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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Respect and Religion

I had an opportunity to see old friends on New Years' Eve when my partner and I went out dinner-dancing at a wonderful club where our group occasionally enjoys gathering. We talked with our friends about how busy our lives have become in the past year. We wondered about another couple who have recently disappeared from our lives. Last I heard, upon marriage, the couple became Mormon. Granted, the woman was previously Mormon, but upon her divorce had been judged harshly by her church. Thereafter, we saw her often because she began dancing with — and dating — a man within in our group of friends. Remarrying was her only way back into the good graces of her church elders, especially if she could persuade her new husband to join. Apparently, the new husband embraced the religion hook, line, and sinker — even though we were all aware that he had a purely "secular" background while we knew him.

Shortly after their marriage, the Mormon couple invited us to join them at their church for a dance demonstration. Along with the invitation came a litany of instructions about what would be appropriate dress for the occasion. We should wear this, but not that or the other. Excuse me — am I a child that I still need to be told how to dress? The new wife's comments flashed me back to my prior membership with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Having since left the Jehovah's Witnesses, I recognized instantly that now I was feeling disrespected by the rules of her Mormon religion. Here I was, not even a Mormon member, yet I was being instructed on what I should wear and how I should conduct myself so as to not insult her recently-re-acquired Mormon "modesty." As a result, my partner and I declined attending the dance event. Not an easy thing for us, especially because both of us dearly love dancing.

Another occasion arose — this time to attend a funeral at a mosque. The deceased was Muslim. The funeral announcement was accompanied by a full paragraph of instructions on how — women in particular — should dress, right down to the requirement for modesty and a head covering. I declined attendance at that event, too.

It is quite one thing for religions to force their dogmas on their own members. But, why do some religious people think it is acceptable to force their beliefs on "outsiders"? Why can't they recognize how disrespectful their behavior appears to people who are not conditioned to think like them? I'm sorry — I cannot simply check my brain along with my coat at your church door. I recognize disrespectful behavior when I encounter it, now that I have left the Jehovah's Witnesses — because they carry on similarly. In Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Halls, women are expected to dress and act a certain way in order to be accepted as a member in good standing. The religion is patriarchal in nature whereby the only purpose of women is to serve men. As long as you obey the rules of the elders, you are accepted by the group.

I feel that patriarchal religions have pushed their "religious agenda" too far, infringing on the human rights of others, and quite simply their behavior feels more than a little discourteous. Just because they have a "religious" belief and I have a more "secular" view of life does not mean that my beliefs are less significant than theirs. My beliefs are just as valid as anyone with a religious attachment simply because I accept my conscience and intuition to guide me healthily. Their "religious" belief is not superior in any way over my "secular" belief.

In my opinion, religions and all their various dogmas currently serve to divide — rather than unite — humanity. I would like to see unity prevail on planet Earth and I feel that patriarchal religions do not have the answer on how to accomplish such harmony because their attitudes are divisive. To stay silent on the issue of disrespectful behavior by patriarchal religions is to condone and enable disrespectful behavior to continue.

Where is the line in the sand to differentiate between respectful behavior and disrespectful behavior? That explanation is too long to explain in a few words. Watch for my next post on the subject.

Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2011. Permission is granted to copy and re-distribute this transmission on the condition that it is distributed freely.

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