In this day and age, religion is a prominent part of everyday life; through pop culture, politics and education, exposure to different religions is inevitable. For this reason, it would seem as though most people would have a fundamental understanding of the variety of belief systems. However, most people only have a surface-level understanding of religions other than their own. This leads to various stereotypes and misunderstandings.
This unawareness of other religions almost borders on ignorance and is often the result of pure apathy. The reasoning seems to be this: once a person has adopted a certain belief system, only those beliefs are relevant, and other religions do not matter.
The result of this indifference is intolerance that stems from ignorance. Every major religion is victim to stereotyping and generalization, and it is easy to portray an entire faith in a distasteful and inaccurate way. Ms. Jane Mitchell (Social Science Dept.), who teaches World Religions, said, “I often find that the lack of understanding and knowledge about different faiths does cause discrimination. A personal goal of mine, probably because I lived fourteen years out of the country, has always been to create an awareness in students and peers of the differences, similarities, and, bottom line, basic humanity of all the faiths.”
No two people share the exact same beliefs. It is unfair to stereotype a majority purely on the actions of a small minority. Religious profiling is not only an unjust form of discrimination, but also an almost always inaccurate judgment.
There is no one solution to religious bigotry; perhaps in a perfect world, people would not be labeled by their religion, but this world is not flawless. In recent years, substantial progress has been made in the way of religious acceptance. This progress is evidenced, for instance, by Pope Francis’ now-iconic quote, “Who am I to judge?” However, despite many evident pushes toward tolerance and acceptance, injustice is still everywhere, and it is hardly subtle–anti-Semitism, for example, that is still rampant across the globe.
Religious awareness is, for the most part, pushed under the rug. The basics of different major religions–Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam–are taught, and then seemingly left behind. At this point, it is important for people, especially young people, to be conscious of all religions and their meanings.
We study history to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. So many atrocities, like those of the Holocaust, the Crusades and the Mormon pioneers, have been committed against religion and in the name of religion. History is forever tainted by accounts of genocide, torture and brutality because of religious discrimination, intolerance and ignorance. It is so important to become educated, not so that we can erase the memory of these enormities, but so that our futures can be free of them.
By PHOEBE SOLOMON