Thursday, April 17, 2008

Another little pet peeve in language!

One of the things that vexes me most when getting into discussions about religion is how many religious people will totally ignore that 3/4ths of the world's population belongs to three religions (Christianity, Islam and Hinduism), and talk about how small to fringe religions are as socially meaningful and important as the big three.

It drives me nuts! Yes, I know that Baha'i people aren't particularly crazy as religious people go. Too bad there are only about six million of them. I know that Unitarian Universalists aren't whack jobs. Too bad there are so few of them, then! To act as though these small, politically impotent and socially irrelevant faiths (sorry, all you Baha'i and UU people out there, it's . . . true) are the normal way religion gets done in the world, or America, is nuts. Absolutely nuts.

It is also this total conversation stopper! Because, well, if I was Baha'i or a UU member, I'd be clear in distinguishing how my religion is different from those other crazy people religions out there. I would say, "Well, while it is true that currently religions are parochial and close-minded in large, that does not have to be the case" or something like that. I wouldn't defend religion generally by pretending my tiny minority religion somehow represented religion overall.

But it one of my linguistic pet peeves. How religious people defend the whole of religion by acting like mainstream Christianity, Islam and Hinduism don't exist or aren't particularly meaningful to general discussions about religion. It is a dirty trick that decontextualizes discussions about religion in absurd ways.

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