Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday - Religion 101

"As a Christian I don't condemn you for saying or thinking what you have, you certainly have that right, but don't be taking away my rights as a Christian to believe and say what I want to. Besides, why do you hate a God that loves you and wants the best of everything for you?" Jennifer Vance

Whoa, Jennifer. That's a big leap, equating my argument against celebrating Good Friday as a national holiday with hating God.

Last year I wrote a piece called Good Friday - Not A National Holiday. It continues to provoke responses from people of mostly sincere beliefs who don't seem to have understood my point.

So I'll try again. I'm not anti-Good Friday or anti-Christian or anti-religion. I'm certainly not anti-God. Far from it. I proudly celebrate my own Jewish faith while respecting others who hold different beliefs and practices.

Why not? Christians, Jews and Muslims historically came from the same place after all. Our teachings aren't so very different. One God, adherence to religious laws, faith, conviction, love, tolerance.

It's that last one where the problem usually lies. Religious oneupsmanship. My God's better than yours. Or worse, my God thinks you should die.

Whether Christian, Jew, Catholic, Muslim or Buddhist, religion can have such a positive effect on our lives. It gives us meaning, guidance, support, comfort, direction, strength. What it should never provide is an excuse to kill. Or to hate. Or punish. Or even to judge.

That's why our founding fathers, while recognizing their own and their country's predominant Christianity, tried to take religion out of the governing equation. They wanted to abide by its principles but not to rule America by its laws.

A very sane--and safe--view of separating Church and State. They guessed correctly, as it turns out, that overly zealous religious leaders might run their country with very narrow evangelical tunnel vision. And thus without true tolerance.

I say again, I respect Good Friday as a day of profound significance to Christians. But exactly by virtue of its personal religious significance, it should not be elevated or legislated by government.

The world has learned the hard way that allowing a single religion to rule a nation is to give its fanatics a platform from which to launch unspeakable acts. There's nothing God-like about that.

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