Africa:. It is 4:10 am, and I hear the Islamic first call to prayer ... just as the Christians finally went to bed after singing all night.
Plan A – Believe in a God and go to heaven.
Plan B – Don't believe in a God, and end up as pile of dust.
Plan C – Refuse to accept guilt. (The best choice!)
Often for fun, I say something like, “What did you do so bad that you need to pray so much?”
Traveling the planet feels like being in a mall and walking by stores. And inside each store is religious salesperson, who walks out, hands me a brochure, and demands that I enter. Then, when I refuse, this religious salesperson infers, imply or just comes out and tells me, “Andy, you are bad guy.”
Hmm, this person is not God, and only the Devil would know…
Hmm, this is not much fun, not a great way to start the day. And I did nothing wrong, so he is lying to me and not a very good salesperson. Starting a sales pitch with lie dooms the sale.
I thought about this when I heard the Islamic first call to prayer. I am quite sure that 90 percent of the local men were rolling over in bed and trying to ignore the call because starting the day guilty is no fun.
The women, on the other hand, use this as a wake up call and started preparing for the day. They open the door, start the fire for cooking, and start sweeping the ground in front of the house. If there is one thing that all cultures have in common, it is that they love to sweep. There is something spiritual about using a broom to sweep the clutter out of a home.
However, all religions want us to put all our eggs in one basket; it is their way or the highway.
Sometimes, I ask, “OK, we are Christian; does this mean the half of the planet that is Muslim is going to Hell?”
It is a rhetorical question; I do not want an answer. But for sure I want to hear something generous from the person, something that does not break all the eggs on the planet, whereby half of the human race goes to Hell.
We world travelers need a strategy for religions. I do want anyone to become Buddhist. And Hinduism is painful; they talk too much. And Islam has way too many rules, yet Christianity seems guilty as sin. The Jews have too many enemies. And, in doubt, many just make a new religion, something unique, which is not unique.
My religious strategy is simple. When people ask me God questions, those provoking ones, I nod my head and say, “I don’t argue with God, and I will not argue with you.” If they proceed, I give them the hand; it's very hard to argue with the hand: It has no tongue and speaks 10 times more effectively than words.
Funny story: The other day, I was trying to buy a mattress for my bed. Well, the minute I started to negotiate for the mattress, the call to pray started at the local mosque. And, hoping to not be a barbarian, one who refuses to have respect for local customs, I said, “Take a break. Go to prayer.” I said to him, “If you go talk with God, pray, and remember to be a good guy, then I will get a better deal on this mattress.”
This made perfect sense to me, but he seemed to disagree. As we proceeded to negotiate, he found no need to leg a good God interference.
God does have a sense of humor, but I'm not sure about his or her people. Now, when I find a person with a sense of humor about God, then we have a good talk. The rest get the hand. Religious folks are like beggars: The more you talk, the more they refuse to leave.
Many people want me to find God, and I love to reply, “I did not know he was lost. Will you please go look for him?”
This person feels guilty and needs to search for God, and all I can do is give him or her encouragement that one day he or she will find God. But for me, I am quite sure he is not lost.
I want to thank all the good gods for making life free from the need for guilt, merely an option. And please, when you see a person carrying a basket full of eggs, do not try to knock them over; this is not polite.
Andy Lee Graham