I am no fan of monotheism, whether it be Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. I could write at length on why I believe monotheisms are ill-considered however I’m not going to do that. For the purpose of this article, it simply isn’t important. What is however, and what I’m going to focus on here is the idea of respect across religious traditions because in the end, I don’t have to agree with someone to acknowledge their right to worship their own Holy Powers unmolested.
In the United States we have a very important and emotionally charged anniversary coming up: the nine year anniversary of 9/11. The attacks that occurred on that day polarized relations not only between the U.S. and the Islamic world, but between Islam and Christianity as well and, at the time, our leaders played on this, on our fears, our terror, our ignorance. Such is, the cynic in me points out, par for the course in world politics and we are, as a nation, still coping with the repercussions of those attitudes and actions for better or for worse. Now, we have a religious leader, a supposed “holy man,” in Florida suggesting that we commemorate 9/11 by burning copies of the Koran.
Fundamentalist Pastor Terry Jones recently called for Christians to burn the Islamic holy book on 9/11. Jones, according to interviews, has no particular knowledge of Islam, Sharia, or the Koran. He participates in no interfaith forums. He knows no Muslims personally. But he believes he has to stand up for the “word of God” by burning the word of Allah.(1)
Many people have spoken out in outrage against this suggestion, including General Petraeus, who warned that such an action would only incite more violence.(2) Jones justifies his plan by the assertion that ‘sooner or later we’re going to have to say no to radical Islam.’ (3) Ok. But when are we going to say no to radical Christianity? Or Judaism? Or Paganism for that matter? When are we going to stop using religion as a weapon and learn a modicum of respect?
I am a very devout Heathen. I believe in many Gods and Goddesses. I follow a moral and ethical code derived from my service to those Gods and my understanding of what They want. I stand adamantly against monotheism. I believe fervently that we should take all necessary steps to prevent its spread, to prevent the indoctrination of our children even by the passive proxy of a monotheistic inculcated school culture, and to ensure that there is a broad and inviolable separation of Church and State. I do not, however, believe in burning anyone’s holy book or in any way desecrating any holy item or shrine. I may not be a fan of monotheism but there is a huge difference between objecting to a thing, an idea, a way of looking at the world and attacking the people who hold to this belief. Burning a holy item…that constitutes an incredibly charged, highly emotional, personal attack.
Those of us who are Pagan or Wiccan or Heathen may well have experienced discrimination at some point due to our religious beliefs, maybe even outright harassment. In light of the growing fundamentalism running rampant in our country and our world, in light of the immensely damaging ignorance displayed by those setting themselves up as religious authorities, men like Terry Jones, or Pat Robertson, or Osama bin Laden for that matter, (and frankly, in my opinion, the only difference between them is the number of minions willing to act out violently on their behalf, all in the name of “God”) let us do what we can to stand against this ignorance. Let this be done as an act of devotion to our Gods, because we know better, because those of us struggling to restore religions destroyed by the forced spread of monotheism know all too well where such disrespect, violence, and violation may lead.
Words and exhortations have tremendous power to harm, to corrupt, to destroy. Let us stand against that fundamentalism in word, deed, and in prayer. Let us stand as Pagans, Wiccans, and Heathens against the words and actions of men like Terry Jones who would spit on a God and a religion not their own. One day, men like this may look in our direction. Let us behave in the way we would hope others will behave toward us should that time ever come.