June 20, 2005

Why are we afraid of religion?

In reading some of the commentary out there about Crazy Tom Cruise, it's interesting seeing how many people use his current odd behavior as an excuse to criticize his religious beliefs. I'm not a Scientologist. I know nothing about Scientology, but based on the little bit I've heard, I'm not going to be converting anytime soon. And I'll fess up to the fact that I don't really see it as a religion at all. However, if Tom Cruise gets something from it and wants to tell everyone about it, that's his own business and I don't know why people have to vilify him for it. I especially wonder about this fear of religion in light of how people similarly attacked Mel Gibson when Passion of the Christ came out. What about having a strong faith in God in this country freaks people out. I don't think people seem so frightened by the celebrities who are into crystal gazing. I'll also state that people who come off as "Holy Rollers" tend to put me off, but I'm not going to tell them they're wrong for believing in their faith so much that they want to share it with other people. Different people make different choices and since neither Tom Cruise nor Mel Gibson seem to be strapping explosives to themselves and then blowing-up busloads of people, I'm going to say they can talk all they want because it's not huring anyone. I think what turns people off so much is the assumption that someone who believes strongly in their faith and religion is probably judging those who don't act out with strong conviction in their own spiritual lives. Do I think some people do judge? Oh, definitely. Do I think all strongly religious people are judging? No, absolutely not. But no one likes to think they are being reprimanded for being a bad boy or girl. And I think that's how people feel when they someone talks strongly about religion because guilt and the idea of what we should be doing is tied up into many religious discussions. I think this negative reaction is indicitive of a current American psyche that wants to put blame outside the individual. I'm not weird for lacking spiritual faith, Tom Cruise/ Mel Gibson is weird for acting like a religous zealot. People like to believe they are somehow not responsible for their lives.

In a lot of ways, I take the entire notion of religious intolerance very personally because I know what it's like to be looked down upon because of my religion. Living in Utah as a non-Mormon is not easy. Not all Mormons are judgmental, but an awful lot are (in my experience). The funny thing is, though, that the people who were most judgmental were the people I'd consider to be the least truly spiritual. They wore their religion like the latest style of clothing. It was something that put them in with the "In Crowd" and they did their best to keep out the nerds. And I really didn't appreciate being treated like scum by people who didn't have clue about Catholicism and what it means. So the people who would put down publicly devout celebrities, what would make you like them better? That they shut up about their beliefs and act like they don't exist? If they are truly committed to their faith, they're not going to care what you think about them because your opinion isn't what counts in their minds.

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