I have made a vow to myself to deepen my understanding of Islam so as to gain more respect for its followers and also to help me better understand its extremists much in the same way as I've been doing with Christianity for the past four months. To begin this journey I started with the animated movie, Mohammad, The Last Prophet. My daughter and I watched it together several times. Today I began reading the book Mohammad by Karen Armstrong. I was reminded again of the fact that much of this religion came from what was seen as the evil of the open market system (there I go using the word evil again - it's getting to be a habit). The Bedhouin's were nomadic tribes out of necessity and as such depended on community - the tribe was the first priority. As Mecca became a market place, indidual needs took over and community values were forgotten. Profit and materialism became more important than people. Those who suffered most were orphans (like Mohammad) and widows and others that were unable to participate in the highly competitive marketplace. The power was becoming concentate in only a few families while poverty increased its numbers. Beginning to sound familiar?
I became more curious about the author and found this TED talk on religion (if you're not familiar with TED please visit ted.org - you'll be glad you did). I'm quickly becoming a fan of Karen. The wisdom shared in this short talk needs to be shared across the globe. Although I've never been in a convent, like her I became very anti-religion, seeing it as the source of so much suffering and destruction to human life. But my own journey into nonviolence has helped me unravel a fallacy in my understanding of religion that she mentions in this talk, a confusion between belief and religion. In the world of NV the Golden Rule Rules! Religion is about going beyond our evolution - to refuse to be controlled by the selfish gene or the fight/flight mechanisms built into us. Once we take our ego out of the equation and place ourselves in service to all others - something changes and the pre-wired responses seem to lose their control over us. The positive side effects of this change of focus include joy in one's work no matter how mundane, joy in caring for our families, joy in participating in civil disobediance to affect positive change for others even at the risk of our own freedom and safety. I used to wonder why Gandhi always seemed so joyful, even when being hauled off to live in Her Majesty's prison system or cleaning latrines, but now I'm beginning to understand. May we all be so lucky as to quit living for ouselves and begin living for one another.