Monday, April 4, 2011

Religious Ties

Ferrell’s post, Race = Religion, raises some interesting points. Neither race nor religion naturally exists in nature; they are social constructs. The content super-imposed in these invented identities is just as superfluous. What does it mean to be a Muslim? To worship Allah the way a Muslim is supposed to. What does it mean to be a Christian? To believe Jesus Christ is the savior. What does it mean to be Jewish? To believe in the God the way Jews are supposed to. But neither Muslim, Christian nor Jew naturally exists in nature. Each identity arises out of a social doctrine. Examined in an a historical context, the regions are completely interchangeable. They promise to be the divinely right way to live—and that’s their appeal.

Yet it’s baffling how peoples acting on the same impulse to live piously in the Lord’s eye can come to such strife amongst each other based on religious differences seemingly so irrelevant to the ultimate objectives of their faith. It seems strange to me now just how upset my family would get if I became Muslim. And Islam requires much devotion. I am amazed at how such an insignificant tag can ostracize communities and peoples to the extent that it does.

Even stripped of all socially constructed identity, humans are not created equal (except in the most basic sense of humanity). I try to image peoples of various ethnicities striped of all social connotations, and still my tendency is to group similar appearances together. Race is purely physical, religion purely spiritual. Race is easier to physically observe, religion is easier (in theory) to change. When socializing with new acquaintances, we tend to first seek out individuals similar to ourselves. Religion is always a haphazard topic in conversation because it has the potential to raise controversies. Individuals become divided based on what they believe and who agrees with them. It is all too common in America for a Christian to disdain an Arab because he thinks he is a Muslim, only to find out he is also a Christian—at which time he is instead received as a worthy brother in Christ. And it also all too common for such a Christian to take for granted the Christianity of a fellow white person, who may well indeed be atheist or Muslim.
It could be said the white person, then, has the religious and well as the racial advantage. In being white, his racial identity is absent, it is the norm. Likewise, it is assumed that his religious ideals are in the norm, at least more so than non-Caucasians. Do people agree? Is it the case that Christianity in America also favors whites? Whites are more often assumed Christian? And this assumption serves to unconsciously unify white people and further ostracize individuals already different in appearance?

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