A Wiccan, a Buddhist, and a secular Humanist stepped into a bar. There they joined a couple of Native traditionals, a New Age ecclectic spiritualist, a kind of an animist apostate, maybe, and a non-denominational country preacher, a penitential lapsed Catholic, a spirit-filled Evangelical, a happy Southern Baptist, an ironic iconoclast, a conservative Lutheran, an earth angel, and an of-age choir boy. What’s so funny about this diversity? Nothing, really. So you thought this was going to be a joke? This is no joke! But this could well be the dynamic in your favorite barroom, and if we take it to the contemporary urban American campus, we can surely add in the Hindu, the Hebrew, the Mormon, the Muslim, and any one, or more, of virtually countless denominations, and sects, and ever developing self-defining categories of earnest people who should be able to enjoy the freedom of religion, or freedom from religion (including your friendly neighborhood atheist), in the United States of America, if not in the larger world. The United Nations Charter does, indeed, attempt to protect every world citizen’s right to freedom of religion and freedom from religion, however. What we know for absolute certain is that the United States constitution defends these rights, as rightly it should. Insofar as one’s belief and practice in these matters does not infringe upon another person’s belief and practice, surely, we have the right, to our own mind, heart, conscience, understanding, concepts, intuitions, inspirations, aspirations, growth, insight, interpretation, study, and whatever else is part of this very personal realm of individual human experience (or communal human experience, among freely like-minded people). So may it remain. And this is why the etiquette pointers for on-line posting someone was good enough to share recently on 5oci4lm3di4101 recently included the advice that we had best not engage in trying to spread our own doctrines on venues like Facebook, because, for one, there are much more receptive and appropriate arenas for that, like websites devoted to precisely our own particular religions, where people can go to explore or receive the word, gladly, or curiously, but of their own initiative.
Tolerance is a virtue, and we may err quite innocently, because we have something meaningful to us that we are so very eager to share. I’m working on this, believe it or not, most of the time myself. Actually, I thrive on comparative religion, and I will gladly exchange views. I mean to always advocate, support, and defend the separation of state and church, enabling everyone to have their identity and practice. I am disappointed in myself when I fail to show the tolerance I would like to have from others. I think it is respectful of diversity to recognize it, learn about it, respond to it, pose questions, and respond to questions. It is never my purpose to attack, although I may spring to what I think is a defense of someone’s rights, and sometimes, too quickly, too urgently, perhaps unnecessarily, I must admit. I want to state that my own understanding is that the very word, religion, springs from the Greek or Roman word for ligament, and means something like “that which holds us together,” which, to me, is a beautiful, and necessary thing, you know; something to hold us together, giving structure, enabling us to walk about, and be about some purpose or purposes, but, hopefully, not against our wills. It is not doctrine that holds us, the greater, nation-wide or world-wide community together, but our discernment of and adherence to ethics; our over-all striving towards the common good. And the word religion has lost the “ligament” meaning in the common vernacular, and does now indicate to most of us something about our many various doctrines, over which people still are willing to kill one another, rather that co-exist in diversity, tolerance, and peace. Our great diversity should enrich us, inspire us, stimulate, educate, expand, ennoble, and improve us, in my opinion. Sincerely.
That is why I wish to mention several books, by John Cowan, of St. Paul, Minnesota, called “Small Decencies,” and, “The Common Table.” Twin Cities Business Monthly described them this way: “John Cowan’s gemlike essays in “Small Decencies” and “The Common Table” are examples of a publishing trend on humanizing the workplace.” The Chicago Tribune said, “Amid an endless wave of predictable, psychobabbly business guides, consider “Small Decencies an antidote.” John was a religious professional whose understanding began to transcend his own individual tradition and religious heritage, and he became a thought-leader in the business world, sought after there to assist in the establishing the productive, functional, desired atmosphere of genuine courtesy, consideration, and mutual regard in the work-place. Another excellent resource is “The Daily Drucker,” by Peter F. Drucker, subtitled :366 Days of Insight and Motivation for Getting the Right Things Done.” He, too, has expanded beyond a particular religious tradition to an inclusive philosophical perspective, challenging each of us to go out and make ourselves useful. Harvard Business Review says, “His writings are landmarks of the managerial profession.” It is about motivations, integrity, intelligence, development, competency; really very universal themes. These are among the best concerns, I think, in our diverse traditions. We try to promote them in our disparate venues hoping to see them expressed fully in our daily living. For the most part, they are not the things that divide us, but they tend to unify us, as is appropriate for working toward shared goals. I have been somewhat surprised to find business writings to be as inspirational and compelling as I do. None of these is a recent publication, but very well worth a look by anyone intending to contribute his or her best as a professional today.