April 13, 2001 Halifax Herald

Red Jacket got it right when it comes to religion

Based on a firm belief that the Great Spirit is goodness incarnate, I'm convinced that He loves Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Native American Naturalists and others equally.

Thus, I firmly believe that He would support their right to worship in any manner they wish without molestation from anyone. What difference does it make if you worship in a Temple or standing under the stars?

This timeless advise given to a Christian missionary in colonial times by Seneca Chief Red Jacket is still the ultimate path to follow in these matters:

"Brother, you say there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people (Christians) differ so much about it?...

“Brother, we do not understand these things. We are told that your religion was given to your forefathers, and has been handed down from father to son. We also have a religion, which was given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us.... It teaches us to be thankful for all the favours we receive; to love each other, and to be united. We never quarrel about religion.

“Brother, the Great Spirit has made us all, but he has made a great difference between his white and red children. He has given us different complexions and different customs....Since he has made so great a difference between us in other things, why may we not conclude that he has given us a different religion?

“Brother; we do not wish to destroy your religion, or take it from you, we only want to enjoy our own."

The conviction people have in religious beliefs is commendable. That is until it leads to their religious denomination believing that it alone is the keeper of the truth and that all others are infidels who cannot enjoy the love of God unless they convert.

When these vehicles of truth begin to fight among themselves to try to curry favour with God, repression begins and often innocent human blood flows.

The religious fanatics who start these crusades, piously warping religious tenets to justify the unspeakable cruelties they commit against humanity in the Great Spirit's name, must think that He is a sadist.

There is no foundation for such beliefs because all great religious books, the Bible, the Koran, the Torah etc. teach love, forgiveness, compassion. They do not teach mayhem.

Yet innocent people are being slaughtered, imprisoned and denied human and civil rights around the world today because the teachings of these great books are warped by lunatics.

In Northern Ireland, Protestants and Catholics mixing it up. In the Balkans, it’s Roman and Orthodox Catholics and Muslims having a hate-in. In other countries its Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, you name it, all having a go at each other.

Then in such countries as Iran and Afghanistan, the fanatics have turned upon their own. Women in these countries are especially victimized, suffering second-class citizenship, if that. And in Afghanistan, unbelievably, should a man shave, he is severely punished. Freedom of expression is but a dream. All this evil is done in the name of the Creator!

The Western democracies, with long histories of religious hate in their own backgrounds, help perpetuate this state of affairs. Let’s review a few example of how it’s done.

Kuwait, an autocratic dictatorship was overrun in 1991 by another autocratic dictatorship, Iraq, which claimed that Kuwait was its province.

The West became very upset and intervened and restored and guaranteed Kuwait's borders. This wasn't done for the moral reason of restoring democracy because you can't restore something to a country that never had it.

It was done for something very crass: Black Gold, oil. If morality was of concern in such instances then the West should have become indignant and intervened when Tibet, no oil and very poor, was overrun by China.

Then there is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The West and other countries are busily arming both sides to the teeth. The probable reason is because selling killing materials keeps munitions factories running full blast and earns billions and billions of dollars for investors.

If it wasn't for this, perhaps a way to peace could be found.

One of the best options for peace would be for NATO to guarantee Israel's borders, access to Jerusalem for all religions, and the borders of a new Palestinian state.

This would be far preferable to spending billions arming them to kill one another. The money saved could be used to help the combatants build strong economies and to pay reparations to those Palestinians who lost their lands and homes when Israel was created.

Until a way is found to provide justice for all who have been adversely affected by events that were beyond their control in the area, peace cannot be had.

This all reaffirms my belief that a country must keep church and state separate if its citizens are to remain free and enjoy peace.

Whenever the two are mixed, a great many people eventually suffer, including those closest to the zealots who start the acrimony.

Howard Epstein's recent suggestion that public Christian prayer be banned from the legislature was roundly criticized by many.

Why? It seems very reasonable to me that the prayers that one religious denomination uses to communicate with God should not be forced upon another.

Two minutes of silence before a session would permit all MLA's an opportunity to do it their way.

Daniel N. Paul


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