A lot of thoughts came to me after reading this.

About religion, about minorities, about being gay, about plain simple love for other human beings.

I’ve always been quite touchy about religion, avoiding discussion of the issue if possible. I am not a very religious person, but I can get quite defensive about my religion sometimes. Especially when friends try to convert me. It irks me because by trying to do so, the message I get from them is that “My religion is better than yours, so come join me”. But to me, religion is a very personal/sacred thing. It’s what you believe in. It can’t be falsified. So who’s to say which is better anyway? If someone is interested in your religion, he will likely go and find out more by himself. I just don’t think it is very appropriate to try to convert someone from one faith to another. And ultimately, I feel it’s just a difference in what we believe in. I am willing to accept this difference, because I value our friendship more. If you are not willing to, then it’s too bad.

Also, to me, most religions are trying to teach more or less the same thing. To quote from the blog entry:

According to Christians, Jesus taught a couple of interesting things. First, “love one another.” Second, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (“Her” being a woman who cheated on her man.)

According to Buddhists, Buddha taught a couple of thought-provoking things. First, “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.” Second, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

According to Hindus, a couple of fascinating teachings come to mind. First, “Do not get angry or harm any living creature, but be compassionate and gentle; show good will to all.” (Krishna) Second, “Love means giving selflessly, excluding none and including all.” (Rama)

According to Muslims, Muhammad taught a couple interesting things as well. First, “A true Muslim is the one who does not defame or abuse others; but the truly righteous becomes a refuge for humankind, their lives and their properties.” Second, “Do you love your creator? Love your fellow-beings first.”

According to Judaism, their scriptures teach a couple remarkable things. First, “Love your neighbor like yourself.” Second, “Examine the contents, not the bottle.”

The greatest spiritual leaders in history have all preached love for others as the basis for all happiness, and never did they accompany such mandates with a list of unlovable actions or deeds. They never said, love everybody except for the gays. Love everybody except for the homeless. Love everybody except for the drug users. Love everybody except for the gang members, or those covered in ink, or the spouse abusers. They didn’t tell us it was okay to love everybody with the exception of the “trailer trash,” those living in poverty, or the illegal immigrants. They didn’t tell us it was okay to love everybody except for our ex-lovers, our lovers’ ex lovers, or our ex-lovers’ lovers.

And unlike advertisements and discount coupons, I doubt the teachings from major religions don’t come with fine print. It is easy to attend church every week, or visit the temple to offer josssticks on every 15th/30th of the lunar month. It is not that difficult to proclaim, “I am vegetarian because I am a Buddhist” or “I don’t believe in any God.” But how many of us can really practice the teachings behind each religion/faith/belief?

In truth, having a religion doesn’t make a person love or not love others. It doesn’t make a person accept or not accept others. It doesn’t make a person befriend or not befriend others.

Being without a religion doesn’t make somebody do or be any of that either.

No, what makes somebody love, accept, and befriend their fellow man is letting go of a need to be better than others.

I think this is very true. Can we let go of this need to feel superior to others, to feel this way about those different from us?

About gay people.

About people who dress differently.

About people who act differently.

About fat people.

About people with drug addictions.

About people who smoke.

About people with addictions to alcohol.

About people with eating disorders.

About people who fall away from their faiths.

About people who aren’t members of the dominant local religion.

About people who have non-traditional piercings.

And in Singapore’s context, about people from other countries.

It is not an easy thing to accept those different from us, much less show love to. It takes a great deal of courage to be who you really are (even if this means you’re different from the rest). But it also takes a great deal of effort to put an arm around those who are different.

Unfortunately, I have yet to be able to do so entirely. But I think for many like me, that’s something all of us should work upon, regardless of our religion (or lack thereof). To me, that’s what it means to be a more inclusive society. Helping the “vulnerable groups” should not just be limited to the financially needy, but also those who are being outcast by the majority.