Book being read: A. K. Bennison, The Great Caliphs: The Golden Age of the ‘Abbasid Empire, (2011)
*WARNING: BLOG MAY CAUSE OFFENSE. DO NOT READ IF YOU ARE EASILY OFFENDED!*
DON’T SAY YOU WEREN’T WARNED.
So, it is perhaps unsurprising to marry the title of this blog with the book I am reading! But these thoughts go a bit further than just a quick read. With a baby imminently present, you find that people have a wide range of views regarding religious upbringing, moral teaching, faith and belief – and, of course, being a father-to-be they want to tell you all about THEIR view.
For me, religion is fascinating both historically and socially. The history of the different religions are perhaps the greatest historical Sudoku; how do you draw the lines, how do you talk about it without unnecessarily offending, how do you remove your own biases, how do you remove your own preconceived ideas? That is what makes it interesting. And then, how do you deal with ignorant-atheism, the branch of atheism that spouts science they don’t understand and quotes Richard Dawkins instead of facts. Once you engage in the world of religion and faith it is inevitable that your own thought structures are attacked, by yourself more often than not.
But I digress. There are two religious views I have encountered that I wished to share because they have over arching historical impacts if we accept them as very plausible ways of viewing faith. The first is from a lady at work, HHHL, raised by a Hindu family she speaks of her Grandmother who seems to have either raised her, or at least imparted her philosophy of religion upon HHHL. Her Grandmother’s view of faith seems to be easily surmised by the idea that all religions are talking about the same thing and trying to achieve the same thing, so don’t discount any of them. In turn HHHL goes to the Hindu Temple, the Sikh Gurdwara, church, she adheres to Lent, celebrates Diwali and so on – and if you ask her she will say she is not religious. I bring this up because a common argument I hear against Christianity is that they ‘stole’ other religious beliefs, but if you see it from a different perspective what you have is a syncretism of faiths, just under one umbrella. This becomes especially pertinent in Ancient Greek/Roman history where the merging of cults and faiths was a very common occurrence.
The second story I tell, a lot, is important to me because of who it is and what it taught me. A common misconception I find is; people not seeing the difference between someone who says they are Christian/Muslim/Buddhist/etc and someone who actually is trying to live in accordance with their religion. Another way of wording it would be; not all religious followers are good at it.
My Grandmother is a very devout Irish Catholic, her sister was a nun when she was alive and by all accounts a very clever one. So the story goes, my great aunt knew the new pope as a cardinal and did not like him one bit (how true this story is I do not know, however, the veracity is implied later). So when he was announced Pope a few years ago I happened to be in Ireland and I asked my Grandmother how she felt about this man, that her sister really did not like, becoming the Pope and head of the Catholic Church, the head of her faith! She turned to me sharply, her warm eyes went piercing through me as she slowly articulated; “Owen [for that is what she calls me], listen to me. The Pope he may be, but a Catholic he is not!”
A perfect surmising of an obvious but misunderstood observation, everyone holds their faith differently. And just because a man gets to be Pope, and speaks for all of the world’s Catholics, does not mean all of the world’s Catholics agree with him! With that in mind, let us rethink the ‘Christian’ kings who massacred and slaughtered their way through the Middle East (and France!!), or the ‘Christian’ views we articulate as historical fact because one, or a few men, wrote something, said something, did something. As I said in a class on Edward the First of England when we were asked (in an annoying, philosophical way) ‘How can a Christian King plunder his way through France without it on his conscience?’ to which I replied ‘Because he wasn’t a very good Christian’.