I was very limited in my knowledge and experiences with people from other religions. I had never really been exposed to any other religions but my own before this class. I had had some general interactions with people of other faiths that were similar to my own but I never was exposed to the variety and diversity of religious beliefs that I was introduced to in this class. I can only assume that I am like most people, believing that although, my religion may not be the only religion, it is the correct one. I never really had occasion to question my faith before.
I am the same religion that my parents are and both of their parents are and so on and so on. I had friends that had differing beliefs but religion was always one of those subjects like politics, you had to tread lightly while discussing it. I was never comfortable asking anyone too many questions about their faith. I can honestly say that I would feel more comfortable discussing an alternative lifestyle choice with someone than asking them about their religion. Religion seems to be even more intensely personal.
I cannot imagine a more personal relationship than that which one shares with God. I am hungry for more. I want to expand on this course and feed my curiosity. I feel that it is so important to learn about other people’s beliefs and attitudes because we need to be able to share this planet with each other. Disinformation is dangerous and damming. It is so easy to hate what you do not understand. If you personalize and identify with people from other cultures it is so much harder to just hate them blindly. I was afraid of people that held beliefs that were different than my own.
I was sure that they were uneducated or religious zealots that just did not know any better. It is easy to hate a stereotype. If we allow a group of people to become a caricature representing things that we fear and do not understand it makes intolerance acceptable. I plan to use the information that was provided to me in this course to actually open dialogues with people from differing religious viewpoints. I feel that I now have a jumping off point; I am equipped with some basic knowledge that will allow me to ask intelligent questions and open a line of communication.
Before this class I would not have known where to begin a conversation with a Muslim, or a Buddhist. I did not know the first thing about either of those religions. I now feel like I have legitimate and intelligent queries. I would feel perfectly comfortable initiating a conversation in order to gain more information about either of these religions. I have been enriched with a beginning understanding of many new religions. I am able to see that many of the monotheistic religions all seem to have a very similar message.
Being a good person, loving your neighbor and treating them the way you would like to be treated seems to be a much more common belief than I ever would have believed. I will use the tools and techniques that we have been shown to enrich my own understanding of the world through the many varying religions. I now think that people of all religions are all trying to attain a better way of living. Spirituality can be the common ground because our exact beliefs may differ but the core goal is the same.