Religion should not be defined by its followers

If I asked you to close your eyes and picture a religious person, who comes to mind?

Chances are, it is some angry, judgmental, overbearing person who you dislike immediately.

Whether the image of such a “religious” figure is Jerry Falwell, Osama Bin Laden or Baruch Goldstein, these people are all highly unpleasant and portray religion in a very poor light.

James Dobson is a prime example of how ultra-religious people have entered into the public sphere, and through their actions perpetuated the distaste of the general population for overtly religious individuals.

Dobson founded Focus on the Family, an evangelical organization that is politically active and is a strong advocate of conservative views. The New York Times on Jan. 1, 2005 called him “the nation’s most influential evangelical leader,” and over 220 million people
listen to his radio talk show every day.

Now, everyone is entitled to his or her own political beliefs, but when an influential leader passes the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting off as an incident only to be expected because, as Dobson said on his radio show, “We have turned our back on the scripture and on God … he has allowed judgment to fall upon us,” he gives all religious people a bad name.

Sadly, this is not a rare occurrence. People feel the need to bring God into the story even when the situation is not relevant.

A more recent example, on a smaller scale, is the case of Chelsea Welch, the waitress fired from Applebee’s for posting the receipt of Alois Bell, a pastor who invoked God as the reason for withholding her tip.

Bell wrote on her receipt, “I give God 10 percent. Why do you get 18?”

There is absolutely no reason to mention God when you decide not to tip. This is a case of Bell simply being cheap, and it is a miserable excuse for her miserliness (which, incidentally, most religions see as an evil, something a pastor should know).

These may be extreme examples, but there is no denying these zealous individuals are a presence within our own community. Many people are dissuaded from going to church, temple, synagogue, mosque or from even considering religion as an acceptable vehicle for bettering oneself, as a result of overbearing people who use religion to point out another’s errors and flaws in a condescending manner.

As a Muslim, I have often heard the frequently cited saying of Prophet Muhammad, “The only reason I have been sent is to perfect good manners.”

So, religious people? Chill. Take a look at your scripture. I assure you, nowhere does your faith promote pushing people away from God and placing yourself above them.

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