If it hurts, change it pt 1: religion

I keep reading all this crap about burkinis and how nuns are still allowed their habits on the beaches in France and how this poor woman was essentially forced to strip by police and I keep hearing that it’s in the name of public safety and/or feminism. But can we realize that it’s not about either of those things? That it’s our tribal brains lashing out at people who wear their god on their sleeve?  After all, all religious thinking is, in my opinion outdated and patriarchal, but even Christians are trying to use feminism (ha!) to lash out against Islam.

I understand that people are afraid. Things are crazy and unfortunately right now Islam has been the most visible symbol of the unrest going on in many parts of the world. These people who stick out of the white crowd like sore thumbs with their religious garb and (for the most part) their brown skin. (I’m not even going to get into the race argument right now. Stay tuned for parts two and three.) And while religion and culture are no excuse for abuse, they don’t have to be synonymous either.

I tend to agree with the secular idea that religious symbolism in general should not really be a part of public life, but over the years I’ve come to understand that removing religion from society is a fantasy. At least for now.

I’d love to walk into jewelry stores and not be bombarded with the ancient torture device that is the crucifix hanging around the necks of all the headless mannequins. I’d love for the hijab to be nothing more than a headscarf anyone can wear when they’re having a bad hair day or when they feel like covering up. And I’d love for the crescent moon to mean nothing more than the natural progression of the moon’s orbit around the earth and for the Star of David to be just the easiest way for a little kid to learn to draw a star. (Small digression, all of my kindergarten Christmas art projects feature a Star of David because the two overlapping triangles was the only way I could draw stars. I wonder how my Catholic teachers let me get away with that subversive-ass Judaeo shit)

But, I have learned to accept that what I want can’t be projected onto other people simply because *I* want it. And that’s not to say no one wants secular culture. China has been secularized since Mao, and National Geographic says “The World’s Newest Major Religion: No Religion.” There are a lot of people who side with Bill Maher  and his quest to debunk, dismiss and otherwise destroy organized religion from the main stream.

I would argue, however, that any stance that one group holds, if it negates the opportunity for collaboration and understanding of those in opposition, it will end up only creating more of the same harm and hurt that it was seeking to dismantle in the first place.

Because prejudice comes from the tribal, lizard-brain part of our evolution that wants to seek out and destroy differences, it makes sense to me that we have these problems. But you know what would make more sense? If we can use our long lifespans and ability to look back in history and strive to evolve enough to see that our patterns of dividing, conquering, raping and pillaging hasn’t been the most effective way of creating peace. Except, wait for it, The Mongols! #CrashCourseWorldHistory

Even Genghis Kahn though, whose armies killed and conquered millions and whose direct descendants number in the tens of millions today, acknowledged that fighting religious belief was just too damn hard and instead settled for creating super strict laws throughout his empire of religious tolerance.

While I don’t believe in religion I do believe in philosophy, and in every religion there are great philosophies. Even this post could be seen as a testament to the Evangelical serenity prayer “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.”

While I don’t believe in religion, I do believe in culture and freedom of expression. There is something to be gained from listening to voices you aren’t used to, or that challenge your own thoughts and ideas.

I believe in choice and I believe in freedom and I believe that we as a species are more than our prejudice. That we can get along without needing to assimilate. (We are not Borg!)

I believe that if what I am doing is hurting you, I can change it.

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