Voices of Faith offers perspectives from religion columnists. This week’s question: Does religion still matter in American life?
A.M. Bhattacharyya, Hindu faith adviser of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council:
My response to those Americans who question the relevance of religion is that every person, in essence, is spiritual at heart.
Love, kindness, compassion, truthfulness, harmony, peacefulness are all outer expressions of inner spirituality. Religion certainly helps your spiritual growth. My own faith teaches me that religion is not just a set of doctrines, dogmas, rituals and holy books to follow. The real purpose of religion is the realization of divine spirit in all of us. If we can get to that stage, we are capable of doing enormous good to ourselves and to others.
There are people who say that, throughout history, religion has been a major cause of conflict. Lots of innocent human blood has been shed in the name of religion and God. Worst of all, it is still going on. But don’t blame the religion. There are fanatics who are ever-ready to exploit a religion for evil purposes.
We all should be vigilant against any form of religious extremism, exploitation and bigotry, but shouldn’t discard religion altogether.
And there are people who say that modern science and technology have solved many mysteries of this world. Ancient ideas about God and the universe are invalid. I say to them: Science and religion are complementary, not contradictory. Science advances our knowledge of physical world. Religion advances our spiritual pursuits.
Syed E. Hasan, Ph.D., Midland Islamic Council:
Popular surveys are a snapshot of public perception of an issue that may have some temporal relevance but cannot be taken as the final find – it is subject to change.
Regardless, I believe that this shifting attitude is not a healthy sign for America. I am of the view that any society without the underpinning of strong moral and ethical values is weak and subject to all kinds of problems.
Looking at the principles on which America was founded, one can clearly see that it has a strong religious basis. Our forefathers had the wisdom and vision to recognize that although state and religion should be separated, they never wanted removal of religion from the public or an individual’s life.
Our early traditions were firmly grounded in religion, and the adoption of moral and ethical codes of conduct in all facets of American life led to the establishment of great institutions – educational, political, and social – that serve as a model for the rest of the world.
A quick look at the number of churches and other religious establishments in the country from the early 17th century to the present is a resounding proof that religion plays a major role in our lives. Even a casual glance at the Declaration of Independence, or the imprint “IN GOD WE TRUST” on our currency, along with many other symbols across the country, all point to the fact that religion is indeed very important in American life.
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