Try a Little Tolerance
|Mary Wakefield Buxton|
by Mary Wakefield Buxton
Urbanna, Va.— I was sorry to read in the Sentinel last week that someone had complained that a prayer is said before county board of supervisors meetings. This complaint apparently triggered a threat of a lawsuit on the grounds that a moment of expressing thanks to God before a public gathering would violate the separation of church and state.
Please, isn’t this America, the land of tolerance? We don’t all have the same religious or political views, but we have always tolerated our differences.
If someone would like a moment of prayer before serving the public, let’s give them that moment. After all, anyone who serves the public in any capacity needs more than prayers these days.
All Americans, religious or not, are reminded that if we want to continue individual freedom, we will have to continue tolerance. Without tolerance of our differences, we quickly evolve into a totalitarian society where the state dictates to everyone the proper way to speak, think and behave. I don’t want to live in such a world. Do you?
To those who claim to have “no religion,” I lived many years with no religion even though I sometimes attended church. I did this because I thought I might learn something of value in church.
I lacked religion because of my bonding with a strong father, who was an atheist. He taught me belief in God was weakness and that strong people should not be dependent on any force . . . whether it be God or government. He said that a man should be moral, upright and honorable not because he feared God, but because it was the proper right way to live.
In college there was no mention of God, so I grew up well read but totally Godless. Still, I felt I lacked something—a faith in a force higher than man. Worse, I saw that man was deeply flawed and that his behavior was constantly disappointing.
Godless people, of whom there are so many today, can get to God without established religion (which turns so many people off), and I hope they will. In my mind, man can’t live without God, especially when the going gets tough, which it will.
Here’s how I got to God even from a Godless background. I put aside the Bible, which to me was a beautiful collection of man’s early history of seeking God (we all have different brains and each has to find his own path to truth) and read Stephen Hawking’s brilliant “The Universe,” where I learned the latest theories on how the universe and galaxy were formed.
I saw that everything came from a massive explosion billions of years ago of the first material, and that all things we know today are a part of that first material and that nothing can enter the universe that did not come out of that first material and nothing can escape the universe.
Since I can’t believe the universe came from nothing, I came to believe that initial fantastic burst of energy and original matter, the “God particle,” as it is called, is the force we call God. I believe that this original matter is embedded in each living and non-living thing and that there is no escape from the laws of physics that govern us.
Because we are made of this force, I believe all of us have great potential to do good and wondrous things. Of course, no one can prove there is a God at this point in time, but I believe that one day through scientific advancement man will know the answers. (Hawking theorizes there are billions of universes, so be prepared for a long wait.)
Then I read the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’ teaching that we love our neighbor like ourselves and that we forgive others. I saw this idea was extraordinary, universal and leant a simple formula (though most difficult to follow) to attain highest human behavior.
Life experience certainly demonstrates there are some neighbors that are difficult to love. But Jesus commands us to love them, no matter what. I think it’s a goal worth working for because one reason I love living in Urbanna is simply that most people in town love and forgive their neighbors. It makes for a lovely place to live.
How we treat one another is religion to me. And tolerance of how others define religion is part of my equation. If I want others to tolerate my ideas on religion, I have to give them the same in return. Who wants to live in a goose-stepping world anyway . . . where everyone marches to the same beat?
If the supervisors want to take a minute to give thanks to God, it’s all right with me. The idea of God never offends me. It’s intolerance that offends me. Amen.