Imagine you were born and raised in a little village in India and your family and everyone you know practices Hinduism. You have never known another religion, have prayed to Hindu Gods, and have been devoted to Hinduism your whole life. You find reason, understanding, love, and peace through your religion and you have never doubted that your religion was right. Then, one day you meet someone of a different religion, and they tell you that you are wrong. That everything you place your faith in is false. There are few people who would respond, “Wow, thank you for telling me that my religion isn’t real! I needed that eye opener…I guess I’ll convert now!” No, almost anyone would be offended, feel attacked, and resent you for insulting their beliefs. It happens to everyone, people will straight up tell you that something you have chosen to believe in is wrong and proceed to tell you why their beliefs are right. Here’s what I think: we have to get off our high horses and open our minds to beliefs and opinions that are different than our own.
But I’m not Hindu, why should I open my mind to something I don’t believe in?
There are so many things in this world to disagree on; from religion to politics and everything in between. Instead of force feeding our views to people who have their own views, why don’t we take the time to learn about our differences? If you are strong enough in your own faith and views, what does it hurt you to learn about someone else’s? If someone was trying with all their might to explain to me the importance of Islam, I would expect them to also sit and listen to why I believe in the Bible, and vice versa. I’m not suggesting that we have to accept all the beliefs of others, but we should try to understand them. How dare we refuse someone’s beliefs and then expect them not to do the same with ours.
Here’s what opening our minds does: eliminates ignorance, builds respect, strengthens relationships, and creates an environment where people aren’t afraid to speak their mind. I will be honest, I don’t know a whole lot about religions other than Christianity. I know why I believe what I do, but I don’t really have much of an understanding of why people of other religions believe what they do. I want to understand. If I am going to disagree with something, I want to know exactly what it is that I’m refuting. I think about it this way: what sense does it make for people to not believe in Christianity if they don’t know the first thing about it? I am firm in my beliefs, I am not going to be swayed, but I am going to be someone that others can share new views with, I am going to be someone who tries my very best to really learn about the person in front of me, I am not going to attack someone for believing something different.
I am a Christian, so why do I want to have an open mind about other religions? I think that you never know what doors can open up by showing interest and learning about someone. People are much more receptive to what you have to say if you are receptive to what they want to say. It’s a great opportunity to get to share your own beliefs while also learning another’s. Sure, you never know when something you say about your beliefs will spark the interest in someone. But, perhaps we don’t always realize that what we do (like listening and learning about each other) can be just as impactful.
People don’t want to sit and be lectured on your religion, especially when they have their own strong beliefs. But watch what happens when you turn the tables…. i.e “What do you think?”, “What does your church do?”. Open your mind and watch others do the same.
So often it seems like discussion, conversation, and respectful debate is obsolete. Instead, we’re just all making our own noise and lost it gets in the abyss of everyone else’s noise…losing the opportunity to connect and truly understand the soul and culture of the people around us.