Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Students should share faith responsibly

In our current postmodern and secular age, sharing one’s religious beliefs is often labeled, at the blink of an eye, as intolerance. The “Coexist” bumper sticker is prevalent, and so much as making the slightest assertion that you believe your religious faith is correct (with any hint of conviction) will earn you the image of a stubborn conservative who is unwilling to participate in the reality of today’s multi-religious world.  This stereotype is ridiculous and, for the most part, undeserved.

In fact, quite the opposite is true. Regardless of whether or not we accept the religious beliefs others might share with us, the refusal to share one’s religious beliefs is the pinnacle of selfishness.  If one legitimately believes the Christian view that life without the grace of Jesus Christ merits eternal suffering, I cannot imagine the disgusting level of selfishness one must possess not to tell everybody they know about what they believe.

If one legitimately believes the Buddhist views on liberation, why would that person possibly withhold from me access to their views of truth? If one legitimately believes the Hindu view that life is a vicious cycle of death and rebirth that cannot be escaped until one achieves moksha, why would they not tell me? How many vicious cycles could they picture me going through until I somehow figured it out on my own?

People who are vocally open about their religious beliefs are characterized as belonging to a “radical sect” of their religion, when such people are merely following the doctrine (another word with an undeserved negative connotation) of their religion or possessing a shred of human decency.

When one shares his or her religious beliefs, they must, of course, be incredibly careful of the tone they use. There is nothing evil about speaking with conviction, but when this conviction spills over into a tone that is condemning, people are left feeling annoyed and belittled. Brother Micah (the insult-slinging Florida preacher) is annoying to both Christians and non-Christians alike on this campus for his extreme lack of tact. When one speaks without tact, they not only turn off their audience, but hurt their own cause as well.

I was walking outside of B.B. Comer last year when a graduate student handed me a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu religious text, along with a DVD to accompany it. Though I didn’t exactly ask for more information, he spent 10 minutes explaining to me how the book had changed his life for the better and how he strongly believed I too would benefit from reading it. I didn’t share his worldview at the time and I still don’t now, but I respect him for what he did.

He didn’t have to act as if he was personally disconnected and emotionally unattached to his subject matter, as one must in a religious studies classroom setting, nor did he posit that my worldview was somehow equally as correct as his. Yet, I wasn’t offended.

Even if we assume that the act of sharing of one’s faith can be done tactfully and with conviction, however, many people will still face a dilemma. The dilemma lies in the unavoidable fact that by sharing with someone the basics of one’s worldview without sounding disengaged or personally unmoved by it, one inherently admits that he or she believes the opposite party’s worldview is incorrect. Though using tact can minimize the effects of this dilemma, it simply cannot be completely avoided.

The dilemma, however, is the lesser of two evils. I don’t know of a single worldview that claims the eternal or divine implications of not following it are somehow lesser than the temporary offense of having one’s worldview alluded to as false.

People will often argue that they would have no qualms about others sharing their faith if unselfishness was truly their motive. This is a valid point, given the numerous religious beliefs that offer personal rewards (think enlightenment or good karma) for sharing one’s faith. Though these people would be correct in realizing that many people’s motives in sharing their faith might not always be selfless, this realization makes the refusal to share one’s faith no less selfish.

If I were to inherit one billion dollars and give much of it away, I may not be entirely selfless.  In fact, my primary motive may be to earn people’s praise or to better my image for a political campaign.  If I didn’t share a penny of it, however, I could be correctly labeled as selfish.  The possibility of tainted sharing does not negate the reality of selfish hoarding.

So, the next time somebody tactfully approaches you about his or her religious beliefs, feel free to disagree. I only ask that you thank them before you walk away.

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