Thursday, September 9, 2010

Religious Narcissism

I've decided to coin a new term: religious narcissism. It may already exist, but I'm going to pretend its my original idea anyway. What is religious narcissism? For some reason I watched a video yesterday that features interviews with some of the 'people' at Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally. I guess I'm just a glutton for torture or something (maybe I would've been in good company at the rally then). In this video, you will bear witness to astoundingly stupid and egocentric comments, not only of a political nature, but of a religious nature too. This is what I call religious narcissism - being so absorbed in your own faith that you gloss right over it when you criticize other faiths for things that your very own could be indicted for.

First case in point, about 7 minutes into the video, one guy asks rhetorically, "How many mosques are in New York right now? There's a bunch of 'em. Why do they need another one?" Why do they need another one? Is there a limit on the number of worship centers a religion should be able to build in America? Does this individual happen to know how many churches are in New York? I wonder if he knows that two churches, St. Paul's and St. Peter's, are actually the closest religious buildings to ground zero. At least he has to be aware that there are tons of churches in New York, and by his rationale, one can easily ask, 'why build any more churches?' Hmm. Maybe he's onto something.

Immediately after Mr. Too Many Mosques, another rally attendee explains that "Islam is not just a religion... it's a lifestyle. It's economic, it's judicial, it's religious, it's a comprehensive lifestyle." The irony here is that this same man, wearing a t-shirt praising God, elsewhere quotes the bible to help explain why he feels Obama is a racist. Once again, all of these statements can be applied to Christianity as well as Islam. Conservative Christians often fervently argue that America is founded on Christian principles, that the ten commandments were instrumental in our legal system, and so forth. Some of the Christians I meet are downright proud to call Christianity a lifestyle, which I'm betting would also be the case with a man wearing a religious t-shirt and quoting scripture - so what exactly is the point in calling Islam a lifestyle?

Finally, about 9 and a half minutes into the video, a man disgracefully wearing a Constitution t-shirt tells the interviewer, "I learned all I needed to know about Islam on 9/11". This is definitely my favorite quote from the whole video, because it speaks such volumes about the ignorance, arrogance, and intolerance of the Tea Party lunatics and worshipers of Glenn Beck. From one single event, you learned all you needed to know about a 1300 year old religion. Could I then say that I learned all I needed to know about Christianity from studying the witch trials? The crusades? The Inquisition? Abortion doctor slayings? Of course not. That would be unfair, they'd say. You can't judge a religion by some misguided followers. Well, not unless it's Islam.

I hear a lot from these Tea Party members about getting back to traditional American values, but one thing I'd be interested to see is for these self-proclaimed Christian 'patriots' to try and get back to the values Jesus taught. "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you," Matthew 7:12 reads. The golden rule is not perfect, nor are all of Jesus' teachings truly valuable, in my opinion, but at a basic level, I think it is a wise and moral thing to try and put yourself into other people's shoes. Even in general, if you wish for your beliefs to be respected and not unfairly discriminated against, you ought to be willing to extend the same courtesy to those of other beliefs. Some beliefs are indeed dangerous, and those should rightfully be condemned, but blanket statements are always unjust. Not all Muslims are terrorists, not all Christians kill abortion doctors, and - to be fair - not all Tea Party members are raving Beckerfaces... though sometimes it may seem closer to the truth then not.