January 19, 2006
In defense of "Where are our good girls?", Alireza made an interesting observation that many Persians abandon religious and moral beliefs because of bad experiences either they or generations before them had with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
It is unfortunate that many people do abandon their religion because of forced dogmatism mixed with politics. True religion and spirituality was never intended to be used as a political tool to control people.
From my experience as an American with a Persian (non religious) father and an American (devout Christian) mother, I have to say that 90% of my interactions with other Persians have concluded contempt and indifference for religious and spiritual matters.
I do not know if this is a direct result of living in an Iranian culture where religion and politics are not so openly discussed, or if it is a reflection of a generation with a dwindling sense of spiritual and religious desire.
In any case, Ali Reza made some good points. I for one, am not one of those people who believes it is possible to be truly morally good without acknowledging a higher deity to help us attain that goodness. This is where humanism and religion often collide.
To avoid getting too philosophical, it is essential to understand that in order to grasp the concept or define true morality, (i.e., what it means to be ‘good’), one must acknowledge the maleficent components of humanity. Where do we get this understanding of morality? How do we inherently know right from wrong?
One can assume that we have inherent inner-workings of right and wrong. But where does that come from? It is my belief that these inner-workings transcend mere skills our parents instill in us. Our conscience transcends biological and psychological inferences.
It is no secret that the majority of Persians deny any religious or spiritual affiliation because of unfortunate and in some cases heart-wrenching experiences with political religion in Iran, as well as generational influences to abandon all belief because of what the IRI did to so and so, and how they were forced to attend some horribly dogmatic school where they were beaten and forced to read the Koran. I am not making light of any of this.
But I would encourage fellow Iranians who are seekers to not throw the baby out with the bath water. I would encourage all of those who have expressed rage to Ali Reza’s article to ask yourself where the negative energy you have is coming from.
In the name of open-mindedness, many Persians also choose to embrace a lethargic mix of acceptance and affirmation for anything and everything. This is wrong. I don’t think that it is correct to assume that people are inherently good. One must just look at history to see that. Man is more than capable to commit atrocities beyond belief.
It is true, that the preemptive belief that man is inherently weak, bad, or in need is the basis of most religions. It is this belief that can either be celebrated or exploited. The acknowledgment of our weaknesses can be celebrated when we are free to accept and depend upon a God who is ready and available for us. The belief of our weakness can also be horrifically exploited by a government who again use this acknowledgment as a political tool to exploit people and ruin lives.
I am aware that I am not saying anything new. And I am also aware that many of you will not agree with me. In the pursuit of a sense of “progression”, Persians tend to abandon all religious and spiritual belief. And as if this abandonment was not sad enough, we do attack and accuse those who do support this belief as backward, simple minded, repressive, dogmatic, etc.
It is not simply good enough to believe that we are good. We are selfish people with an undeniable knack for manipulating truths and circumstances to fit our own agendas. I have been guilty of it more than once in my life. This is not an article endorsing any one religion. I am simply validating what I perceive as frustration on his part for what seems to be a lack of moral and virtuous women in the Persian community.
The raw question that is left is whether or not morality and true virtue can be attained outside of the help of a God who loves us. It is my belief that it cannot.
I appreciate Ali Reza’s article, and wished more Persian men shared his sentiment.