For six years in a row, I have been taking the beliefnet quiz about one’s religiosity. I have scored 100 straight as Unitarian Universalist, 97 for Quakers, 86 for Reformed Judaism; 85 for Neo Paganism; 78 for Baha’i and most others around 70, but the lowest score came for Catholicism; 49.
As a Pluralist, it has bothered me, what am I missing? What is it that makes me score so low? My score for Islam remains around 74, Hinduism 69 and Catholicism 49, which was 35 six years ago. I figured my lower score for Islam (my own faith) and Hinduism – was caused by difference in the ritual side of religion and polytheism respectively.
More pictures :http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeghouse/sets/72157633131363627/show/
Three factors contributed to the lower score on Islam – i) Hijab, the scarf Muslim women wear is not mandated by religion, it is a cultural thing, whereas the quiz was geared as if Hijab format worn today is religiously mandated, ii) Sharia, the law designed to serve justice is not divine, it was a body of law created by men inspired by Quran and Prophet’s saying. But since it is human, it has flaws that need updating and iii) There is no punishment for Apostasy or Blasphemy in Quran, even though it is carried out by a few Muslim majority nations.
I had no idea why my score on Catholic faith was less than 70, so I set out to learn and remove the sense of guilt I have had. In just one month, the new Pope, Pope Francis, the real man of the spirit has extraordinary impact on me; I have read everything about him. He is a true servant of God and I will do anything I can for him to bring about peace on earth, and about mitigating religious conflicts, particularly between Muslims, Catholics, Christians, Jews and Hindus.
God has blessed me to have a presence in every religious gathering including Native Americans and Pagans. The only one I have not been to is the Ismaili Muslim worship. I hope to achieve that this coming Ramadan.
Few of the most beautiful Catholic Churches I have been are in Louisville, KY – London, UK - Bangalore, India - and Cathedral Guadalupe in down town Dallas.
I chose Mary Immaculate Catholic Church for Easter services for three reasons; i) named after a woman, the woman Muslims admire and put on the highest of the pedestals, ii) close to my office and iii) no one knew me there. It turns out I knew many including Richard Sombrero of Dept of Justice, and the former council man at City of Carrollton.
I sat in the same pew as the couple in the picture with me – Marci and Mike. She helped me understand a few more rituals than I knew. Even then I goofed up, I was to place my hands on my chest as I walked in the line, and then stretch my hand to receive the Eucharist, I just kept my hands folded, the minister and I were looking at each other for a few seconds, she did not get the signal and I forgot to extend my hand. Any way I moved on there was a line behind me, I wanted to eat that wafer thin coin sized thing... may be next time. I just cannot believe I did that, and now I know why my score was low on belief-net.
The 12:00 clock mass was conducted by Msgr. Andy Sagra, the parochial vicar. I loved his sermon, even though he is from Philippines, the way he read from the Bible was very rhythmic, when he was singing, his songs sounded like the way we Indians attempt to sing English songs in Indian tunes and Indian accent, and it was pleasant and funny. Whether we (the Indians) recite the verses in Latin (Christians), Sanskrit (Hindus) or Arabic (Muslims), we Indians convert everything into tunes of popular movie songs of yester years. Msgn Sagar's songs sounded like Indian songs and I just loved it. Its just not me, even the Priest sings like me, ha!
Once again, it is Pope Francis who has become a catalyst in my inclination to learn more about Catholicism. His Humility sounds like what is taught in Islam to be a Khaksaar, the one who loves dirt, meaning serving others. I salute the new Pope and I see an emerging pluralist like Jesus in him, and God willing, I will make an effort to meet with him.
Some of my work on Catholic tradition in the last thirty days:
- I welcomed him on the day he was elected, I congratulated him; http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2013/03/congratulations-to-pope-francis.html
- Dallas Morning News - What piece of Advice would you give the New pope http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2013/03/texas-faith-what-piece-of-advice-would.html
- Huffington Post - Pluralist Muslim Celebrating Easter http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ghouse/a-muslim-pluralist-celebrates-easter_b_2976582.html#es_share_ended
- The essay on Christian- Muslim conflict is shared; http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2013/03/congratulations-to-pope-francis.html
- I wrote for another Journal - its not published yet, I will add the link when they do.
- I am pleased to see several Muslim websites post some of my articles on Easter. http://imamsalim.com/blog/2013/03/31/mike-ghouse-a-muslim-pluralist-celebrates-easter/
We have had some serious discussions on the topic at the face book, and I have summarized the closing as follows:
The civic and social need to know each other to remove the barrier between me/us and the “stranger” is religiously guided in Quran 49:13 – The best ones among you are the ones who know each other and learn about each other. This comes right after stating that he has created us into many nations and diverse tribes – God knows that we are bound to have conflicts because of the differences and security motivations, then he says, the best one is the one who learns about the other. And I add, If we can learn to respect the otherness of others, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.
As Ismail Bey shared that Prophet and Ali attended Synagogues and Church Services, I need a reference to consolidate this item.
Prophet has set the example of kissing the Torah to show (teach) respect to the book among his followers (even though Quran says that a few Jews have changed parts of the Torah). Making peace and nurturing goodwill is a consistent and dominant value Prophet taught.
Prophet was the first one to initiate interfaith dialogue as Moses, Krishna, Buddha and Jesus did not have that chance. When Christians of Najran wanted to take a break to go pray outside, Prophet offered them to pray in his own Mosque – the Masjid e Nabawi. Prophet knew very well that they would pray to Jesus as a son of God, but yet, he asked them to pray.
I can recall several more examples, but the point is it is not shirk ( anti-monotheism) to observe and not a shirk to participate.
At the Church today – I did not say the prayers, there was one short prayer that was generic without invoking Jesus as the lord, I said Amen to that. I did not bow, I would have if it was just God and no one but God. I was there to be with people to understand them, to appreciate their devotion to the creator; however they may take that creator; a non-being or son of a God. It is their belief and not mine.
Understanding creates respect for the differences. Insecurity about falling into the other camp creates barriers. I rather have a strong faith in whatever I believe, rather than live in fears that I might change, in which case, I did not have the faith to begin with.
I was in Mexico for a week to visit Maya Temples with my friends, almost everyone was enjoying the drinks in the evening, I quietly drank the Soda or the Virgin margaritas, and they had their drinks. This is the real world we live in. You draw your own lines. I don't drink Alcohol and that is my choice, but don't have to flaunt it.
I chose Islam to be my religion, not because it is superior or Godly, I chose it because it is about creating societies where we all can live in harmony. God created everything in balance (spiritual and physical ) and it is our responsibility to preserve it.
I have made a careful choice to draw the line on religious terms and in the article I made it clear in that article.
Jesus is indeed a unifier and will herd us all towards the elusive kingdom of heaven, where we will live an eternal life free from anxieties, fears and disappointments. The Muslim expression for such life comes from surrendering to the will of God.
Whether Jesus was buried and resurrected, or taken up by God, faith in him is shared by more than half of the world inclusive of Muslims and Christians. Whether you believe in Jesus or not, his message of love thy enemy, love thy neighbor and forgive the other will set us free. Can we celebrate that message?
To this Muslim, Easter represents resurrection of Jesus through his message, and Easter is a symbolic day to celebrate that message. We have our own religious boundaries, but that should not prevent us from becoming the Amins (truthful and trustworthy) of the society.
Thomas, I hope this eases you a bit. Let me know.