MA: BIAS CLOUDS RELIGIOUS VIEWS
Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Scientology and Hinduism are some of the religions to which members of our globe belong. Through common knowledge or rumors, each of us can make assumptions about every religion in the world. Besides the assumptions we make, what do we really know about each other’s religions or even our own? I was inspired to write this article from an event that took place during the second week of J-term when what I thought would be an hour of enjoying dinner and friends’ company turned into something completely different: a six-hour debate about religion and our attempts to show flaws in each other’s religious faiths. Around the table in Chase/Duckett dining hall sat five Smithies of Islamic or Christian faith. I will take full credit for bringing up the subject of religion because I was upset due to an overheated argument I had the night before.
The conversation was a regular one for a bit and then it got a bit difficult. The two students who are Christians – a Catholic and a Seventh Day Adventist – had a hard time describing to the Muslim students what Christianity meant to them. One was taught from her Catholic upbringing that the Virgin Mary is a very important part of the Christian religion and the other felt that Jesus was everything as far as she was concerned.
Then, there came the question of the Quran and the Bible and which is right. The Muslim students argued that the Quran has never changed, unlike the Bible which has a few testaments – old and new. The Christian students agreed that the Bible may have changed but argued that Islam justifies the behavior of suicide bombers – the notion of Jihad – like the ones we hear about everyday on the news. Then and there, I saw that there was a problem. Once again arguments were being made to belittle one religion or the other without much justification and based completely on the bias of the American media.
A thought came to me at the end of our six-hour debate: we had no business sitting there talking about each other’s religion or even our own because we weren’t knowledgeable about them, and we were seriously biased against any religion that was not ours. The most courageous of us repeated this out loud and with shame each and every single one of us agreed. We needed to tone down our bias and read the Bible, the Quran or any other holy religious book we might have had a problem with.
Before we departed at midnight to our respective houses, we promised to have another “spontaneous” debate, but this time as well-read debaters. It was a kind of beautiful moment, and I wished that instead of six students, that this would have been said by members of the American society. What a beautiful thing that would have been.