We had the first meeting of our writers' group today (if you are a writer, I highly recommend one). It was fantastic. I swear we could have talked forever, and I am really excited about the work my group-mates are doing. I think we must have covered every topic under the sun, but we did get around to religion. Not just "gee, I'm Catholic, gee, I'm Lutheran," but an actual deep discussion of culture and religion and cultures that readily adopt new traditions/icons into their religion (Hindus) and cultures that don't (*cough* fill in the blank *cough*).
We talked about how these days Westerners (like me) with such unlimited access to information & exposure to other cultures and belief systems now cobble together their own understanding from pieces of countless teachings. The pros and cons of that have been endlessly debated (eg: raising up belief systems where you take all the benefits and none of the drawbacks and everything is roses & faeries), but I am a believer in taking what feeds you and strengthens your connection to the Divine, no matter where it comes from. This does not mean I don't believe in consequences, or that a faith-filled life should suddenly be without struggle. It just means I believe Truth has many faces.
The conversation swung around to the nuts in Florida burning the Qur'an. Being me, I brought up religious persecution and Tarot readers ((oh my God, woman, isn't that horse dead yet?!)) and the story I heard at MATS about the librarian who tore the Tarot card in half. I said you just don't. You don't burn the Qur'an. You don't tear up Tarot cards. You don't deface the Holy Bible. You don't vandalize Shiva. You just don't do these things. It's about respect.
My group-mate smiled when she saw how wound up I got about it. Then she said, "After you attain enlightenment, burn Buddha." I guess a Zen teaching is that once you reach enlightenment, you need nothing but that enlightenment, not even the path that brought you there. She was, of course, also referring to our attachment to these religious/spiritual "things." I Googled, and found two Buddhist stories about the statues of Buddha being burned/dismantled to serve a practical purpose. I am also familiar with the Mandalas of Tibet and the alfombras for Pascua - both beautiful examples of sand art, both showing the impermanence of even the most beautiful things. How something you work very hard to build can be destroyed.
Still, I had to admit, I would be beside myself if one of my working decks were torn to pieces. Tarot is not a religion, but it does exemplify certain values and beliefs and, the way I use it, it encourages a deeper connection to the Divine. I explained how a Tarot deck you own and have worked with set side-by-side with its brand new out-of-the-plastic double (the same deck) is visibly changed. Your working deck is thicker, puffed up higher, more worn. It has absorbed the oil of your hands and the energy of your spirit. I imagine someone who had faithfully underlined, read, and re-read their dogeared copy of the Holy Bible would feel the same way.
What are we afraid of, really? What is so threatening about allowing people to connect to God in their own way? Why, of all things, do we tear apart other religions? Honestly, I think it shows a weakness of your own faith if you need to attack other belief systems to sustain it.