Religion Does Not Rhyme With Intolerance

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Alziro Zarur

Questioned by a reader in the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper in the 80’s, I pondered that I fail to see Religion as an arena where many beliefs meet to settle their points of view, in their struggle to defend their principles or God, who is Love to begin with and who cannot approve manifestations of hate in His Holy name, neither does He require anyone’s raging in defense on His behalf. Alziro Zarur (1914-1979) used to say that “the greatest criminal in the world is he who preaches hate in the name of God”.

I understand Religion as Solidarity, a Respect for Life, an Enlightenment of the Spirit that we all are. I can only understand it as something dynamic, alive, pragmatic, as something altruistically fulfilling and that opens up paths of light in one’s soul. For this reason, it must stand on the forefront of ethics. I would be unable to understand Religion if it were not working in a sensible manner to transform the unhappy reality that still persecutes all people. These people are even more in need of God who is the antidote for the moral and spiritual maladies and, in consequence, for the social problems, which include the degenerating immobilism, sectarianism and intolerance that blind the Souls of crowds of people. (…) And, one cannot ever leave out atheists from any measures that can benefit the world.

Religion, as a sublimation of one’s feelings, is there to improve the Human Being, integrating him/her with his/her Creator through the exercise of Fraternity and Justice among His creatures. In a very timely manner, Prophet Mohammed professed the following in the Holy Book of Koran: “We believe in what was revealed to us and in what was revealed to you. Our God and your God is one and the same. To Him we are submitters”.

God, Wisdom and Understanding

Tela: Fray Juan de la Miseria

Teresa of Avila

Our Father in Heaven is the inexhaustible source of wisdom and understanding, when not appraised in a stereotyped or misrepresented manner. The words of Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) come to mind: “Let us always seek the virtues and the good deeds in others and cover up their imperfections with our great sins”.


Everything evolves. Not very long ago, the word was around saying that the Earth was the center of the Universe. Why then the beliefs would have to stop in time? On the contrary, religion, when seen as a synonym for mercy, must harmoniously enlighten every other level of thought. Quite appropriate for this meditation are the words of the no less skeptical Voltaire (1694-1778): “Tolerance is much needed in politics as in religion. Only pride is intolerant”. (...)

To soothe a cold heart

It is fitting to recall this all encompassing statement from Zarur: “Religion, Philosophy, Science and Politics are four aspects of the same truth, which is God”.

In light of this, to want to keep these branches of the universal knowledge confined in stagnant departments, so to speak, or even in prejudiced conflict, has been the source of many evils that afflict us, especially when dealing with Religion, understood in its highest meaning. It is exactly from its realm that the spirit of solidarity must come up and its absence results in a lack of feelings, an all too familiar characteristic of human relations in present times.

There shall be no peace while cruel discriminations and criminal social inequality remain

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The absence of Fraternity has brought about a great gap between material progress and spiritual and moral maturity. However, it is always time to placate resentments, although there shall be no Peace while cruel discriminations and criminal social inequality prevail, provoked by greed, which we must fight against with efficient Education with Ecumenical Spirituality. If we do not voluntarily choose such paths, we shall be doomed to the reality denounced by Gandhi (1869-1948): An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”.

A good solution can always be found when people are loyally engaged in it. And that is what has made civilization, at least what we see around as so, miraculously survive its worst times of madness. The wisdom of the Talmud delivers its practical message: “Peace is to the world what yeast is to dough”. Precisely.

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Martin Luther King

There are those who prefer to refer to the religious spirit, highlighting the pathological deviations mankind has taken throughout millennia. (By no means do I include in these comments historians and analysts with common sense.) I believe that this belligerent conduct that has stained History with blood must be removed away from our hearts through the use of just acts as the reasons to bring us together must be greater than those that rouse grudges. Hatred is a weapon pointed at the chest of he who hates. This timely thought by Pastor Martin Luther King (1929-1968), who didn’t deny giving up his own life for the ideal he defended, says it all: “We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers”.

Tela: Gustave Courbet

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

Moreover, the miracle expected by God from us Human Beings, is that we all learn to love one another lest we lose our sanity altogether as indicated by a research for the warlike use of antimatter. The best altar to worship our Creator is through His creatures. It is therefore imperative that Humanity becomes more humane.

The virtue of moderation

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Eleanor L. Doan

In my book Reflections of the Soul, I mentioned that there will be no enduring Peace while unjustifiable privileges prevail, bringing dishonor to the human condition for absence of solidarity that must light the path of men and nations. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865) once said: “Peace gained at the tip of a sword cannot be anything more than a simple truce”. That is why, throughout millennia of this so-called civilization, multitudes died under the slaughter of weapons, of hunger and sickness. (…) Jesus always preached and lived Fraternity. Since we really believe in our Divine Master, we must fight for the solution He brought to soothe nations who still suffer. Moderation is an indispensable virtue in this struggle. However, in face of the challenges we must not confuse pacifism with a faint heart. Very appropriate are these words of author Eleanor L. Doan: “Any person who is faint at heart can worship Christ, but it takes a strong will to follow in His footsteps”. Also, we must not forget the examples given by the first Christians, we should rather seek in these examples the experiences that must be repeated in this world, such as the experience of Peace: “And the multitude of those who believed, were of one heart and of one soul (…) And persecuted by all means, they began to live in community, no one was in need among them as they all served each other with whatever they had in their possession” (Acts of the Apostles, 4:32 to 34).

José de Paiva Netto is a writer, journalist, radio broadcaster, composer, and poet. He is the President of the Legion of Good Will (LGW), effective member of the Brazilian Press Association (ABI) and of the Brazilian International Press Association (ABI-Inter). Affiliated to the National Federation of Journalists (FENAJ), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Union of Professional Journalists of the State of Rio de Janeiro, the Union of Writers of Rio de Janeiro, the Union of Radio Broadcasters of Rio de Janeiro, and the Brazilian Union of Composers (UBC). He is also a member of the Academy of Letters of Central Brazil. He is an author of international reference in the concept and defense of the cause of Ecumenical Citizenship and Spirituality which, according to him, constitute “the cradle of the most generous values that are born of the Soul, the dwelling of the emotions and of the reasoning enlightened by intuition, the atmosphere that embraces everything that transcends the ordinary field of matter and comes from the elevated human sensitivity, such as Truth, Justice, Mercy, Ethics, Honesty, Generosity, and Fraternal Love.”