One thing that I have noticed in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks is how many people are saying something like “Every Muslim I know is a beautiful person.” The idea being communicated is that because they are beautiful people Islam is a good religion or a religion of peace. But kind of thinking is also used in different areas. For example I have heard people say these kinds of things: “All the gay people I know are great people.” or “All the Buddhists I know are amazing!” Now let’s be clear that there are always going to be beautiful people coming from all facets of our society and conversely there are going to be terrible people coming from the very same facets of our society. I know Christians that are arrogant and I know some Christians that are humble. I know gay people that are warm and generous and some that are cut-throat and mean. I know Muslims that are beautiful people and I know some that are rude.
Here is the point I am making, whether a person is a good person or not doesn’t legitimize or illegitimize their beliefs or their way they live their life. For example, imagine I said “Every murderer I know is a great person!” does the fact that every murderer I know is a nice person make murder legitimate? Of course not. Or imagine if I said “Every person that gives money to charity is terribly rude.” Does that mean the rudeness of people who give money to charity mean that giving money to charity is wrong? Of course not! Just because a person has an agreeable or disagreeable temperament doesn’t mean their beliefs or their way of life is right or wrong.
How did we get to this place where it seems like we are willing to vouch for the person’s religion or way of life based on their temperament? The reason is because we, by in large, no longer have a narrative in which we find who we are and what we are to do and think. We want to be truly free and that means detaching ourselves from everything and anything that may define us. But, when we do this we are left with nothing that will help us judge the worthiness or unworthiness of a particular belief, belief system or way of life. In this circumstance, we are left with either having our beliefs dictated to us by the media or by our by how a person or an idea makes us feel. So if I meet a nice Muslim, Christian, atheist etc. I will think they and their religion is nice because I like them. But if they say something that we don’t like I will dismiss either them or the belief they hold.
The solution to this problem is finding ourselves by looking deeper but finding ourselves in grand story that will not only inform us of who we are but will help us think and consider what it is to live the good life.,