The Importance of Being Open Minded

The+Importance+of+Being+Open+Minded

Natasha Potemkin

As lines between religion become blurred through the connection of people and things, former ideals become less black and white and opinions become more and more destructive. Tolerance for other people’s beliefs become low, and suddenly, it’s their way or the highway.

 

In the media, it’s easy to pin the blame on Christians or Muslims. Tweets and posts paint Christians as crucifying lunatics who believe that the bible is something that has no flaws and isn’t up for interpretation. The same can be said for Muslims, who are painted as terrorists who take innocent people hostage in the name of God.

 

People have been afraid of muslims since 1979, during which the Iranian Hostage Crisis began. These fears were only perpetuated when 9/11 happened and in recent years, groups such as ISIS have been a large contributor to Islamophobia. Events like these have polluted the general public’s opinions of muslims and cast them in a dark light.

 

Similarly, the news tends to report on the Westboro Baptist Church, an example of extremists within Christianity. On the church’s website, the first thing that’s seen is ‘God Hates Fags’ and as the media sees continual messages of hatred and abhorrence, Christianity is in turn seen through half  empty glasses.

As an agnostic myself, I grew up not understanding why people went to church or put their faith in god. I always saw it as silly, something people used as a support system when real life got too hard to handle.

 

I was quick to judge. Any time God came up in conversation, I became malicious in my opinions, claiming that there was no proof or reason to believe that there was a higher power at all. I saw religion, Christianity and Catholicism particularly, as a flaw in our world. It was the reason division occurred between groups of people and societies.

 

It wasn’t until my last year of middle school that I realized that I was becoming the exact same person I had become so critical of, hateful and close minded.

 

I was sitting in my science class, debating with the class over the ethics of genetic modification when the conversation quickly devolved into a screaming match. Soon we weren’t arguing over science anymore, it was a matter of our personal beliefs.

 

All sides of the argument had made one claim or another, and I had to take a step away. I had to distance myself from my own ideas and look at the other side, and when I did, I saw what I had devolved into.

 

Suddenly, I was the one preaching hate, claiming that someone’s beliefs were wrong. I was part of the problem. For the first time in I don’t remember how long, I listened. I heard what people were saying and digested it. As cliche as it sounds, I found God.

 

Of course, I didn’t suddenly change my views and devote my life to the church. In fact, my views are probably more atheistic than ever. Yet, suddenly, I felt a draw to learn more about why people are the way they are and why they believe the things they believe.

 

I wanted to learn about an aspect of culture that’s been prevalent since man could think. I wanted to see why religion was and is the foundation of modern society.

 

To remedy my need for understanding, I attended a Sunday service at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Before I had entered the church, I had an idea of what a service would entail; there would be a lot of standing and sitting, singing, and some long and drawn out story from the Bible I wouldn’t be able to understand. While there was a decent amount of standing, sitting, and singing, the story told was touching and I found myself appreciating what was being said.

 

There, I saw the community that religion builds. I witnessed how people who may have never interacted without the church were connected. I met a man whose faith was so strong in God, he was going to walk the the Way of Saint James, a 500 mile trail that takes 30 days to complete.

 

To me, it’s not just imagining myself in someone else’s shoes. It’s actually putting them on and walking a mile, whether or not it’s entirely comfortable.

 

I believe that’s the reason there’s a divide in the world. It’s not because of one certain religion or belief, it’s the unwillingness in everyone to put aside prejudice and simply listen.