Faith in acceptance, acceptance as faith

A peace sign with bracelets featuring many different religions
Nishali Naik/Staff

Faith is a beautiful, undying thing. It presents explanations in the absence of sanity, shines hope in the presence of tragedy and ignites revolutionary fire in the face of oppression. But the sheer use of the term “faith” can spark conflict and divide in the world we live in today.

I believe in a god, and some believe in the same god. Others believe in a different god or prophet, and some believe in no deity at all. I also believe in science. The Big Bang, evolution and climate change are all validated concepts and phenomena in my mind. Some around the world choose not to acknowledge this science and put their confidence in something different. And I believe in inherent human goodness, love, diversity and the power to exercise my rights.

These beliefs comprise my faith. My faith is not singular or unchanging — it is a compilation of all the ways I have experienced the world and all the people who have touched me. It is something that is uniquely mine, because only I have the background to support it. My faith even differs slightly from my family’s, in spite of us all having lived in the same home.

Today, we live in a world in which people are aggressively trying to champion their own faiths, which scares me a great deal. We keep fighting over civil issues that had seemed to have been settled already. All the different attempts to resolve the issues that our society faces are  inflicting even deeper wounds in our culture that may never heal. Certain peoples’ lives are being deemed more important than others’. Towns are ravaged by acts of violence that force us to question the strength of our voices. People are drawing lines between one another in an attempt to uphold their own faiths, overlooking our inherent connections.

The human race is tied together by something more expansive and robust than just faiths. We are joined by innate human challenges. Even if race, gender, religion, wealth and sexual orientation divide us, we are all the same in the face of poverty, hunger, heartbreak and loss. No belief can change the fact that we all breathe the same air and die on the same Earth. In the face of all these tragedies, why should we inflict more pain and suffering onto each other when we all already have to overcome natural phenomena?

“My faith is not singular or unchanging — it is a compilation of all the ways I have experienced the world and all the people who have touched me.”

Despite all that tries to turn us against one another in this world, a single type of faith holds us steady. Whether religious or atheist, rich or poor, gay or straight, Black or white, we are all human. We all struggle to hold the faith that things will be okay in the end. The sheer fact that we all need something to hold onto in this world is enough common ground to successfully create and welcome positive change on the planet. In striving to understand the core values of what we each stand for, rather than the ways we reach that stance, we uncover something that runs deeper than who we are as individuals from different backgrounds.

So in the near future, when “faith” is once again examined under the cynical eyes of today’s world, I pray that we will not define it in a way that will divide us. I pray that we deeply meditate on our similarities and use it to quell the desire to point out and label our differences. I pray that we interpret our faiths in terms of kindness and gratitude instead of as pretentious symbols. I pray that we look to one another as sources of great potential and not as causes of disparity — that one day, religions that teach goodness won’t incite hatred. I hope that race, gender and sexual orientation won’t factor into any decision made about any human. The future of this world is rooted in the common thread of our diversity, and we should strive to eliminate our distrust for those around us just because they don’t share our beliefs.

And that is why, despite all the hate and uncertainty in our society today, I look to my faith for hope.

Contact Priyanka Athalye at [email protected].