Mehreen Farhan

Religion is quite a buzzword these days, and for all the wrong reasons. It’s the perfect punching bag for everything wrong with people and the world.

People who want to follow their religion even in the subtlest ways are labeled fanatics and what not. It’s the butt of many jokes. You take a dig at religion and the laughter that follows is louder. You are cooler and suddenly very approachable. The most vicious kind of religious debate that can happen, is at the workplace.

A couple of weeks back, during lunch break, something similar happened within our team. We are a very friendly group of people and we share a lot of common jokes. Then someone happened to talk about their views against a very prevalent religious school of thought. It got uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable.

The whole incident got me thinking. I often wonder why we hide behind the idea of “freedom of speech” and think it right to offend people in something as personal as this? The very rule that they use only implies that it should be followed with a similar retort. After all, “freedom of speech” is a very accommodating card to play around with. Sarcasm intended.

Every professional environment has young impressionable minds that look up to their seniors. That day, I saw confusion and discomfort on the young faces of the team. Do the seniors know that their casual expression such as this can completely change the way someone feels about something? Many times, we are not aware of the imprint we leave behind in people’s minds. How on earth do we think we have the right to give out strong controversial opinions on religion when there are young minds present?

Image credits: art print by Stefvanie Martha

I do feel that we do not understand religion as it should be understood.

Our minds are machines now, but religion was never only about the mind. It was also about finding the right balance between mind and heart. How do you prove to someone the existence of God if all that person looks at are methodologies and science? Even with the most concrete examples, God is still something invisible and a leap of faith is needed to get to Him. If you start looking for God in your workplace, or try to help others find it there, chances are you will lose Him in all the methodologies.

Even with the most concrete examples, God is still something invisible and a leap of faith is needed to get to Him.

My question is, as someone who strives to find stark, cold logic in everything, how do you consider yourself to be in a position to share your religious opinions. I call them ‘opinions’ and not ideas, because they are half baked cookies; brown and well done on the outside, raw on the inside.

I was very hurt that day. The fact that one person decided to play the “freedom of speech” card while the others, including me, thought it wiser than to start an argument, was something that bothered me all through the night. I am in search of my God and I do not have the intention of finding Him in the opinions of others. People who mean well for me will help me find Him, not impose their idea of Him on me. Most importantly, a well meaning friend will take this conversation to a personal level.

As someone who gets uncomfortable at the casual misinterpretation of religion left and right, workplace debates on religion are the most uncomfortable. How do you respond to someone that you work daily with and look up to, when they start a debate like that? I often find it unfair.

The most underrated statement of the century is that religion is everyone’s personal business. We throw this statement around so easily without really understanding how we at times trample it ourselves.

The most underrated statement of the century is that religion is everyone’s personal business.

For example, the person who started the debate that day went off like, I hope no one gets offended… I’m just stating my belief… Sorry to hurt your feelings… But I must say this… Hope I didn’t hurt your feelings… All the while maintaining a very I-am-not-really-sorry expression and talking at the top of their voice.

You see, religious questions and critique is very rampant and not everyone is equipped to word their ideas effectively. Let’s be kind and considerate and ask ourselves if we have any privilege over our audience? If you are sure about your religious debate being correct and concrete, bring to an audience who is on the same advantage as you, in a neutral place where everyone can at least trust that your religious idea is up for debate as well!

Want to read more on what I have to say about religion? Read on:

The Crisp Connection between Religion, Culture and History

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Leave A Comment

  1. Shumaila Islam September 24, 2020 at 7:03 am

    I share your feelings. Loved reading this article.

  2. Farah Imran September 26, 2020 at 6:04 am

    Well written! I had certain experience too. Relatable!

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