Saturday 1 February 2014

Religious intolerance is not a Canaanite (or religious) value

When I was young I enjoyed learning about many religious paths.  I saw them as many ways of reflecting truths given to different nations or cultures.  This is reflected in the idea of each of the 70 nations after the flood having its own guardian deity.  I have in my life spoken with Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Hellenists, Kemetics, Wathanists, Yezidis, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, and more.  I have visited many beautiful churches, stopped by gurdwaras, and admired the beauty of synagogues and mosques.  I have admired the glory of temples of many traditions.  I have engaged in their prayer services and I have had spiritual experiences there.

However, in recent times I've come to realize that not everyone shares this view.  Religious intolerance is nothing new of course.  Even in older times though, it might not be 'intolerant' so much as having chiefly political motivations.  An example is when the Philistines conquered a city, they defiled its temple by raising livestock there.  When the Assyrians conquered cities they destroyed the idols of its gods.  King Xshayarsha I of Persia brought his Persian army to suppress worship of Babylonian and Assyrian warlike deities in western Iran for fear of daeva (demon) worship and blood cults.  Much can also be said about the rise of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  The idea that your own god will protect you against the false gods of foreigners sprung up especially in times of war.

But it doesn't have any religious backing to it.  We especially as Canaanites should learn to put religious intolerance aside.  Calling other religions false religions, or demon-worshiping cults, does nothing to help our own.  All it does is alienate other people.  We mock and deride others yet we would not like it done to ourselves.  Instead, we should live virtuously and piously by obeying the gods.  In Ugarit the people prayed to many gods of other nations and were afraid to disrespect others.  We forget in our mortal short-sightedness sometimes that the great God himself has appointed spiritual beings to watch over all people, and that all ways can have some shards of truth in them (or reflections of truth). 

This goes for within our own tradition to.  There are Canaanites with a number of different theological viewpoints.  Rather than accusing them of being heretics or demon-worshipers, we should remember that just as different people prefer different things, so too we have different religions for this reason.

What remains certain is that religious intolerance has no religious basis to it.  There is no reason or purpose behind it.  Just remember that followers of other faiths are not your 'enemies'.  That is a simplistic worldview.

Ultimately we should remember that while nobody knows the answer to the question of how many gods there are, or whether some gods are really demons or devils, the fact still remains people still have God-given free will and freedom of choice to choose that way for themselves.  If it is a non-harmful lifestyle choice then you must allow them free will.  Our ancestors did this, and so should we (though they weren't always perfect, and neither are we).

Rather than waste energy on bashing or deriding other faiths, we Canaanites should instead spend energy on helping to promote and defend our own.  We should show the world what a glorious tradition is really is, and shatter their misconceptions, without resorting to a mud-slinging match in which we bash them for their freedom of choice.

To close, I would like to offer a proverb from a temple wall in Tadmor:

"Do not insult a god that you do not worship."

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