelcome element and one that I worry will cause the same confusion and controversy for Pagans that the idiots in Britain First and ISIS have done for the Abrahamic faiths.

To some extent it is easier to co-opt Paganism than it is Islam, Judaism or Christianity. We have no single scripture or doctrine that spells out what it is to be a Pagan or what our beliefs entail. The holy scriptures of the three Abrahamic faiths clearly detail what being a Christian, a Jew or a Muslim involves. Pagans enjoy no such clarity, to be a Pagan can mean something very different to every individual who identifies under the umbrella term of Paganism. This makes it hard to deny somebody as a part of the faith as there is no objective set of rules we can point to as being broken.

The far right have a definite need to identify with a faith. This is because a good deal of their prejudice is targeted at those with differing religious beliefs. Historically they have attempted to align themselves with Christianity in order to fuel their prejudice against Muslims and Jews but as the tactics the far right deploy in their persecution of UK minority faiths move further and further from the teachings of Jesus Christ they have increasingly started to usurp the Pagan faith as an alternative.

The fluidity of Paganism is one of the elements that attracts the far right. As a non-prescriptive faith there are no hurdles to overcome to self-identify as a Pagan. There are no mandatory rites of passage, no set holy days, no learning or memorising of scripture. There is no formal initiation into Paganism. It is therefore perceived by some as a faith that requires minimum effort to adopt.

The far right are attracted to Paganism as they perceive it in some way as being the traditional faith of the ‘English’ people. A faith that predates Christianity, Islam and Judaism appeals to their obsession with Nationalism and their white heritage. It is interesting to note however how inconsistent they are with this as those of the far right who do try to adopt Paganism focus very much on the Nordic Gods and Nordic mythology of the Vikings who, rather ironically, would have been the “invaders” and not the indigenous settlers of the British Isles.

On a base level the far right are drawn to Paganism for the Hollywood associations with the Occult and spiritual power.  Our ranting far right keyboard warriors enjoy the delusion of power that claiming to be Pagan gives them. Undoubtedly it boosts their false sense of self-esteem while tweeting hate speech to their 100 Twitter followers from their Mum’s spare room in their Superman pyjamas.

The modern definition of what it is to be a Pagan is very different to how pre Christians would have worshipped their Gods. When the far right talk about Paganism they are attempting to identify with the Pagans of old as justification for the use of using primitive tactics to destroy cultures that differ to their own. But this is too simplistic as it negates many hundreds of years of human growth and development. Just as we no longer do our cooking in holes in the ground we no longer see and perceive the world in the same way that our ancestors did. When the far right talk about the conflicts between pre Christian communities and how those conflicts were settled with violence they fail to understand that we have evolved as a society since then. Pagans in the modern world do not see violence and prejudice as constructive tools.

Interestingly, the belief that pre Abrahamic societies and in particular the far right’s beloved Vikings were all about violence is a myth. The Vikings were pragmatic and practical people who would usually attempt a trading relationship with other countries before involving themselves in any conflict. If the far right truly want to emulate the Vikings they would do better to involve themselves in matters of farming and trade than they would in violence and disunity.

I have said Paganism is a diverse and hard to define faith in modern times and this is true. Perhaps the one thing though that all Pagans would identify with is a reverence for nature. Nature is an all-encompassing term to mean both the planet and the living creatures on it. This includes fellow human beings. It is not in keeping with the spirit of Paganism to wage war and genocide against other humans. Hate has no place in a Pagan world view.

There is sometimes a misconception that Paganism lacks the morality of the Abrahamic faiths and that as such it offers more wiggle room for those wishing to speak hate against their enemies. Although there is no specific doctrine of morality, the values by which Pagans choose to live their lives are closely associated with liberalism and with the ideas of equality and social justice. This belief system is far more in keeping with a left wing political view than it would be the right wing and certainly has very little in common with the divisive beliefs of the extremist far right.

In summary, the ethos of Paganism is a poor choice of faith for those hell bent on disparaging and discriminating against their fellow human beings. Preach your hate if you must far right extremists – but you do not preach your hate in the name of my Gods.

Roanna is one of the founder members of Resisting Hate. She is the author of the majority of our articles, and also publishes a blog on Huffington Post UK

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The Comfort of Spirituality

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Guest article from a Pagan – Thank you to Brigantia for sharing these beautiful words with us.

After a day scouring the news for information, hoping beyond hope that this child is found or another gets home safe as more and more parents send out appeals for their missing children, I am sat in my room with the window open.

I’ve turned off the news, sick to my soul of the destruction, heartache, hate and grief that has rocked the nation. The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has described this attack as the worst to ever hit the North of England but I say there has never been a terrorist attack of this type before. One that seemed to deliberately target innocent children; babies, who had barely begun to live.

My heart, my soul, reaches out wanting to give comfort and ease to the suffering families tonight but I can’t. All I can do is hold my children closer, hope for the best for everyone and trust in this nation of ours to take care of those in need.

So here I am, sat by my window, listening to the birds in the trees who are blissfully unaware of what occurred with the going down of the sun. I regulate my breathing, as is my custom, I concentrate on the sounds of the birds, the trees swaying, the leaves rustling. I take in the smell of the freshly cut grass and the newly watered flower beds, where my gladioli are almost ready to flower. I take it all in, bit by bit and this composes me enough to deal with my children, to stop the tears that have been falling all day. Then something struck me… Something I probably knew all along but somehow failed to consciously acknowledge…

I don’t want to repeat to you things that are obvious but I would like to remind you of something.

Religion, faith, spirituality, whatever you like to call it; this is our comfort. This is the soul’s solace. It’s not just a way of life, a practice you adhere to, a thing about yourself that you defend. It’s not the root of all evil, it’s not the obligation on a Sunday, it’s not the subject of heated debate. These are all things that try to disguise your faith.

Your faith is your comfort, your solace, your soul’s sweet relief.

Take that in for a second. No matter who or what you identify as; Pagan, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Jew, Atheist, Hindu, Agnostic…

Take that in. Your faith, your spiritual path, is your safe space…

In times like this we are told we need to stick together, to forget our differences and to forge a bond beyond the adversity… And of course that’s true, we absolutely have to do that… But we also have to go further… Or perhaps it’s closer… And look into ourselves and make sure that we’re not neglecting to remember that religion is not the enemy. Faith is not the cause.

Spirituality is there for us because it is ours, ours alone. We can share it with others, of course we can. We can spread the joy, we can strengthen each other with it… But, in the end… It is there for us and we mustn’t feel selfish for taking that time to calm our inner selves.

Some people don’t have that comfort, they don’t have that certainty that there’s something that is all for them, that nothing can take away… But you! You have it! Right there inside you! And I beg you, all of you, to use it.

Go outside and listen to the birds, listen to the trees, listen to the Earth. Listen to your families, your friends, your communities and bask in the knowledge that this, all of this, is yours! It’s not ours, not theirs; it’s yours! And when you’ve done that, when you’ve taken yourself and reminded yourself what you hold inside, what your faith has given you… I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much stronger you feel to share with the ours, with the they…

I hope these ramblings make sense to you… And I hope beyond hope that all of you are safe right now.

Whatever your faith, whatever your beliefs, whatever your practices… Be safe, be strong and remember… Nobody can never take this away from you…

Brigantia

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Defending The Right To A Faith

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As someone who believes in the importance of standing up for the rights of religions to observe and practise their different faiths I often get asked when I am planning to convert to a religion different to my own. It rather amuses me how many people (my oldest friend included) secretly expect me to convert to one of the Abrahamic faiths one day.

Amusement aside though this misunderstanding of my motives is very frustrating because it undermines the very essence of what I am trying to achieve. People confuse my agenda of promoting the equality of religious freedom with an attempt to promote the actual religions themselves. Instead of hearing a voice that calls for equal rights people mistakenly hear a sales pitch for whichever faith I happen to be discussing at the time. The point they miss is that I am not defending other religions because I agree with them but because I believe that other people have a right to hold beliefs that differ to my own.

If truth be told none of the three Abrahamic faiths would work for me. I have a good deal of respect for them all but I consider them too reliant on scripture and intercession to be suited to my own spiritual needs. I am certain that the vast majority of Priests, Imams and Rabbis are decent and holy people with complete integrity but I trust no man or woman to intercede with the Gods on my behalf. And although I have read large sections of both the Bible and the Quran and found them positive sources of moral guidance it is important in my own faith that morality is borne from instinct and personal intuition rather than through an interpretation of scripture. In short I have no interest whatsoever in becoming a Christian, a Muslim or a Jew and it is not any personal affiliation with any of the Abrahamic faiths that spurs me on to defend the rights of the people who practise them.

I chose my words very carefully in the last paragraph “None of the three Abrahamic faiths would work for me…”  I wonder how many of the world’s heated theological discussions could have been made less acrimonious by the use of those two words “for me”.  The discussions I see relating to religion, both on and off social media, are very concerned with taking an objective approach to the viability of other faiths. I hear: “Judaism fails because…”Islam is wrong because…”Christianity doesn’t work because…”  This kind of language leads to division and discrimination. Any of those statements could be neutralised and phrased in a way to open up constructive discussion if people were simply able to add those two subjective words “for me.”

There is nothing wrong with discussing elements of any religion that are a poor fit for any individual’s belief system but it is important to do so in a way that recognises it as being a subjective preference as opposed to a flaw in the faith. I stated clearly that religious scripture does not work for me. I did not say I think the Bible and Quran have no value for others. It should be and it is possible to make a meaningful statement about our own relationship to other faiths without falling into the trap of denigrating them. There is nothing wrong in saying any religion doesn’t work for you, there is a lot wrong in writing off an entire belief system and all the people who practise it.

Interestingly the most vitriolic condemnation of religions usually comes not from atheists but from followers of different faiths. Eager to stand up for one set of rights these people often fall into the trap of putting down the rights of others. Some of the most vicious attacks on religions I have seen have been from people claiming the moral high ground of their own faith. It is deeply disturbing to watch the strong moral teachings of the three Abrahamic faiths ignored as a small number of fanatical adherents twist and pervert their own scripture as a means to attack and abuse others.

Fundamental to the integrity of the anti-hate group I co manage is the strong belief that you cannot fight hate against any single community without being prepared to fight all hate. I am not interested in Jews who want to promote Judaism by criticising Islam. I am not interested in Muslims who seek to defend their faith by slandering Christians. I am not interested in Christians who justify their faith by pointing not to what is good about their religion but what is bad about everybody else’s religion. The small minority who adopt these tactics do nothing to promote what is good about their beliefs and do everything to give their own faith a diminished profile and a bad name.

The established faiths, religions and belief systems may not work for everyone but they do work for the people who follow them and that needs to be respected. It is hypocrisy to expect people to respect your views and beliefs if you are unwilling to extend that courtesy to others.

The key concept to grasp is that defending religious freedom is not about adopting the beliefs and values of different faiths but about respecting the rights of others to hold those beliefs and values. It is perfectly possible to disagree with something yourself but to defend the rights of other people to agree with/believe in it. If I genuinely did believe Christianity, Islam or Judaism had the answers that would work for me I would convert. They don’t. But just because those religions do not work for me and just because I don’t believe the same things the adherents of those religions do does not mean I cannot uphold their right to hold and express those beliefs. I am defending not what they believe but their right to believe it.

Defending the right to a faith is not the same as defending a faith itself.

 

 

 

 

 

Roanna is one of the founder members of Resisting Hate. She is the author of the majority of our articles, and also publishes a blog on Huffington Post UK

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Why Resisting Hate Don’t Take Sides

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Quite a lot of things frustrate me about running an anti hate group – the venomous people we interact with day in day out, the pitiful logic employed by the far right and the inability of racists to express themselves beyond memes and the block button to name just a few. However, nothing frustrates me more than the view that fighting hate has to be about taking sides and the implication that defending one group automatically assumes the attacking of another.

I’ll give some examples encountered over the last few weeks. We tackled a known Holocaust denier about her (academically indefensible) position relating to the Holocaust. We defended the right of the families of the survivors to not have the memory of their ancestors mocked and we pointed out that Holocaust denial is fundamentally Anti Semitic. She decided we were hardline Zionists and accused us of wanting to support Israel to wipe out the Middle East.

We spoke out against the hash tag #makeasongIslamic pointing out that it fuelled tensions between communities and reduced practitioners of Islam to stereotypes. The response to this was that we must be Muslims and were likely supporters of a terrorist agenda.

We spoke up for the plight of the Syrian refugees and the humanitarian crisis in Syria and beyond. We were told that sympathy for the Syrians meant we must be anti British, traitors to our own country, supporters of ISIS and undoubtedly homophobic as we “support a regime that kills gays.”

One of our group spoke about our belief that followers of Islam should not be persecuted because of their faith. The response to this was a demand as to why he “hates Christians”. When he replied that he did in fact not hate Christians at all he just accepted that different people find different paths to God he was told he had to pick a side as “Muslims want Christians killed.”

We opposed the rabidly Islamophobic group Bluehand and challenged their extremist hate views on Palestinians. We were told this made us Anti Semitic and haters of Israel.

We spoke out against the French ban on the burkini and defended the rights of women to wear whatever they feel most comfortable and appropriate for their individual needs. We were told this meant we support “oppression toward women” and were publicly promoting sexism.

The truth of course is that Resisting Hate are not in anyway Anti Semitic, Islamophobic, homophobic, sexist or any other ”ism” that have been slung our way. We categorically oppose all forms of hate and discrimination and reject any attempt whatsoever to cause divisions between people.

These attempts to pigeon hole us are saddening because they offers a glimpse of the polarised world some people must live in. A world that hasn’t progressed from the concept of “If you are not with me, you must be against me.” A world in which everybody who thinks differently is the enemy.

We have come across many self proclaimed fighters of hate who stand on their soap box and preach tolerance but who when it comes down to it are simply using their support of one culture to fuel hate toward another. This is not what anti hate is about. You cannot go out into the world and fight hate effectively if you harbour it within your own heart.

Those pushing the idea that our group must have a secret hate agenda are spectacularly missing the point of what we are about.  At Resisting Hate we do not believe we have to take sides and denigrate one community to support the rights of another. In fact we believe the total opposite. We believe that the only way to achieve peace and unity in the world is to find a way for all races, faiths, cultures and belief systems to integrate and work together. If we ever did decide to promote one culture at the expense of another we would be acting totally against the integrity of our ethos which is to see all human beings as equal and equally worthy of respect.

Roanna is one of the founder members of Resisting Hate. She is the author of the majority of our articles, and also publishes a blog on Huffington Post UK

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