One thing we need most in this country today is religious tolerance for other people’s beliefs and practices.
I am sure many of you have been receiving religious messages, prayers, Biblical quotations and admonitions from well-meaning Christians. Because this a predominantly Christian country, these individuals presume that the persons to whom they send their messages have the same religious beliefs.
Many of these messages are harmless, but some can be very annoying. One message I recently received, for example, suggested with great assurance that if we pray the Our Father, the Hail Mary and Glory Be three times a day, we will avoid being infected with the coronavirus. One male reader who claimed to be a fan and follower of mine used to send me passages from the Bible quite often. I tolerated this for many months during the quarantine. But when his religious messages became too frequent and kilometric in length, I told him to stop sending them because I have my own religious beliefs. I was surprised that he took offense at this. He immediately replied as follows:
“Sorry I have to delist you from my list of acquaintances. You are the only one who detested my messages, despite the fact that you were a friend. What a shame! Your beliefs are Satanic from the pits of hell. You will soon find out when you die. You are deceiving many people. May God open your eyes.”
This is a typical reaction of dogmatic and fanatic people. They think they are the only ones who hold the truth. All of a sudden my beliefs have become Satanic only because they may differ from theirs. They never realize that there are many different religious beliefs, teachings and practices in the Philippines and all over the world.
I have absolutely no problem with such beliefs that may differ from my own because I have no interest nor intention of converting others. I have great respect for other people’s beliefs which may differ from my own. I have no business trying to change them.
Religion puts man’s mind in a box. Converting from one religion to another is like jumping from one box to another. You are still in a box!
I remember many years ago, I think in the mid-1990s, I was already writing a weekly column for this paper about topics beyond mainstream science and religion. I used to receive every week a handwritten, two-page letter on yellow pad paper from a person with a foreign sounding name, disagreeing with me and quoting passages from the Bible. The typical message was, I am wrong and merely deceiving people and leading them to hell. And he would cite Biblical passages complete with title, chapter and verse.
This went on weekly for many months. What I did whenever I saw his handwriting on yellow paper was to throw it immediately in the waste basket. I never once replied to him.
I began to wonder who this religious fanatic was. Then one day, I received the same one-page handwritten letter on yellow pad with the following message: “Congratulations! You are doing a great job! I am very proud of you. You are helping many people to believe in us.” Then he signed his name, “Satan.”
That’s when I replied to him and said, “Oh, thank you for at last revealing your true self and identity! I have been wondering who has been patiently writing me these letters. Now I know.”