Friday, 11 August 2006

Conflict

We had a ridiculous and totally unnecessary fight over religion.
I have always realised that there would always be the underlying tension between my own strict monotheistic iconoclasm and the Catholic beliefs in the divinity of Mary and Jesus and the semi-divinity of the saints. When I visited Catholic churches in Buenos Aires, the sight of all those plaster saints was really shocking to me and it has festered in my mind since then. My youthful repellence at the sight of people in (protestant) churches bowing in front of the cross was bad enough, being in clear contradiction to the Ten Commandments I had learnt at Sunday School: 
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God...
A building packed full of such graven images, more than any Hindu temple, was very difficult to stomach.
I was trying to thank her for sending me a lovely religious Spanish song with words I agreed with. I said that everyone has a natural desire to seek God and to feel His love. It doesn't matter how people address their prayers if they are sincere, God always listens to the supplicant.
She said that Jesus and God were different and that she prayed to Jesus and it was Jesus that heard her prayers and the prayers of all her friends and her mother and it was Jesus that saved my ass and before she was on the scene and praying for me I had a miserable life and it was only Jesus who saved me.
I said that I'm sorry but I don't accept that. Jesus was a human being who lived and died like any other. He was a prophet and close to God. He taught us to pray to ‘our Father’. He didn't teach us to pray to him.
She said I was being disrespectful to her and to her religion by saying that Jesus was nothing.
I denied that I said any such thing.
I said that I respected her and her belief but there was a difference between respect and acceptance. I did not accept the doctrine of original sin and told her that my father, who was not a Muslim, threw a vicar out of his house because he did not believe that children were born sinful. He said that they are born innocent and that it would be a cruel God who would put such an unjust burden on them.
She kept telling me to respect her religion.
I said that respect is one thing; what about respecting my beliefs? It is polytheistic to believe in the Virgin as the mother of God and Jesus and the Holy Ghost and hundreds of saints all of whom are prayed to.
Then she told me that being respectful meant that she wanted me to shut up.