At the encouragement of my lit teacher, I am entering an essay contest. Please review and (constructively) criticize.
Cohodas Literary Prize
Topic: Examine a few instances of the role of religion of fostering tolerance or intolerance in the world today.
“Rivers, lakes, oceans- all of these have different names, but they all contain water. Religions all have different names, but they all contain the same truths.” - Muhammad Ali
I cannot say that my concept of God is coherent enough to be called a religion. I participate in no dogma. If someone asks what my religious affiliation is, I say that I am a panentheist- one who believes that all Gods are the one God, and that God is both transcendent and imminent. Because of all these things, my view of religion is somewhat different: both inside, because I am one of the world’s many faithful, and yet outside, because my concept of God shares little with the vast, vast majority of God’s other followers.
On one hand, I think that God is too big for any one religion. I see all the awful, evil things that have been done in the name of religion, and it angers me. When I think of how long the list really is- the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Holocaust, the bitter territorial dispute in Israel, pogroms, slavery, the subordination of women, the abuse of children, every sort of racism and xenophobia, genocides all over the globe, the exploitation of the resources of our beautiful blue planet, the consumptive desire on the part of humanity to simply use up whatever we can suck out of all the other forms of life that we share this world with- it makes me light up with a fury so intense that it feels unquenchable.
On the other hand, I admit that, even if I could, I would not eradicate the various religions of the world. How could I? As the medium of human love reflects the power of God’s love, so do all the varying ideas and intelligences of religions reflects the multitude of differing forms that God can and does take. With these giant brains of ours, we reach out to God, and God reaches out to us in the way that is the most understandable to each individual.
Truly, it is from the endless varieties of people that humanity gains its richness. Just as I would not wish that all the races or languages or cuisines be melted into one, I cannot suggest that we all choose the same path mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. Just as I would not give up free will, neither would I sacrifice the ability to learn from so many sources, to sample from so many wells of wisdom, to be enlightened by the flames of so many candles.
I cannot say that I, in my life, have found religion to be an agent of tolerance- and yet, neither can I say that I have found it to be an agent of intolerance. I am more prone to blame the human failings of the followers, who have managed to miss the central point shared by virtually all religions- to love one another, and treat each other with the respect we desire for ourselves. If we are only to adhere to that rule, we can reach across the aisle to one another with hands that are truly open in welcome.