The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. When I throw a stone in the air, it falls back down to the ground. It happens all the time. When I don’t eat, I don’t gain weight. The scale tells me so. These are facts. With facts we don’t argue. If I tell my wife, I believe you are my wife, she will take me to a shrink to see whether I am OK. If someone says, Look, I gained 30 pounds without eating for days, we scratch our heads.
My god is the only true god. Other gods are all false gods. All men are created equal. Black, white, brown, gays, hetros, small, tall, …. There is life after death. These are statements of one’s faith or belief. When I say, I believe, I am also admitting, I don’t know. Also when I say, I don’t believe, I am also admitting, I don’t know.
Those who believe in the life after death and those who don’t believe in the life after death, both don’t know whether there is life after death or no life after death. Since nobody knows, how can we say that others are wrong and we are right?
John says, I believe in God. Tom says, I don’t believe in God. Who is right? John or Tom? Nobody came back from death to report on his finding. We really don’t know. John can be right and Tom can be wrong. Or Tom can be right and John can be wrong. Only God knows. We just believe.
Since we don’t know when it comes to believing, let us not waste our time and energy criticizing other’s faith. I am a Christian. Kim is a Buddhist. Moniem is Muslim. I wish Kim well. I wish Moneim well. I wish that their faiths will help them to lead happy, healthy, and responsible lives on this tiny planet called the earth, as I wish the same for myself.
But what happens when one equates believing with knowing? When St. Paul says, ‘I know my redeemer lives,’ we call him a man of great faith. Henry says, “I know that God of Jesus Christ is the true God.” Moniem says, “I know that God of Mohammad is the true God.” Who is right? Chai or Moniem? We can either say both Henry and Moniem are men of great faith or both of them are self-righteous.
There is a danger when one turns believing into knowing. It breeds self-righteousness, and self-righteousness leads to discord. Discord leads to fighting, torture or killing. Pharisees crucified Jesus because they were sure of their faith was the right one. They equated their faith – believing – with knowing.
When it comes to religion, we are dealing with the unknown. Because it is unknown, we believe. If we understand one aspect of believing is not knowing, we become humble and respect other’s religion as we respect our own.