Shades of god
August 11, 2004
Religions are belief systems which were started by thinkers,
prophets, or sometimes, unfortunately, manipulators who were looking
for people to follow them or their belief system. Surprisingly,
many people have followed not only their believable but also their
Some individuals proclaim they have seen God, some contend they
have met him in mountains or caves, and still some others say they
have dreamt or meditated about God. God’s messages have come
to many through angels with explicit and implicit instructions
on how to follow them.
These days it is almost impossible to read an article which does
not bring religion into question. Recently, fundamentalist or orthodox
religious members have captured most of the news.
Members of each religious group promote theirs as the only true
religion and invite others to join them. Such people do not consider
other religions as worthwhile. However, just as advertisers do
not necessarily convert all consumers about the superiority of
their products, so self-promotion of a particular religion by its
advocates will not necessarily result in conversion of others.
Most religions show their believers a way to become good human
beings who love and respect others and who love and nurture the
creations of their Supreme Creator. The ways to attain such righteousness
differ from one religion to another, and, even within a religion,
there are varying belief systems.
In order to preserve harmony among religions, many religious
leaders have advocated that “All religions are equal.” Others
may argue that all religions are the same in purpose; they simply
take different paths to the same Supreme Creator.
Human beings should be free to choose any path in conformance
with their belief system. Even non-believers have made a choice
regarding religion. No choice should be ridiculed because it is
different from another; the whole purpose of freedom of religion
is the right to have such a choice, including the choice of no
It is the weakness of a system, or a religion, to force people
to accept it. Forcing people to accept a religious belief often
has catastrophic consequences. In Sudan’s Dharfur Province
hungry people are often easy prey for those who exploit their vulnerability
by bringing them into their religion. As has been often noted,
in the course of history, more people have died in the name of
religion than any other reason.
Fundamentalist in Saudi Arabia and Iraq who claim to practice
the only true Islamic belief and who do not even consider other
sects of Islam as Muslims, do not allow their followers to pray
to their prophets, and force their God on others. Destroying religious
places and slaughtering those who disagree with one’s belief
system will not solve religious differences and will only promote
further violence in a vicious cycle of hatred and retribution.
Choosing a religion is not only a reflection of one’s beliefs,
it can also represent a pragmatic decision for career advancement.
Some fundamentalists believe they are doing God’s work
in forcing weak believers to practice their religion.
If we want freedom to practice our beliefs, then everyone must
have the same freedom, and all choices should be respected. Extremism
of any kind is detrimental to religion and to society. Extremists
are viewed negatively by other religious groups who regard their
religious fervor as morally suspect. Proponents of violence come
in many different forms; clearly we must avoid all religious zealots
who promote hate and violence through their religious messages.
Dr. Mohammad Ala, is Professor of Production and Operations
Management both in Iran and the U.S. He is an Executive Board member
and founder of iran-heritage.org, persiangulfonline.org and iranalliance.org.
See features in iranian.com.