Religious Tolerance: Changing our hearts to make it right

| June 17, 2016 | 0 Comments


Chaplain (Maj.) John Grauer
Plans and Operations
U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii


This past week in Orlando, Fla., we were overwhelmed with media coverage of an extreme act of violence perpetrated by an individual who was apparently radicalized by ISIL. The result was 49 dead and another 52 injured in an incident that shocked the nation.

Terrorism knows no bounds. It’s defined as the use of violent acts to frighten people as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.

What we do know, is there are a few individuals all over the world who are willing to engage in violent acts in the name of religion.

For democracies, the freedom to follow the religion of one’s choice (or no religion at all) is a choice we all have. I actually enjoy this freedom, yet for some individuals, it allows the person to end up with a predisposition of hatred, and in some cases, to direct themselves to unspeakable acts of violence.

I like to believe that people will ultimately do the right thing, religious, agnostic or atheistic; that people will not conduct violence as a means to solve disagreements.

It would seem that many of the differences surrounding religious extremism have origins in the failure of parties to agree. Therefore we might come to a definition of extremists as the holding of extreme political or religious views: fanaticism, those who especially resort or promote hurtful, violent and or destructive acts against others, which according to some experts on radicalization have involved some of the following from the “Mindset of the Religious Extremist” by Dr. Neil J Kresse:

  • Idealization of some past era combined with the belief that the world has gone crazy; I personally see this as the good old days, which usually were not that great!
  • The certainty of the correctness of one’s religious vision;
  • Complete unwillingness to compromise with those who disagree;
  • Powerful denunciation of people with different lifestyles.
  • Extreme allegiance to some religious leader or leaders;
  • Normal recognition of the desired ends as justification for unsavory means;
  • Adoption of numerous defensive methods for avoiding serious encounters with conflicting systems of belief and their adherents;
  • Dehumanizing imagery of non-believers and religious out groups (differs from your own); and
  • Strong preference for keeping women in traditional, subordinate roles.

When these beliefs characterize a person’s mindset, there is reason for concern.

A critical question to ask is, why do so many people turn to extremist religious groups? People seek out religion for many different reasons. I personally believe that God makes me better and allows me to be a more forgiving and loving person. For other individuals, religion helps people connect with their spiritual side. There are also those who adhere to a religious life because they see it as a way of combating difficulties such as loneliness. Perhaps they are all correct! But one thing I have always sought is that while I have my own personal belief in God. I have always sought to ensure that no matter what my beliefs and yours our, we can get along.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

            Romans 12:18.

Some who are reading this may have already dismissed my use of this scripture and will say “It’s out of context.”

That’s the point. Will you dismiss me, or can we still get along?

Perhaps our future as a democracy and respecting one another depends on this.





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Category: Footsteps in Faith, News

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