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Faith in Diversity

10 April 2009 No Comment

I have trouble trusting people who don’t believe in God. Where is their frame of reference?  To whom are they accountable?

Returning from a road trip to Atlanta, I could not help contemplating with perplexity the fact that a new friend is an Atheist.  Enrico is a physician from Argentina who does not believe in God.   His faith (lack thereof) had come to light during a discussion of views of God and the “afterlife” by people from several different countries.  Perspectives of the form of god ranged from “Creator God to Light to a universal centrality or mind to which we are or would one day be joined.

People’s perceptions of God are always fascinating.  There is something sublimely humorous about man speculating on God.  Having a strong faith myself, I can not help but picture Him (yes, Him) looking down at us peons as we attempt the impossible: to define Him.  I believe He is Love, among other things- so many other things- and that He, in compassion, helps us to find Him, from whatever starting point we begin.   In this space begins my sense of acceptance and tolerance for diversity of beliefs.

I do not believe any faith has all of the answers or all of the dogma correct.  But I do believe that He can help us find Him, from whatever place of faith we come.  He will meet us in the place that it is best for us to “see” Him.   I accept and respect various faiths, and believe God does, too.   Tolerance is such an essential value.  A value that is critical to promoting the harmony of our beautiful world symphony.   If you are like me, you believe that God (however you may perceive Him) created the beautiful world symphony.  And that is is a right and good thing for us (humans) to support its harmony.   But atheists?  Hard to fathom.  Hard to be tolerant.  Hard to trust.

Of course, when all does not compute (e.g., Enrico, an atheist, is a kind and giving person), I must consult an expert in human knowledge:   A taxi driver.

As it would happen, on this occasion, the taxi driver was Hamid, an immigrant from Morocco. Treading into the waters cautiously, I asked him about his views on the afterlife.  “What does the Islamic faith believe happens after death?” I asked.  “Is there an afterlife, a resurrection- and if so, is the body physical or of a different sort?”

Pleased to be consulted, he readily responded with the facts.  “We Muslims believe that all persons are reunited with their physical bodies- but all in the same age of vitality and vigor- around age 27.”   That was interesting.  And one day, I am sure, God will reveal if it is so.

It is an uncomfortable place to go when opening a conversation about faith with someone of a different faith.  As one of the wisest men I know recently noted, “If we could reconcile the differences in faiths we could likely find world peace.”  Yet forward I proceeded, always fascinated by the beliefs of others, always looking to check, validate, consider, and update my own.  As Hamid continued, and I responded in kind with openness and candor, the conversation became fluid and intense- ultimately arriving at that place where content is no longer remembered because words have bypassed the mind, speaking directly to the soul.

I can not remember all that Hamid said.  But I remember the sublime and profound conclusion reached, that must resonate with all faiths:   

Live every day as if it was among your last days before dying.

Perhaps that is the place of Agreement at which all faiths could begin.

Even so, there is no place of comfort for Atheists.

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