Religion. Many affiliate with one. Others refuse to.
But it is a popular and sensitive topic that is spoken about on the news now more than ever, typically with a negative connotation. With the topic arises a wide array of emotions and opinions.
All over the news we hear of individuals, who associate themselves with a particular religion, committing heinous crimes. We witness the supposed Muslims crying “Allah is great” before executing an attack. Or, we hear about the supposed Christians targeting the non-believers and using their personal belief as an excuse to carry out the crime. That affiliation then becomes a stereotype. A radicalized Christian or an Islamic terrorist or a Muslim-hating Hindu. The crime becomes linked with their religious identity and, in turn, creates a stigma of the religion.
But why are the two linked? Why is someone’s self-association with a religion and their interpretation of it and the crime they committed coupled together?
All religions, in its true essence, spread the message of love. They’re pure and peaceful. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism. Each religion has the same underlying message in its holy scriptures: be a good person. Then, it’s open to interpretation by the individual.
None of the religions mentioned above explicitly write to harm other individuals. None say to hurt others who don’t believe or disapprove. Ultimately, it encourages nearly the same behaviors and characteristics, though the practices and other spiritual beliefs differ religion by religion.
Yet, there are individuals who commit crimes who define themselves as a Hindu or Christian or Muslim. And over the years, we, the public, or the news, link the two. We link their personal vendetta, individual interpretation, psychological issues with a religion that never taught or approved of any of it. These are individuals who exploit ancient teachings and abuse its scriptures to justify their crime.
And that’s what we have to keep in mind.
The individual does not represent the entire religion. Nor, does that individual represent other individuals who follow the true teachings of the religion. There must be a clear distinction of the two.
Because a person who burns down a mosque who defines themselves as a Hindu is not Hindu. A person who attacks a large group of people who affiliates themselves with Islam is not Muslim. And, a person who belittles a group due to their race and proclaims it is on behalf of Christianity is not Christian.
When an individual commits a hateful crime, blame the individual. When an individual sets a building on fire, blame the individual. When an individual attacks a temple, blame the individual. And, when an individual terrorizes a country, blame the individual.
Do not blame the religion which, at its core, spreads only love and peace. Blame the individual who exploited the religion.
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