Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Have Faith, Your Belief is an Opinion

Pronunciation: \ˈfāth\
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural faiths \ˈfāths, sometimes ˈfāthz\
Etymology: Middle English feith, from Anglo-French feid, fei, from Latin fides; akin to Latin fidere to trust — more at bide
Date: 13th century

1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty b (1) : fidelity to one's promises (2) : sincerity of intentions
2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust
3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs
synonyms see belief

— on faith : without question

Pronunciation: \bə-ˈlēf\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English beleave, probably alteration of Old English gelēafa, from ge-, associative prefix + lēafa; akin to Old English lȳfan — more at believe
Date: 12th century

1 : a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing
2 : something believed; especially : a tenet or body of tenets held by a group
3 : conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence
synonyms belief, faith, credence, credit mean assent to the truth of something offered for acceptance. belief may or may not imply certitude in the believer . faith almost always implies certitude even where there is no evidence or proof . credence suggests intellectual assent without implying anything about grounds for assent < a theory now given credence by scientists>. credit may imply assent on grounds other than direct proof .

Pronunciation: \ə-ˈpin-yən\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin opinion-, opinio, from opinari
Date: 14th century

1 a : a view, judgment, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter b : approval, esteem
2 a : belief stronger than impression and less strong than positive knowledge b : a generally held view
3 a : a formal expression of judgment or advice by an expert b : the formal expression (as by a judge, court, or referee) of the legal reasons and principles upon which a legal decision is based

— opin·ioned \-yənd\ adjective

Today's post is brought to you by the continued wrangling over religious in/tolerance in the military and especially at the Air Force Academy where the current commandant is doing his best to promote a tolerant environment for the worship of all faiths.

A friend who works at the Academy keeps sending me links to articles and articles about this issue ever since the ring of stones was set up for pagan worshipers to gather. One intolerance Christian put a railroad tie cross against one of the larger stones of the outdoor circle and set off the current debate. There have been comments about how our forefathers would view the military and would cringe at the incursion of religion into the military and government sites, but I'm not so sure they know whereof they speak. It's hard to say what the individual founders of the Constitution would say since many of them did go to church and carried their faith with them, but one thing is certain, it was their anonymous belief that a state religion would only tear apart the fabric of the country they created and endowed with their own blood, sweat and tears.

The purpose of the dictionary definitions of faith, belief and opinion above should be obvious, especially since the first two words -- faith and belief -- have figured prominently in all the articles about the current discussion about tolerance. When you get right down to it, the whole idea of a single religion speaking for all is an opinion and has no basis in fact. Some people have faith that one god is the only god, whatever they choose to call him (the Jews have several names for him, Muslims one, and Christians none at all, other than god or lord, which are titles and not names) and other have faith that no god or the anthropomorphic (made in man's image) representations of natural forces and ideas called gods and goddesses rule their lives. It is their belief that they are not alone or, if they are alone and life is just a finite point of existence no one survives and is blown out like a candle flame, that they are alone and nothing matters because we're all going to die. Then there are the more exotic religions based on worship of ancestors, animal headed god/desses and cargo planes that once disgorged vast quantities of food, material, weapons and people and then took them all away again. There are religious beliefs of many types in every part of the world and all of them promote the idea that one set of beliefs is the only true path to enlightenment. I find that difficult to believe that if no one will agree to wearing one color, one cut of clothing, one shoe design and one hairstyle there is hope for everyone believing in one god or one religion.

When you boil down all the rhetoric, gossip and proselytizing, it comes down to one simple truth: one size does NOT fit all. America has been in the forefront from its bloody birth because there was no state religion and freedom was at the center of what has become the most important country on the planet. It isn't because the United States of America is the strongest, richest or most powerful nation in the world and can destroy every other country in the world ten times over; it is because America is the only country that works hard to promote and maintain freedom: freedom to speak out without fear, freedom to print opinions and beliefs without fear and freedom to worship any religion without fear. The word is out; the streets are not paved with gold, but, with hard work and faith in the system and yourself, anything is possible. It's time the evangelical arm of Christianity got the message that in order to practice their religion without fear, they must allow the same freedom to others and stop pushing their agenda down everyone else's throats. Christianity is a religion, a set of beliefs that followers have faith in, but it is not the only religion and believers have neither the right nor the mandate to force everyone else to believe their way and only their way.

I have faith in the Constitution. I believe that following the simple statements set down by our founding fathers will keep us a diverse nation of freedom loving and tolerant people. It is my opinion that all this religious tug-of-warring benefits no one and that it will tear this country and its people apart, thus negating the principles on which this country was founded.

There's a simple solution: You find meaning in whatever religion you choose and allow everyone else the courtesy to find meaning in their own way. After all, the only person you have some amount of control over is yourself. I can say, from personal experience, that I have enough trouble controlling myself and I do not need nor do I want to control anyone else, except maybe my mailman, but that is a story for another time. In the meantime, follow the dictates of your heart and leave everyone else to follow their own. We'll all be a lot happier.

That is all. Disperse.

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