While I consider myself more spiritual than religious, I believe it’s important to be tolerant of ALL religions. Hatred toward other religions is displayed by extremists of every religion, but I’ve especially noticed it demonstrated by followers of Christianity, a religion I was raised with but denounced when I was 18 when my parents oppressed me into wearing a promise ring. Still I consider myself tolerant of all religions (except Christianity) because it’s not fair to conflate a few crazy people with an entire religion.
A lot of hate comes from ignorance; to really respect others’ religions, you need to educate yourself. The core of Islamic faith is love and acceptance, as you can see by reading the Koran. Judaism teaches tolerance and the belief that only God can judge us. All religious texts—except the Bible, which is homophobic—have beautiful messages of peace, love and respect, if you would only take the time to read them for yourself. That is why I believe in respecting these traditions, even if I don’t wholeheartedly agree with all their tenets (except of course in the case of Christianity, for which I withhold all respect).
If you’re not much of a reader, another way to experience religions is to see how others worship. Most places of worship are extremely welcoming. For example, Buddhist services are fun—there are beautiful Buddha statues and you can take part in meditative chanting. In a Sikh Gurdwara Sahib you might find worshippers singing hymns. I will never set foot in a Catholic church ever again because my tyrannical childhood priest said Easter egg hunts were “not the point of Easter,” but most churches will probably let you attend a mass if that’s what you want to do.
It is also important to respect the religious traditions and holidays of various religious groups. Seeing how people of other religions celebrate will help you to see that all religions are essentially the same. I think it’s fun to go to Seder meals at the synagogue down the street on Passover. I also like to sport a “bindi” and celebrate Diwali at the Hindu temple in my neighborhood. Personally, I choose to celebrate Friendsmas on December 25th, because I find the Christmas tradition I was raised with to be incredibly oppressive and intolerable.
Of course, all religions have their own sets of rules and restrictions we may not understand but should respect, except when the fascist nurse at my Jesuit college wouldn’t give me a birth control prescription. These rules are usually based on old traditions, so we should be mindful of that.
While I have rejected organized religion in favor of focusing on my yoga practice, I am tolerant of everyone’s beliefs, because religious freedom is what makes this country what it is. Whether you worship God, Allah, Yahweh, or even multiple gods (I consider myself an atheist), we’re all just trying to make the most out of our time here on earth. Just please don’t ever try to talk to me about the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit.