September 11th, 2010

Living With Ghosts

Religion and the 11th of September

If you were to ask me what I believe in, on most days I would probably say 'I'm not sure.' What I believe in shifts with circumstances, with the angle of the light and the phases of my mind. There are days when I talk to saints, to trees, to the breath of the wind. I talk to my late and missed Caspian cat and to the feel of wherever I am. I am prone to admiring something -- a rock, a leaf, a waterfall -- and saying 'thank you.' I believe in evolution and randomness and the unexpected.
I don't usually go to churches or temples or mosques or synagogues, though when I find myself in them, I feel it right to be respectful. I am prone to quiet words with whoever is listening (or not listening), even if that listener is some natural force. The belief is in the words, not in the listening. I am part of the texture of this world and I honour that, whatever its causes and origins. I like to say thank you, even if no-one cares, because I was brought up that way.
I have great respect for people who live their lives meaningfully, with care, with thought, whether they place that meaning in a deity or in science. But the key word is thought. I do not respect those who expose blind doctrine, who judge and rant and bully. They are not, to me, people of faith but people of ignorance, who cling to what they have been told without question and seek to impose it on others. I don't respect the killing of others in the name of faith or political ideology. I mourn for those who suffer as the result of such actions.
But what above all I believe in is education. Not rote-learning of rules and doctrines, not brain-washings and brow-beatings into the acceptance of some 'fact', but real education that endorses questioning and searching, thinking and examining, watching and listening and trying to understand. I believe in compassion for others, all others, not just for people like oneself, and in taking away barriers, not building them higher.
Burning books teaches nothing worth knowing, except, perhaps, that the book burner is ignorant or arrogant or power-hungry or afraid.
The best memorial we could build would be one of dialogue, of charity in its older sense, of tolerance and understanding and acceptance that we do not all have to be the same. Because no-one should have to die because someone noisier than they are, stronger than they are, more stupidly, blindly certain than they are wants to try and force the world into one narrow mould.
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