The role of religion in public life is always before us. We debate whether or not particular religious beliefs or values have a place in our society. I think they do, absolutely. Every adherent is free to explain what personal ideas animate their choices, their behaviors, and their decisions. Every citizen is free to decide what credence to give those views and where they stand on them. As long as everyone is free, as long as no one religious perspective impinges on another, our society thrives.
The Talmudic sage Rabbi Haninah taught that the world will discover the goodness and peace we all seek when everyone accepts this truth. No one prospers alone. Everyone’s happiness and fulfillment is tied to everyone else’s. It’s an ideal of universal hope rooted in our different, particular experiences.
All of us want regard and respect. All of us want to live during better days. All of us want a world where many live together and each one is content. Therefore, let’s be sure the role of religion in our society is a constructive one. Let’s speak of one another’s faith traditions with respect. Let’s acknowledge what we don’t know about each other, and even what we can learn from one another.
We need an open-minded humility about our place and the places of others, while we strive to demonstrate the confidence of our particular religious convictions. A religious view of life, from the extremes of left or right, that recognizes no legitimacy beyond its own limited understandings, leaves no room for the lives and realities of others.
We cannot allow religion to be equated in the public mind with extremism or permit God’s name to be profaned by its exclusive association with intolerance, persecution, or violence. Let us be resolute that authentic religious voices say loud and clear that religious belief goes hand in hand with respect, common sense, and goodness.