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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

TEXAS FAITH: Does faith in God differ from dogma and morality?

Is there a distinction between faith in God and dogma and morality? As an example, he pointed to how dogma can become an idol of its own. People worship the tenets of their faith, not the God who is behind it.

Eight panelists respond to the question at Dallas Morning News including mine: http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2011/11/texas-faith-does-faith-in-god.html

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas
The first few thoughts that jumped out at me were the story of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the destruction of abortion clinics and denigrating other religions as cults.

Faith in God is personal; it’s been around from the inception of religion.  There never was a singular belief in God, even while Judaism flourished, there was the Zoroastrian religion in their neighborhood and other native traditions in Egypt and Africa, and farther out in China, India, and the Americas they had their own perceptions of God.

Today in America, we have more beliefs than one could imagine.   We have different thumb prints, eye prints, DNA and taste buds; if we can learn to accept the uniqueness of each one’s “religion bud” be it theist or atheist, and respect the God given uniqueness of each one of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.

Dogma is born out of arrogance and insecurities. We seek the short cuts to false satisfaction and believe that our rightness hinges on others’ wrongness. Dogma does not bring joy to anyone, including the believer; we are in eternal tension of righting others rather than living our own lives.  It is the religious, cultural and social Dogma that has created frictions and a generator of conflicts. Humans are born to be free, Dogma wants to chain and humans will resist it.   

Morality is a product of co-existence and survivability; it is the prism that can be laid out on all societies to find their own balance. Religion has added substantially to the morality as a mass media, but it is not the sole source, Morality was alive when the first men had to fight for limited resources and develop a system of trust for them to live in peace and leave their children and women behind when they went hunting.   

My understanding of Prophet Muhammad’s story goes something like this. He found out that some of his associates and disciples were planning on painting his portraits out of reverence for him. Prophet asked them to stop it immediately, and cautioned them neither to paint his pictures nor make his busts and place it on the street corners. The wisdom behind the idea was that someday, the picture will become the object of worship and he will become the idol.  He said, God alone is worthy of worship, I am a mortal being like you and do not worship me, worship the God, the one and only creator.

Thank God Muslims did not make a God out of the Prophet, nor do they worship him.

However his sane advice to keep people focused on God has become the dogma for a few.  A handful of Muslims took to the streets, murdered Van Gogh the cartoonist, burned the Belgium Embassy in Syria, and set cars to fire in Pakistan.  This violence goes completely against the teachings of the prophet and Muslims around the globe have condemned it. Indeed, it is the protests that challenged the cartoonist to draw more aggravating cartoons.  This is a classic example of advice becoming a dogma.

In our own backyard, the advice of God to save a life becomes a violent dogma to the point of murdering Doctors who perform abortions, passing laws against fellow Citizens and declaring others to be cults. Dictating who can and cannot marry each other.

Exchanges and discussions like this will bring awareness and freedom, true salvation to those who are entrenched in dogma. As a society it is our individual and collective responsibility to share the wisdom and learn to live and let live.
Mike Ghouse is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day, his work is indexed at www.MikeGhouse.net

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