Saudi Arabia: How is Faith Found and Followed?


Any post that relates to aspects of religion, regardless of which religion, seem to generate a lot of emotional responses.  Ultimately those responses lead into heated debates rather than an active dialogue of understanding.  Therefore, this daily post is very simple and direct.  Share YOUR story!  How did you find and follow the faith of your choice?  If you are a Christian, what is your story?  When did you fully understand and accept Christ as your Lord and Savior?  If you are a Muslim and were born into Islam, how do you define your faith and its importance to you?  If you were not born into Islam but have chosen Islam as the faith you follow share when, how and why.

This is an opportunity to share and listen.  It’s what interfaith dialogues are supposed to be about.  I know American Bedu followers can share these details if he or she chooses and we can have a dialogue rather than any heated debate.

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59 Responses

  1. I admire your attempt at interfatih dialogue…i’m not so sure it won’t get heated. fingers crossed :-)

  2. nothing ventured, nothing gained!

  3. Okay…I’ll start. I was raised protestant Christian with two pastors (religious leaders) in the family (not my parents, thankfully). I was expected to go to church every Sunday. Even though I was raised Christian, we were never taught to pray to Jesus, only to God (by my parents). I never really quite understood the trinity concept, or the thought of someone being raised from the dead. (Although, I did hear of a newsworthy story once where someone woke up in a morgue…interesting…)

    Since I was also raised to question things, including scientific and religious theories, if something didn’t make sense, I sought to find out why. There was one point in my life where I was completely questioning my beliefs. Having grown up in the church, I also happened to grow up around church politics (nasty, petty business at times). I got to see both the good and bad churches could do. I quit going when I realised that church was/is more of a cultural hangout. (I say cultural because some of the people I hung out with weren’t welcome there, and if I didn’t act the same as the others attending the church, then I didn’t really feel welcome there. I’m not your typical WASP, I guess. LOL.) I also knew more about Christianity than most of the members, and felt like people were trying to interpret the Bible in a way that fell in line with what they individually believed not in the way it was originally intended.

    I ended up, in the middle of this, attending an on-campus Korean Christian association (didn’t fit in there, either, but felt welcomed at first). This organization stressed praying out loud and fasting. I tried both, but it really didn’t seem to make a difference. I watched someone close to me develop an eating disorder due to fasting too much (i.e. inappropriately), and so I basically quit religion altogether. I began questioning it even more, and if I didn’t know how I felt about something, I just made what I thought to be the best choice at the time.

    I still believe in God, because I don’t think worlds could be created on accident. I really believe most religions pray to God/Allah/the energy that creates the universe/etc. I believe that sometimes, some outside force helps us (though typically we ourselves determine where we go). I don’t believe in a pre-determined destiny, though I believe we are all created with certain strengths and weaknesses. However, the greatest thing stopping people from doing something is him/herself. In other words, just because someone may not naturally excel at math or science doesn’t mean they can’t one day become an engineer, scientist, or doctor. I believe a lot of it is really how hard someone is willing to work. And IMO, most people don’t want to have to work hard. (That, or my definition of working hard is far above that of others, which is probably more accurate.)

    I have read some on other religions, but don’t agree fully with any of them. I don’t believe in having to perform religious rituals. I believe that either we try and do the right thing and help others, or we don’t. And within that, we have a lot of choices, such as what profession we choose for example. As someone once told me, there are good and bad things about every religion. So, I just consider myself monotheistic.

  4. I was born into Islam. I had no choice but stay Muslim because if choose another religion, I am dead. Christians, Jews, Hindus and everyone else can embrace another faith and no on cares.

    First question to Muslim brothers and sisters is why Islam is the only religion that is shoved in its adherents’ throats?

    Second question is if one of your brothers or sisters you love dearly decides to embrace another faith, would you support their decision and love them the same way before they change their religion.

    Sorry American Bedu for the little diversion above.

  5. Lori, Ali,

    Thanks for coming forward and sharing.

    I think you both have raised very good questions. My desire is that readers who choose to answer (and further question) do so in the intent of dialogue and sharing. I am sincere in the desire to learn and understand from one another.

    Mother Hen Bedu

  6. @Ali, I don’t think Islam is unique in it’s approach. I think every person who follows a religion raises their children in it and many (not all) will have a problem when their children choose a different path. I was raised Catholic and became a Muslim. It took four years for my mother to start speaking to me again. From the time we are children (if our parents are particularly religious and obviously there will be exceptions including Muslim parents) we are taught religion. As a Catholic for most of my life, I can say in all honesty that my religion was seriously shoved down my throat. In fact, as a Muslim I’ve been able to follow m own path and choices more so than when I was Catholic. Maybe it is due to lack of organization Islam has in the US when compared with other more established religions, but that’s my experience. The people around us who claim are trying to guide us are going to feed us law, belief, scripture, behaviors, etc. no matter what religion we claim.

  7. Oh an to answer you second question, my answer (can’t speak for anyone but myself) is that yes I would continue to love someone regardless of their choice. I have a cousin who not only left the Catholic church, but he also happens to be gay and he is my best friend and confidant and he has my unconditional love for life regardless of his choices. He still has the same heart he has always had. Your question is very personal. No one is going to have the same reason for their answer. Muslims are not all going to answer or feel the same.

  8. I agree with you that there should be inter-religious debate in a dispassionate manner, with cool mind, respecting each others views and faith. while discoursing one should keep in mind that the listener is his brother who per chance has adopted a different religion. Essentially all religions carry good things which are common in them. The need of the hour is that men should follow and observe those good things instead of indulging in loose talks and trying to show the other religion down.

  9. I am a born muslim.I was happy that I am a muslim and had no idea about other religiones and other 6 bilion people .then 9/11 happend( I was 18).that special day changed my life,my ideas toward my faith and way of life of near 1 bilion people.
    there are fundamental questions about Islam that no one has a answer for them,most scholars and majority of muslims pretend that there is no un answered question and Islam is the best way of life. .but it is not reality.
    if I was born in a liberal family( who didnot practice Islam) and let their kids choose their religion, I am sure that I would not choose Islam.

  10. I was born Christian, raised Protestant in an otherwise Catholic family. I became a Muslim, without knowing any Muslims, based on the faith alone and the answers it gave me to questions I had before I even knew what Islam was.

    Ali asks some questions and makes some assumptions that are false.

    Islam is NOT the only religion shoved down the throats of it’s adherants. Only someone who has never been around the devout of other faiths could say such a thing. I have seen Catholicism, Judaism and Protestantism shoved down the throats of many people, whether by friends, family, or in some cases (like Israel) the state.

    As to what would happen if another Muslim I new decided to change their faith, would it change the way I view them, the answer is no. That is between that person and G_d. As long as they didnt try to push their beliefs onto me, there would be no problem. I am not a big fan of pushy religious people whether they share my faith or not.

    If you think that it is a simple thing for a Christian, Jew of Hindu to accept another religion, again I would contend do you not know any devout peoples of these faiths. For my Christians leaving their faiths causes them to loose their entire families and their friends. Imagine a Jew converting to Islam, I know a few. How do you think that goes over with their Jewish family and friends? Any better for a Jew converting to Christianity? A Catholic converting to a Protestant?

    The quick answer is no. Ali, you questions make it clear you come from a secular life and have little or no close interactions with people who are devout, no matter their faith. If you did you would asribe these things as being solely things that happen to and around Muslims. I know one co-worker, a Hindu who converted to Islam, who can tell you the death threats and the loss of his family and how it all came from him no longer being a Hindu.

  11. this is a brilliant post Carol! i think it is good to see where others are coming from :)

    i was born (don’t like that term) and raised catholic to fairly religious parents. i always rebelled against going to church on sunday and didn’t take the time to learn about my religion.
    i prayed the way i was taught to pray but not to Jesus, to God.

    over a year ago i met my, now ex, muslim bf. he is a practicing muslim who wanted me to convert so that we can be together. i started researching islam and at some point i was very close to converting but something didn’t feel quite right. i tended to read islamic websites only but still some things didn’t make sense no matter how hard i try to find scholary responses that would make me accept things i was finding unacceptable. my ex-bf failed to provide any consistent answers so he took an easy way out by blaming me for not reading with an open mind or not doing dua properly.

    then i read the qur’an and i knew islam is not for me. the mere reading made me misanthropic.
    my ex could not conceive the idea of being with a non-muslim, even though he claimed to love me more than himself, because according to him being a non-muslim is the worst thing that can happen to you and i guess being with one dooms you to hell fire.

    i know if it wasn’t for islam, we would most likely be together but since islam divides people into believers (the good) and unbelievers (the worst of the creatures), he found it impossible to be with me.

    learning about islam made me look into my faith. i cannot believe in god that divides people. this is not the kind of morality i would consider superior. i rejected both religions and now i’m an agnostic and happy with my fence sitting :)

    i really look forward to reading other people’s comments, should be interesting!

  12. I was born into a Muslim family and from a young age I saw contradictions in what I was taught about Islam and what people around me practised. Allah is Most Merciful, but my father was always punishing.
    I grew to love Allah, all His Prophets (pbut) and many aspects of Islam and in my late teens realised that the areas I resisted were very much around my father’s austere interpretation about Islam. I went on to study comparative religions and was moved and fascinated by the many ways mankind has found through time to connect with, revere and serve God, the Creator, the Sustainer. I was always interested to see what people throughout time have established and pursued in religion that is similar, common and the benefits of that to society. It was in this phase that I CHOSE to be a Muslim and to empower myself with knowledge of the teachings of Quran and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and not be swayed by cultural interpretations that may skew those teachings and empower some groups over others.
    I believe that my Faith/ Imaan, is about my own relationship with Allah, and that follwing Islam is using it as a guide in my dealings with others, regardless of their religious affiliation to make the difference I want to make in the world. And I want to make a positive difference. I want to leave a legacy of love, learning, understanding and respect. I want to uplift the poor, feed the hungry and teach the illiterate. My studies of the life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is that this is how he lived fostering relatedness, understanding and love and bringing about social transformation. I have never come across a single tradition inwhich he calls people of other faiths “the worst of creatures”- in fact he married a woman who retained her own faith and this is accepted in Islam. Nor did he constantly defend his view- he called people towards service of God and took up arms when he and his people were threatened and prevented the freedom to practice freely.
    He taught others the wisdom and benefit behind the rituals. This seems lost today where the focus is so much on DOING them and not on how to BE so that the ritual becomes SPIRITUAL- a time to lovingly speak to Allah, share my hearts concerns and be confident that He is listening and opening a way in His Universe for me and all His creation calling on Him. I have come to appreciate the set times of prayer as a necessary timeout/detox zone inwhich I can clear away the accumulation of stress, anxiety or frustration that often comes with a full work day and be completely heard by the One who controls all.
    I use the teachings of Islam as my guide to being a contribution in the world, as a means of self expression. My hijab is a regard I have for myself- I wear it smartly and with pride- I love colour and see it as Allah’s bounty. I am no longer bound to my dad’s view of Islam, or other members of the Muslim community.
    But I don’t have to fight them either- I can be tolerant of them as I expect them to be of me and my way. And I can -and do- promote learning as a path to freeing one of the limitations we accept from others. I seek knowledge and understanding and practice in a way that is uplifting to me and powered by real choice and consciousness of my return, ultimately, to Allah.

  13. Agreed with Strangemone.

    I was raised in a non-religious household, although we would go to the Congregational Church every Christmas ansd sing Christmas carols…that is it.
    I did go through a religious stage in my life and reconfirmed my faith as Presbyterian but that was 15 years ago.
    At the moment, I think all religions have validity. I thought of joining the Baha’i or Uniterian Universlalist but again, I am not much of ‘joiner’.

  14. I was born into a not-so strict Muslim family. We knew about fasting and prayers but were not very regular. I always wondered why it was like that. One Ramadan I started fasting by myself because I was filled with quilt when everyone else was fasting and my family was not. I would fast half a day to satisfy my family and myself.

    Things happened in my life but I never questioned God, never asked about religion; I aways questioned myself, asking why I felt this way and that way, why I failed sometimes and what makes me feel so and so; I questioned why I did not have the same opinion as others in my family. I was attacked more than once by men and even watched helplessly while my sister was attacked… just accepted it as part of my life – only started to hate men.

    As I grew older, and my hobby of reading took most of my time, I began to explore religion and decided to practise the faith I was born into. I read and learnt about Islam, Christianity, Judism and Hinduism (later Buddhism). To help me learn more I wrote a booklet, while still in my teens, called
    “Who is Jesus” (not published). In those days we had to go to the library to get information and that was not always easy. I always felt drawn towards books of faiths and found myself borrowing or buying such books. The more I came to know about Islam as compared to other faiths, the more I fell in love with it. I understood why things happened to me in a much clearer way. Soon when I collected enough knowledge, I taught my parents and as time went on, much to my delight, my family started practising Islam, fasting and praying …etc.

    The real test of faith came when a Christian boy fell for me. One day he proposed with an added clause that he will not take “no” for an answer! I accepted. I told him about Islam and was ready to convert and he was very much interested but his mother forced him to attend church meetings and even threatened him. She made him attend a meeting where a group of people would talk about the misfortunes that came their way when they turned away from Christianity to another faith. He was confused, but more torn between his love for his mother and his love for me. I knew it was an internal battle for him and a difficult test for me but I wanted the marriage to happen regardless of religion. I waited for him 6 years, and when one fine day his mother threatened to kill herself if he ever married me, he finally gave up. He could live with that quilt.

    It was a very emotional farewell for us. I told him in the end that in Islam mothers are very important and I am glad that he chose his mother over me, even though she was not a Muslim. His final words were that whenever he saw a mosque anywhere in the world, he would always remember the intense
    love we once shared but could not have. We moved on … My interest is Islam grew and at the same time I developped a stronger hatred for men and fear of what they can do. This stayed with me for a long time until I met the man I was supposed to be with. That’s another love story for a rainy day!

    Islam became an central point of my life. I found comfort and peace in it. All solutions were laid out in front of me. And so it is till now. I find answers to all my questions in the Quran and it offers me company when I feel down.

    I continue to be a student of comparative religion.

  15. I am from a family of atheists and for twenty something years didn’t give religion or god much thought. All my questions could be explained using science, or so I thought. After spending some time in a majority Muslim country, more and more questions came to mind that science didn’t seem to provide adequate answers for. After much research into various religions, the concept of a God, and soul searching I came to believe in a higher power. A beliefnet religion quiz pointed me in a few different directions (Bahai, reformed Jew, Islam, Quaker, to name a few) and ultimately Islam was the one that resonated the most with me and provided the answers to my questions. I accepted Islam two years ago, started wearing hijab one year ago and am now married to a lovely Muslim man and feel freer than I did for the twenty-five years when I wasn’t Muslim. Alhamdulillah.

    Great topic.

  16. Born and raised in an Hindu family, My grandparents and parents are quite religious, They however made it fun than strict.
    We lived in a joint family albeit diff residences but grew up close with a large extended family. Grew up on stories from the ramayan and puranas – i don’t remember a meal time ever going by without a story by my grandmom. To this day the younger generation bonds together onthis ritual.
    I was not very religious but strongly associated myself as a hindu and then fell in love with a muslim , a very close family friends nephew. His uncle andmy grandfather had been friends from their childhood . We met in med school and after the initial phase talk of marriage came up and i understood the implications of marrying a muslim, no one in my family had married outside the religion so we were aprehensive about this . It turned out anti-climatic My grandparents thought he was the best match for me. although staunch hindus they didn’t even bother about him being muslim and my parents and uncles fell in line :-)

    We did have discussions about religion , we both decided we were who we were. Both of us didn’t forsee converting to the other and F didn’t see any hurdle in following our diff paths.
    We discussed about kids , about teaching them both religions and letting them choose – just as our parents had let us choose.

    His parents never agreed to the wedding, Refused to accept me and even refused to show up to the wedding, it was more a reason of nationality than religion ( or so i believe) , The kids came , raised by my family, till they were a certain age and slowly seem to prefer hinduism to islam. Now they are old enough to know what they want, we are open if at a later date they choose to change.

    All we need is a christian DIL and a buddist son-in-law to complete our religious mix :-)

    I’m quite religious, but when i see my F pray, he has a calm about him, no outward show, just peace with what he choose to do.

  17. I’m enjoying this personal stories! Nice post idea.

  18. To the person who said Christians don’t flip out about people who leave Christianity or never join it to begin with – stop it.

    My brothers and I went through hell because we weren’t Christians and are now disowned over it. We have no contact at all with any member of our extended family, including other siblings. None. We might as well be dead.

    The last time I heard from a relative was about nine years ago after giving birth to our daughter. I was told that she was born prematurely as a warning from God and that I needed to convert (and have her baptized) right that instant or God was going to do something to her I’d regret.

    Christians are as capable as being nut-balls as any other group on the planet & denying this erases the misery that people like me and my brothers have been through.

  19. I was born into a mainly non-religious family but did attend a moderate Christian church up until my late teens. At that point I started to research different religions and came to the conclusion that I didn’t want any of them. I saw that many of the ills that have happened throughout history were because of organized religions. I have my personal beliefs and know that I do not need a building or recognized religion to pray or to be a good person. My moderate Muslim husband accepts and understands that and I understand that he feels bound to his religion.

  20. Yeah, I am enjoying the stories too, so I will share mine.
    My parents were liberal and left it for their children to decide for themselves if and what they want to believe.
    They did send me to a Christian school though, because it was supposed to be such a very good school, and opinion which I do not share. However, that school did it’s utmost to make a Christian of me and every other child and as a gullible 5-year old I believed it. However, I was not so gullible as not to notice the discrepancies and un-logic. And the bizarre idea that you have to have ”faith”, blind faith, and especially not use your brain and logic.
    And as these silly grown ups won’t have a serious discussion with a kid I got my father’s library card and got the information I wanted for myself. Now the books I read were a bit above my head, but one thing was clear: religions are based on, and make use of, earlier religions, and they change a lot over time. There’s nothing constant about any religion.

    And these so called holy books written by god are so very clearly written by men, full of inconsistencies, mistakes, faulty ”science”, primitive misogynist anti-women, and none of them is not edited over time.

    When I was about 10 years old I was walking across the school yard and I had this revelation. A vision.
    I saw 10.000 years of history from a cosmic point of view: 7000 years in the past and 3000 years in the future.
    I saw how all these religions from the past came to be and petered out after a couple of thousand years. I saw how christianity had grown, came to be, where it was now, and how in the future it would peter out. No religion has ever lasted longer than about 5000 years.
    What does that say about God? I don’t think there is a god. If you look at the past you see how humans made gods up, out of fear and ignorance.

    I think that if humans were allowed to think freely, if children were not indoctrinated from baby onwards, that the human species would very quickly grow out of it’s scared infancy, and it would take only one age for humanity to leave fear, superstition and religious myths behind.

    As it is now you see parents and schools thwart their children’s minds to stop them from logic thinking. Like my school tried to do with me. They take away part of their faculty of their brain: the one for logic and reasoning. For seeing the truth.
    Because they know it is really impossible for a truly rational logical thinking human to believe in any religion.

  21. Some background info first. I turned 65 recently. I have been an atheist for majority of my life, having given up on roman catholicism in my twenties. My wife and I have been happily married for over forty years. She is a practicing roman catholic her entire life. Our three kids were brought up as catholics but are practicing atheists now in their adult lives. All our grandkids are not being brought up in any religion but are encouraged to study any and all belief systems.

    During my 9-month incarceration as a japanese pow during WW-II (I served in the navy), I met fellow prisoners from all backgrounds … both religious and irreligious folks. It was during those long nine months that my catholic beliefs were shaken to the core. So I became an atheist in my twenties and have been ever since. And I have not have had any regrets at all.

    Then came 9/11. I had heard of muslims and islam but really didn’t pay any attention. 9/11 changed all that. I wanted to find out why a religion like islam and muslims will kill 3,000 of ours and their citizens. Despite the fact that we give away billions and billions of dollars to muslim countries around the world. Despite the fact that we helped Kuwait in kicking out Sodom/Iraqis out of Kuwait. Provided a security blanket to saudi arabia at the request of their king. Let’s not forget Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc that are free because of us.

    And then why kill innocent men, women and children here in the US and West? Like I said, because of 9/11, I started studying islam and its triology of koran and hadees and prophet’s seera. After a few years of intense study, it became apparent to me that islam is a violent religion and has been for the last 14 centuries. I found out that at the root of all this is the koran and hadees which teaches its adherents that they are superior to every one, that they are the best of the creations, to hate other religions. And their chief mission is to be in a state of perpetual jihad to conquer the world and to implement sharia everywhere. Given all that, it makes me wonder why someone wants to convert/revert to this violent religion???

    In the history of the world, nothing has been the catalyst of more grief, hatred, war, and crime than religion, especially Islam. Religion allows a person to hate, kill, torture, or steal, while allowing him to recuse himself of all blame. Religion causes people to break the laws of ethics and morality in the name of a god. Religion dulls the mind and weakens the senses. It makes “God did it” seem like a reasonable answer to anything at all, squelching questions of why, how, and when, and replacing these questions with repeated mantras and prayers to nobody.

    Religion is exquisitely profitable, with most adherents tithing a portion of their income. The churches, synagogues, and mosques, which do little to serve their community outside of “outreach programs” (marketing and recruiting), pay almost no taxes. Religion spreads like disease through societies, rarely coexisting with pre-existing mythologies, rather preferring to conquer or be conquered. Religion, especially islam, is anything but tolerant.

    I am not afraid to point out that which is true: religion is ridiculous. Mythology and religion are synonymous, and none is better than another. Religion is malicious, malevolent, and unworthy of respect.

    But …. y’all probably knew that already :)-

  22. You said it well, Harry! BTW did you see the movie Religulous??? Fantastic!

  23. Language lover: You say “My studies of the life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is that this is how he lived fostering relatedness, understanding and love and bringing about social transformation”.

    Oh come on… Did you really study the life of Mohammad? Or did you read some abridged, sanitized version of your prophet’s story?

    This is the trouble I have with Muslims. They have their own ideas about what islam is and isn’t which usually don’t reflect the real world or even the written facts in their own scriptures. They will either distort a verse or story or will mention a “be nice” verse while conveniently forgetting a nearby “kill and be killed” verse on the next page. What does that say about them, then?

    Why is it that none of the dedicated Muslims here seem willing to tackle the hard but important about what other Muslims do and the the many parts of their wscirptures they ignore (but other Muslims use to infliuct pain and suffering on non-Muslims and even other Muslims).

    Perhaps those that have found “all the solutions” in islam should share those answers with the hundreds of millions of Muslims that can’t figure out how to accept criticism or even to respect simple human rights. This “I wash my hands” attitude toward justice didn’t work with P. Pilate and it should not be accepted from Msulims. Until the Muslim world changes its ways and accepts others, until it stops vilifying non-Muslims, until it repeals the apostasy laws, until it accepts responsibility for its failures and stop blaming others for everything, until Muslims can honestly discuss the content of its own writings without wanting to kill everybody for asking serious questions – then there might be a chance (1 in a 1000000)..

    OK, Language Lover, here goes: How do you reconcile your words with the wars and attacks on others by your dear prophet? Or how is taking half of a harvest as tribute from a conquered tribe and burning orchards and fields foster understanding? How does taking plunder and enslaving people foster love? If you go the usual ‘self-defense’ route, you will have to explain how going out on dozens of expedition against others villages constitutes self defense? If you use the “everybody did it back then ” excuse then you must concede that your prophet was just another adventurer warlord, howbeit a eloquent, smart one.

    As to me, was raised in a church, have a very good knowledge of the Bible and classics – but gave up on Organized Christianity and the clergy long ago (bunch of stupid, hypocrite, worthless, %#^$, jerks). After 9-11 put a couple of years into learning about Islam, hadith and Islamic history (fascinating!) . Still undecided about the grand scheme of things.

    Mark my words. We all are going down a road to destruction. There are many reasons for this, but Islam is a big one. It has and is contributing far more than its fair share to this process. The reason, I believe, that islam is a major problem is due to the total lack of self-reflection by Muslims. In simple words, Muslims have no ability (or desire) to ask serious questions about islam and its teachings. They also cannot take criticism. So it is.

    Oh yes, Well, I guess I could put the thing in these terms: Does any Muslim really believe that, if islam conquered the world for Allah and Mohammad, that there would be peace and justice on earth? I mean, given world history and even Islam’s own writings (wherein even the companions of Mohammad slaughtered each other by the thousands) how can anybody believe that a religion can change human nature?

  24. My father is Muslim and my mother is Christian…and I was raised both ways…and the thing that I got from it all is that…just be good. If God is vain enough to cast a good person in Hell just because they don’t pray such and such way then Hell might be a better place because who wants to spend enterity with a huge ego?

    Just be good. I label myself Muslim only because I find it slightly more logical then Christianity, but they are pretty much the same thing. Be good, be kind, be generous, be faithful, be healthy.

    My other half…or whatever he is now…is a strict Muslim, but the problem with him is that he’s sooooo hateful (yes he is Saudi) to anything different. So I think being just one way and only one way can narrow a person’s view on life and love.

    In that respect, I’m so happy I’m a half breed.

  25. WENDY: You said it well, Harry! BTW did you see the movie Religulous??? Fantastic!

    Thanks, Wendy. As many of us may know, the title of the film is a portmanteau derived from the words “religion” and “ridiculous” -):

    I understand that Religulous has been available on youtube for sometime now; the entire movie in parts 1 thru 12.

  26. Wow, this is a great post! I do believe that interfaith dialogue is very important. One of the most important things thst my father taught me, is to accept people based on who they are and not their color, race, creed , or religion. The most important thing that my mother taught me is kindness to others, everyone.

    I grew up in a Catholic family and a protestant southen American town. However, I had many friends who were protestant, and my parents had no problem with me going to church with my friends. My parents were pretty easygoing, but they did expect us to go to chuch every sunday and to go to religious education classes. My grandparents, who lived down the street from us, were a different story. They were VERY religious Catholics, and only accepted the Catholic faith (my grandfather did not go to his son’s funeral, who had converted to another Christian religion), and at times they could be judgemential….however, they were always good people, gave to the poor, helped people out, etc. I did love them, just didn’t always agree with their views, which made it hard to interact with them at times.

    With that being said, and the way I was raised, while I was in college, I met a group of Muslim girls, who are some of my best friends today!! What struck me about my Muslim friends, is that they are very kind and accepting. While I was in college, and after graduation I continued to go to chuch, however, there have been some things that have happened in my life to cause me to question my faith, and cause me to read about issues in Christanity. Lately, I have been praying to God, and questioning about who Jesus really was. I continue to have friendships with Muslims, and they invited to a quaran study group, that I attend once a week. There are some things that I like about Islam, but I also find that there are issues that I disagree with. I admire people who have a strong faith in their religion, but I don’t like being pressured to believe what they believe in, which seems to be happening to me a lot lately. So right now I pray to God and will continue to study the three Abrahamic religions….I also have Jewish friends too, and I enjoy talking to them also.

  27. @Harry Guggen

    “During my 9-month incarceration as a japanese pow during WW-II (I served in the navy), I met fellow prisoners from all backgrounds ”

    and how is this possible for someone 65 years old?

  28. Tiffany…

    I don’t know if you are still with your Saudi…it seems like you might be as he your “other half”..your statement about his intolerance made me feel worry for you. It’s not my business but you seem so nice and levelheaded. If you are with him…good luck and maintain who you are without getting lost in his dogma. Please. Now I will mind my own business.

  29. Harry, you must have been incarcerated 9 months in your mother’ womb at the end of the war, eh?

  30. I am learning a lot simply by reading the testimonies which have been shared.

    I’m not ready to share my full testimony yet but I will begin with my introduction to faith. I was born into a typical Catholic family of America’s 1950′s. My Grandparents, who were pivotal influences in my life and that of all my family, were staunch Catholics. I guess though that I was the “different one” or the ‘rebel’ from a young age. While I was still a little girl I began to question about practices of the Catholic church. Not all of my young friends were Catholic so I had some exposure to their churches and attended some Vacation Bible School sessions with them.

    It was like night and day. The Catholic church and catechism (learning the history and practices of Catholicism) was only about the Catholic church and to my young memory, never making reference to the Bible although many references to God. But I could not understand after the exposure to other Christian faiths, how come I could not pray directly to God in the Catholic church or had to reveal my sins through a priest? When I questioned one of the teachers (nun) I had my fingers slapped and was told “because that’s the way it is and don’t ask silly questions.” That made an impact of questioning and wondering in me that did not subside. It came to a head after I was divorced. I could still attend services (mass) but could not partake of communion (body of Christ) which is a large ceremony. If someone did not take communion they were looked upon as someone who was keeping sins from God (since a Catholic can not receive communion without first making confession). Yet I was often asked or told to make sure I gave to the church which in my mind seemed to be giving for promotion of the church and not necessarily for charity. These impressions and experiences led me away from the Catholic church.

  31. Wendy, it was a typo ….

  32. Harry, which was the typo? Your age or the war you were in? ;-)

  33. Carol

    Your impressions are so interesting. Maybe things had lightened up a bit my the time I came along in the 60′s. I don’t remember the nuns being so strict or dogmatic. I remember it being rather nice and supportive. I remember being able to ask anything I wanted without retribution…but my father was the Catholic and he was GREAT at explaining things to me. He was a technical writer by profession so he LOVED to explain things. Maybe that is why to this day I remain Catholic because my experiences were so different. When I wanted to baptize my daughter they asked if I had been married in the church (I wasn’t…I was married in India) and my husband was not catholic. I was still able to baptize my daughter a catholic…it feels to me that they have remained true to a lot of their tenants while getting rid of some of the fire and brimstone stuff and the judgmentalness of it.

    I do agree that Catholics were not big Bible studiers…maybe that is why I have no problem not taking the Bible verbatim and seeing it as a guiding book rather than a “gotta follow it to the letter or burn in hell” book. I did Bible study when I was older and LOVED interpreting the New Testament. When I became friends with protestants I realized how much other Christians studied the bible and took it verbatim. I had issues with this as I said I found the bible to be a moral guiding compass rather than a strict set of rules that must be followed or else…

    As for being divorced and not receiving communion…again things must have changed a lot because I think there are a lot of divorcees out there taking communion. Funny that some of your recollections were the same as mine and yet I think I grew up in an era of a kinder/gentler catholic church rules wise.

  34. A couple of people mentioned the money of churches being used for self-promotion. That was one of the big issues I had with attending church. In fact, a lot of the members (sometimes even the religious leader) would look down on the poor because they weren’t clean, didn’t wear as nice of clothes, etc. The worst part is, a lot of the people they frowned upon were children/teenagers! Of course, they didn’t mind “feeding the poor” by going to help at a homeless shelter. However, facing the poor in their own church was a problem even though that’s what the Bible tells people to do. Meanwhile, my family was taking in strays of the human variety (though we don’t do this as much any more; that’s a whole other story). So needless to say, I felt uncomfortable when my friends- the people that needed help and were living with my family- were shunned from the church. This is a major reason why I don’t feel comfortable in churches anymore.

  35. @ Oby

    Awww that was sooooo sweet! Thank you so much! ^_^

    We’re not exactly together…he’s got a lot of growing up to do and I am not his mother to raise him ~_^

    But thank you so much, and you’re right, it’s hard to stay who you are when you’re with someone, but I certainly try to :-D

  36. While it is so important to have these discussions and sharing of faith, I think that the bottom line is that faith comes down to an individual’s relationship with God. Isn’t the relationship the most important than a book? I may not be expressing myself as well as I’d like (blame it on the hour) but I hope my point is coming across. I’m not saying a book is not important but in the hierarchy it is the spiritual relationship and faith of an individual with God than following a “mantra.”

    I think why there seems to be a distinction in giving to a church vice a mosque is that collections are not taken in mosques as it is a duty of Muslims to give “zakat.” For many Muslims being able to build or support a mosque is viewed as an honor.

    Christians are expected to ‘tithe’ but perhaps there is more public pressure put upon a Christian within a church to give as compared to a mosque. Just a thought…

  37. @Tiffany,

    You say your “other half” is a strict Muslim, but you may be aware that dating is against Islamic practices, so he cannot be that strict. It would seem he is one of those “strict Muslims” that sees no problem in picking and choosing what to follow and what to ignore. I have seen many guys like this and I can give you some safe advice………RUN!

    A guy like this will pick and choose parts of the religion to batter his woman with whilst ignoring others that do not benefit him………….like the one that says he cannot date or have sex out of wedlock.

    Run.

  38. This might not be the right topic to post this but then again it is a topic that can be applied to just about anything. I am a follower of ‘Ted Talks’ and this one by Elizabeth Lesser is entitled “Take ‘The Other’ To Lunch. It is a short video but something we should all think about and do if we can.
    http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_lesser_take_the_other_to_lunch.html

  39. I was born into a catholic, not so very religious family. My parents took my brother and I to church a few times when we were young, and I felt very bored. I just couldn’t connect to what the priest was saying. And since my parents aren’t really religious either, they didn’t insist or explain.

    I did feel the need to have a religion, though, a connection with God. I turned to the pagan religion, because it was very close to nature, and I love nature. I spent some years reading about it, but however peaceful and close to nature, I found it rather impractical. I didn’t feel it brought me closer to God, and I felt like an outsider. Personally, I think religion is also part belonging somewhere, with a group, and feel at home.
    I don’t exactly remember how I came into contact with Islam. It just intrigued me. Intellectually, I let it go a few times, cuz I’m not a dogmatic person, but my heart stayed with it, and I always returned (even after a real I-hate-Islam period). At that time, I couldn’t really seperate culture from religion, so it puzzled me why I felt so attracted to it, given all the abuses of women and human rights going on in the Muslim countries. I also was a member of a Salafi forum, but since I thought that all Muslims followed one kind of Islam, I thought they represented all Muslims. That forum really put me off, and caused several relapses into “I don’t want islam after all”. However, I learned to separate different groups in Islam, and I decided that if anything, I wouldn’t be following the Salafi bunch. I read some good books (Karen Armstrong, Tariq Ramadan) and I came in touch with more moderate views. I converted to Islam last summer. I still have issues with a few things, like polygamy and what Islam’s view towards non-muslims is exactly (I hear a lot of different versions). I tend to agree with Tiffany, that the most important thing is to do good and not harm others. I’ve catched myself thinking the same things as her, like “If God would put me in hell for that, I’d rather stay there!”
    But I do believe, from the bottom of my heart, that the core of Islam is peace, tolerance, kindness, mercy, and I stand by that.
    There is a part of a hadith qudsi that shows a God I truly believe in:

    I take every little good deed into consideration
    and I forgive even major sins.
    My Mercy surpasses My Wrath.
    My tolerance exceeds my reprimand.
    My Pardon surpasses my punishment,
    More gracious as I am with My Servants
    than a mother to her child.

  40. This is such a nice thread…so calm and no bashing alhumdiallah..

    I too was born and raised Catholic, went to Catholic school my whole life. The day the priest came into my classroom and told you we will no longer be reading from the “old testament” and there was a “new testament” i knew in my heart something was not right. My parents put five children through the Catholic school system and in the end got nothing in return. At the end of the day it was all about money. If you didn’t have any to “give” then basically you were threatened to be kicked out of the church. Now that is real “Christian” like! LOL

    When i was 18 i converted to Islam. Its not the easiest religion but i do my best in hopes that Allah knows my true intent.

    At the end of the day, I believe that as long as you are a good person, do good deeds and respect others and their beliefs AND pray that’s all you need.

  41. ‘The day the priest came into my classroom and told you we will no longer be reading from the “old testament” and there was a “new testament”…’

    DANG! You must be OLD!!

  42. i was born into Islam alhamdulellah, but if you dont mind i dont want to talk about myself coz i usually sound over passionate about it lol , what i want to share is meeting my very good friend Donna, in Ramadhan 2010 i was in the states preparing for an exam when i met Donna, she was asking the hotel receptionist for directions to Eftar place i was preparing to go to(the hotel was hosting over 40 Saudi students and we arranged with them the having Eftar instead of lunch), i got over curious why is this extremely blonde girl asking for the directions! i tried to hold back from asking but i found myself right in front of her telling her i am going there if she would like to accompany me lol, i didnt know that this curiosity got me to meet one of the most beautiful souls i have ever met in my life !
    she converted few yrs ago, a little bit struggling with Quran verses, very emotional when we talk about faith and finding God, the thing that was striking me hard was seeing her crying over something i have never thought about, i lived my whole 23 years of life as a muslim and she lived trying to find the path i was on by default ! meeting her made me realize that i took things for granted and never thought much about my religion the way i should.
    i found myself thinking continuously about things i have never thought about, i concluded that even having a religion doesnt mean that your journey looking for faith is over , it means you have just started!

  43. American Bedaweeya,

    I think it is all how you look at it…I too went to catholic school (high school) which did not force anyone to take religion classes except in name only…my “religion” classes were more about spirituality and my place in the world. Also taught us about ourselves as women (it was an all girl high school) and I remember distinctly having an assignment about OTHER religions to do. This was late 70′s so fairly progressive even then I think.

    As far as money goes you must have had a very bad experience…I have never in my entire life as a catholic heard that. Not saying it can’t happen just saying that never ever was anyone told they “had” to give that I know of. Were we asked to give to various causes? you bet. Did we? to a few we found important but not to all. Did we give on Sunday? sure we did…but as much as we could afford or wanted to. I was never told it had to be a set amount. It was always what you could afford and that was different for each family and even different from year to year for my family depending on finances. If you couldn’t afford it then you didn’t give… simple as that.

    I have always found this kind of complaint odd (about giving money in the Catholic church) because in many other Christian churches you are expected to give 10%…yes 10% of your salary. But no one ever hears gripes about that. and Muslims are required to give 2% zakat if I am not mistaken…so what is the big deal if the church asks you to give something (whatever you can afford?). They don’t set an amount and that is because it is supposed to be from the heart. They don’t set an amount and they don’t require it like other churches. They have their expenses and a lot of the given money goes also to support the school and the scholarships that they give out to needy families. My best friend all the way through high school had two disabled parents who couldn’t work. They lived in government subsidized housing (section 8) and the school/church gave her and her sister a full scholarship to the school. Without it there was no way she could go. That young woman went on to college and became a teacher because she wanted to give back for the kindness she and her sister had received. The school gave me a great base upon which I went to college and subsequently became a doctor.

    So in my book the Catholic church is pretty lenient when it comes to “requiring” any money to be given…you do if you can and you don’t if you can’t…there is no such thing as being kicked out. If people don’t get something out of their education it might be because they aren’t really appreciating what they got. A catholic school education is generally is pretty good one. (broadly speaking)

    BTW…I am not even certain that my friend was even Catholic…any religion can go and no there is not conversion going on…you can be exempt from religious classes as far as I know if you are not catholic.

  44. @oby – yes i went to catholic schooltoo :-) oh thenuns were terrible :-) but in india those days catholic schools provided the best education, we had to pay higher fees since we were not christian, and we couldn’t be boarders but apart from that there was no difference, that convent was 75% with hindu students ( and that’s on a low end )

  45. @Oby,
    From my experiences (though with Protestant instead of Catholic churches), the amount of openmindedness, kindness, charity, etc. of religious leaders can greatly vary, even within the same denomination.

    @radha,
    Interesting!

  46. @ Carol, I love the last thing you wrote. I 100% agree with that.

    @ Abu…

    Well he’s tried to marry me a few times but I turned it down everytime due to the fact that we’re so young and that his family doesn’t know about me. We’re in a long distant relationship…or was, because other than calling him my friend, I’ll call him nothing else until he gives my father the honor of performing an engagement correctly with his family. ;-) I guess strict muslim isn’t the correct way to describe him, but perhaps scared to go against the tide of what Saudis consider the norm is more like it.

  47. sorry for my late reply!! Im not THAT old! LOL Unfortunately it’s true Oby….many of times i was pulled out of class because payment for school was late, being that my father was very sick at that time and wasn’t able to work things were hard. Honestly the last time they pulled me out of class, they said if your parents do not pay tuition we will have to kick you out of school..I eventually left the school and went public after 11 years in the catholic school system. I have many other friends that were kicked out because of non payment. I just felt personally it was all hypocritical. My parents gave and gave and gave to the school and church, put all 5 of us kids through the system but in the end i didn’t feel the “christian” spirit or support was there. Anyway it was what it was. Im just happy i found Islam and it really doesn’t “cost” anything! LOL

  48. ‘Im just happy i found Islam and it really doesn’t “cost” anything! LOL’

    Why don’t you have to pay Zakat?

  49. @ lynn well of course i do! but that’s between me and Allah isn’t it????? At the end of the day i’m not going to be kicked out of school or church…I think u “missed” the point… ;)

  50. @ lynn well of course i do! but that’s between me and Allah isn’t it?????

    I guess that depends on where you live eh? But I guess being considered a ‘sinner’ in God’s eyes would be worse than being kicked out of the mosque wouldn’t it?

    Just out of curiosity, I would like to know what church and what country that was that threatened to kick you out if your parents didn’t pay. They handled the situation very tactlessly (unless we are missing something) but you can find people like that everywhere and of every religion or non religion and when we do, we can take our business elsewhere as your parents did but I think it is pretty ridiculous to hold the religion at fault for the business practices of one. I would also love to know which private religious schools you know of that has tuition ‘optional’.

    I was fortunate to not have had the ‘nun’ experiences that my older siblings had but then again, they seem to have a lot of fun these days with the memories of Sister James et al. LOL

    I wonder if the reason I didn’t is because the ‘business practices’ of the new parish we moved into? My family did not have money, my dad worked a few jobs but I guess he was drinking away a lot of his paychecks back in those days too yet all 6 kids were in Catholic school until we were forced to move (a new freeway was being put in right where our house was) and moved into a different parish and then everyone went to public school. Perhaps the new parish was not as generous as the old one? I don’t know, I was just thankful that I didn’t have to wear a uniform to school ;-) But then the public school got a bit rough and my parents then sent my youngest brother, the only one left in elementary school, to the Catholic school but things were different by then and I don’t think there were that many nuns left teaching anymore. But that would sure drive up the costs of operation of the school if they had to pay salaries to the teachers.

  51. Lynn…

    You brought back memories of Sr. Rose the resident tyrant of my school…but in truth her reputation was far worse than her actual bite…she was strict and passionate about Chemistry and took safety and her subject seriously…and I became a Chem major in college due to giving me a love of he science.

    In my school we had a only a few nuns compared to lay people..so of course you are right salaries and insurance, retirement etc had to be paid out. And even at that private school teachers earn earn almost half of public school. Still if one is looking at private school a Catholic school education is a bargain generally…in my area the local schools are all about the same cost give or take and they give a big discount for subsequent kids attending. They are about 1/4 the cost of the local noncatholic private schools. That is because funds given to the church on Sunday go a long way to offset the schools…even then they generally have a financial assistance program for the needy.

  52. Speaking of nun names…If you have never heard this before you will get a real kick out of it.

    http://manwithblackhat.blogspot.com/2010/02/they-dont-make-nun-names-like-that-no.html

  53. I recently watched an excellent Indian movie with english subtitles, titled SIKANDER. The movie is set in Kashmere (India) with a theme of kashmerian muslim jihadis who are fighting for independence from India to become part of Kashmere (Pakistan). It has some of the most beautiful sceneries that Kashmere is widely known for.

    Synopsis:

    Sikandar Raza is a 14 year old schoolboy in Kashmere. Ever since his parents were killed by jihadi militants 10 years back, he has lived with his aunt and uncle, in a small town in Kashmere. All Sikandar’s desires revolve around the happiness of his foster parents, and getting the ball into the goal on the football field.

    One day, on his way home from a school football match, Sikandar finds a gun lying on the path, apparently left back by the jihadis. Despite admonishments by his newly made school girlfriend, the 14 year old Nasreen, Sikandar picks up the gun, and thus begins a journey into the darker side of his nature.

    The quiet yet strong Nasreen becomes Sikandar’s unofficial girlfriend and official conscience keeper. She tries to dissuade him from giving in to the lure of the gun. However, all is not what it seems. Sikandar gets embroiled further and further in situations beyond his control, and people get killed.

    At first it seems that the happenings occurring alongside Sikandar’s predicament are not connected. But, as layer upon layer unravels, it becomes clear that Sikandar is the innocent victim in a game being played out between the jihadi militants, the Indian army, the peace bartering Kashmerian politicians and the religious heads of the little Kashmiri town. The pieces of the puzzle come together at the very end, leading to a shocking revelation.

    Hope you enjoy this wonderful and thought-provoking movie as much as I did!!!!

  54. @ Lynn

    that would be good ole usa seattle washington…im not going to name the name of the high school as that wouldn’t be in great taste eh! ;) I don’t blame the catholic system for my converting, it just wasn’t for me anymore for personal reasons.

    I would also love to know which private religious schools you know of that has tuition ‘optional’. ( I think u missed another point…i don’t remember saying tuition was “optional” what i said was there was a lack of compassion within the school AND church, being that my father was sick and unable to make payment on time…I think there’s a HUGE difference between the two, but that would just be “my” opinion….;)

  55. Lynn…

    Since you are Catholic or at least a former Catholic I thought that you might really enjoy this video. I thought it was hysterical. A catholic would appreciate this…

    I hope that Muslims can understand that some religions have no problem poking fun at themselves. It doesn’t mean disrespect…it is all in good fun. We still love our faith and God.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Jrh_uuPmd0

  56. LOL American Bedaweeya, ’cause I think it’s YOU that is missing the point.

    When you said ‘ Im just happy i found Islam and it really doesn’t “cost” anything!’ right after discussing the horrible business practices of the Catholic school that you went to that threatened to kick you out. It sure seemed as if you were comparing the two. Then you pretty much clarified that when you said ‘At the end of the day i’m not going to be kicked out of school or church’. I’m just saying that I am pretty sure that you would NOT be allowed to keep your kids in any Islamic School if you didn’t pay the tuition just as your parents weren’t allowed to keep y’all in Catholic school.

    I have a girlfriend that is Catholic and had her kids in Catholic School. I know she always had problems paying her bills so I’m sure that tuition was one that got overlooked. Well, one year, right before Thanksgiving her kid came home from school with all the makings for a huge Thanksgiving meal. She was so embarrassed. LOL They did not need food but that was how her kids’ school handled their lack of paying tuition on time. LOL So, see, it sounds like your parents just got into a bad parish. I wonder how that parish is doing today?

    Yes, Oby, that Late Night Catechism is a hoot, but I’m sure that my siblings could relate to it much more. I’m pretty sure that a few of them went to see that.
    I only went to Catechism right before my First Communion and I remember that it was a nun that taught that but I don’t remember anything mean about her or anything. But, then, this was just a once a week after school class up at the church and I wasn’t required to wear a uniform like their regular kids did so I didn’t have any ‘Uniform Violations’. My sister would talk about about the mean Sister Mary Principal (I can’t remember her real name) that would stop her in the hall and make her get on her knees to make sure that her skirt was the right length and I believe she used to get accused of ratting her hair (big immodest no no I guess) because she had very curly hair. LOL

  57. @ Lynn

    I guess we r both missing each others points! LOL Oh well isn’t that what life is about, we can agree to disagree!! ;)

  58. I was born to a Liberal/Moderate Jewish father, and an Orthodox mother.

    Judaism never went down well with me following my late teens and early twenties. In my twenties there was a time I considered myself as “nothing” – although I knew by classifying myself as such, I was going against my basic belief in God.

    My first exposure to Islam came by my Jewish faith – Muslims (and Palestinians) were evil. My second exposure to Islam lasted over 20 years through popular media. My third exposure to Islam involved a Muslim classmate, and reading of scholarly materials published on the faith.

    I reached a stage when I realised, that all along I had been Muslim. It was only a matters of opening up, and accepting it formally.

    Seek the truth, and it shall set you free.

  59. You confuse faith and religion they are separate words with different meanings. Faith can be beautiful but it isa sullened and diminished by reli
    gion.

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