“Religion does three things quite effectively: Divides people, Controls people, Deludes people.” – Mary Alice McKinney
Today, if you were to check the top headlines of any publications, you would come across the latest havocs and horrifying events that have occurred in our “progressive” society. Varying from murders, economic instability, and words of pure hatred, newspapers cover and print stories that remind us that there is plenty more work needed to be done in our communities. While many would assume that in the evolving world in which we live, issues like miscommunication and prejudice would naturally deteriorate; however, that has not been the case whatsoever.
Some consider religion to be the ultimate blame for all the negative media surrounding us. Others have blatantly stated that religion is the underlying source behind divergence and strife, the cause of all the wars worldwide. Unfortunately, the spite people feel toward religion and theology has not only enhanced the lack of unity among us, but also created the walls and boundaries that prevent us from ever overcoming this intolerance. I, however, view life differently. I think religion is beautiful—when viewed in an optimistic light.
While religion, like many factors that ignite differences in beliefs, is flawed, there is a consistent concept in every denomination, branch, and active group: faith. Faith, bereft of any laws, practices, or restrictions, can be simply defined as hope. Faith is not the proof for our beliefs; it is the hope that we believe serves a larger purpose. This sense of hope is the foundation of most religions; it brings people comfort to believe in something greater in the world, even if that idea will remain unseen forever. While faith alone offers no guarantees, it unites people from all walks of life and creates a community, strengthened and manifested through that one shared hope. While religion marks the lines and limits that separate humanity, faith, or hope, is the full circle we can strive to create together.
How can we, as Jews and people of all different religions, be united in some way? How can we overcome the boundaries that diverge us in order to truly coexist? Where can we draw the beginning sketches that will one day evolve into a full circle? Perhaps the solution is simpler than we think: find the common ground.
The common ground that connects people of all different walks of life is the hope, or faith, that unifies every religion. As an active, pluralistic Jew, I strive to find the common ground that enables me to learn and grow alongside people who view theology, rituals, and religion at large differently than I do. By recognizing first that no two walks of faith are identical, we can sooner accept our differences and search for the common ground that unites us. When we share mutual values, we will be expanding the lines and boundaries that once restricted us from coexisting.
It takes true faith, or hope, to accept that we may never find tangibility in our different religions. We must face the inexorable truth: the only proof we have for our religious opinions solely based on faith. However, we can use this same hope to change the world. By taking the first step of recognizing our differences in order to reach our similarities, we will be taking one step toward coexistence. Through interfaith dialogue and respect, we can learn from one another the ways in which to beautify religion, rather than eradicate it. Ignorance diverged us, bur faith, alone, can unite us once again. Because of hope, the everlasting message that serves as the backbone to every belief system, religion is truly beautiful when shared.
Emily is a junior high school student in Manhattan. She has passions rather than hobbies. She is extremely passionate about both studying interfaith and applying spirituality to her daily life. She uses writing as an outlet to share her own perspective regarding not only her faith, but religion in general. In South Florida where she grew up, she founded and chartered an interfaith group called Common Ground Friends, and hopes to continue it in New York this year. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career involving interfaith dialogue, world religions, social action, and writing.