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Religious 'idiots,' not 'saints,' responsible for the problems

September 11, 2010|By LLOYD "PETE" WATERS

As I reflect on Sept. 11, 2001, those 19 hijackers, the many victims of their horrific deed and the great divide between so many religions, I thought about some other religious behaviors.

I remember, as a young boy growing up in Dargan, my grandmother thought it a good idea that I go to church. She got me up one morning, I put on my best duds and my neighbor, a good religious woman, took me to Sunday school.

My neighbor liked to sit in the front pew.

As I listened intently to the preacher's sermon, he seemed to stare right at me. He preached that if you wanted to go to heaven, you had to be very, very good and follow the word. Bad behavior would result in a trip to a much hotter place.

I got the message loud and clear, and based on my behavior, I suspected my trip to eternity was not going to occur.

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That was the first and last time I went to that church.

Some months later, the preacher's behavior became the gossip of our little town, and recalling his words from the sermon, I thought he, too, might have some problems finding his way to eternity.

After many years of travel and engaging many people in conversation about their different faiths, I have made a few conclusions.

Religious "idiots" and not the "saints" always seem to cause the most problems.

As I think about that September morning in 2001, I am more convinced than ever that misguided "idiots" were responsible for that terrorist act.

Does that mean that the entire religion that those "idiots" were associated with is to blame?

Some of the very victims of that attack included those of the Muslim faith. They worshipped the same God.

When I read some of the war reports from the Middle East, I often hear criticism when the American military strikes include some civilian casualties, but there is hardly a whimper when one religious fanatic kills innocent women and children.

On more than one occasion, I came up with the notion that religious behavior should better be defined in terms of "good" and "evil" instead of Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.

There are many "good" religious people in the world who have done some very noble deeds. Mother Teresa of Calcutta perhaps epitomizes the nature of good in her work with the poor. She is a fine example of the Catholic religion.

Tim McVeigh was raised and confirmed a Catholic. He was an American terrorist who detonated a truck bomb that killed 168 innocent people in a federal building in Oklahoma City. Does that make all Catholics terrorists?

When I think a little more of Christianity, I find Billy Graham to be a pretty good role model.

David Koresh of the Waco incident and Jim Jones of Guyana fame demonstrated some "idiotic" behavior as alleged Christians.

Are all Christians bad because of these examples that fall short of the expected standard?

Even King David, a very special Jewish King in those days long before Dargan, had a few weak moments and did some pretty bad deeds, according to the record.

Did that mean, for those who were watching, that the Jewish nation was filled with leaders who had no respect for others?

In 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the "War Relocation" for 110,000 Japanese living in this country because of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Did any of these Japanese-Americans pose a real threat to the American government?

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation that "apologized" to this group for the 1942 action. This legislation attributed the actions of the government to "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership."

Is our country suffering from the same behavior today?

I'm not yet ready to condemn one religious group because of a few "idiots" who occupy their ranks, for if we look close enough, those characteristics of "good" and "evil" can be found in each of us.

Lloyd "Pete" Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail

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