I think the most personal thing anyone has are his religious beliefs, his personal philosophy. It is something that we humans have held dear since before recorded history. We find it useful mainly because it gives meaning to our lives. Even an avowed atheist has atheism as his core belief system. It is a religion unto itself, and atheists have banded together, just like those who believe in a god, to profess their beliefs. And that is exactly as things should be. Every person has a right to his belief regardless of what anyone else thinks, regardless of how abhorrent some may think them.
Americans have an almost unhealthy pre-occupation with religion. Too many spend countless hours trying to convince others of their religious wisdom, and their general righteousness. To that end they become, to some degree, intolerant of religions other than their own. Sadly, this intolerance, and ignorance, has hit an almost fever pitch with too many Americans when the subject of Islam is brought up, and the belief of Muslims.
I was brought up in the Roman Catholic religion and led to believe that it is the one right and true religion on Earth. I have since learned, fortunately, that not only is that not true, but it is not even close to the truth. But the autocratic method that the Catholic Church used in its doctrine did not allow for other religions to be in keeping with the teachings of Jesus Christ, or so they said. That too, of course, is a bunch of bunk as I came to realize that the man named Jesus had in mind a reformed Jewish church and no designs of starting a new church. In fact, those who had known him when they preached in the lands removed from Palestine simply referred to the beliefs that Jesus taught as being “the way.” None even once thought of himself as a “Christian.”
Before Christianity there was Judaism, many Asian religions, and the religions of the first inhabitants of the Americas, the Inuit, the North American tribes, the Aztecs, Incas, and Mayans, to name a few. Even those religions of pre-Christian times of the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, and many others, all had a single highest god, with lesser gods all around.
Religions, even those that are regarded today as having been pagan, had loyal and devout followers, who, lacking other information, found their religion fulfilling. They were good people who were generous, kind, good parents, good leaders and were so because of, or in spite of, whatever religion they practiced.
History teaches us that those who are in high political positions tend to be far less religious than they portend to be. The best leaders recognize that their own personal religious beliefs will align only with a small minor of those over whom they govern, and because of that, they speak of religion in the most general of terms and seldom refer to their own religious upbringing. They recognize that speaking in terms that the majority agrees with is their best way of controlling their population. Good leaders have always known this. Machiavelli wrote a book on it, “The Prince.”
That brings me to the concept of God. Everyone has a concept, usually and largely derived from their personal experience and upbringing. The only question that needs to be asked is “Is your God the same God that Muslims pray to?” And by extension, is your God the same God another other religion believes in? For me, that necessarily has to be answered “yes!”
A number of years ago I was introduced to the concept of “the God of my misunderstanding.” That is, it is impossible for me to define God, to thoroughly understand God, so I am bound to misunderstand God by definition. That quite simply means that I am required to accept another person’s belief of God regardless of how contrary it is to my own. But, that also relieves me from having to accept any person’s, or group’s, definition of God and how to follow God. I do take the God of my father as my God even though I have absolutely no idea of how he saw God. And since my father is dead, I have no way of ever knowing. But my father is one of the finest human beings I have even known and so I desire to believe as he did. He was a Unitarian by upbringing, but the only day I ever saw him in a church was when he was in his coffin the day he was buried.
I have one basic and simple request of everyone, please keep your religion out of my life. I expect us to have differences, sometimes big differences. But religion being what it is, I have no right to arrogantly insist that I am right or that you are wrong. We Americans love to think of ourselves as a well-educated group of people. But that has not stopped us from being ignorant of other religious beliefs, and in that, being intolerant. I know for certain that the overwhelming majority of Americans have no idea of what Islam is all about, of what Muslims believe. I include myself in that group. But I am smart enough to recognize that the actions of an extremely small and militant group of people calling themselves Muslims, is hardly representative of the beliefs of Muslims in general. To the contrary, I think the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful good people who have no use for the violence proclaimed in the name of the God they pray to. But that God is the same God the very conservative evangelical American Christian pray to. It is the same God liberals believe in, that Jews believe in, and that probably any other monotheistic religion believes in.
My point is a simple one. Do not let the defined God of any other person draw you into their fight, their beliefs, their misconceptions, without due research on your part. You will find that your God resembles that of many other people, but in no way will that God be identical to any other person’s, by definition.