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Tolerance: a thought on "respecting others beliefs"
Posted by: Roger Saner
The fire of belief
The book I am going to quote is called 'Carpe Jugulum' (seize the
throat) by Terry Pratchett and it's naturally a story about vampires. The two
characters in this passage are Granny Weatherwax who is a witch and
Mister Oats who is a young priest of a god called Om - he has just
started out as a priest and is quite nervous and just trying to do
the right thing. This conversation takes place between the two of
them and for me it is one of the strongest commentaries on
Christianity I've ever read:
"They walked on in silence. A shower of hail bounced off Granny's
pointed hat and Oat's wide brim.
Then Granny said, "It's no good you trying to make me believe in Om,
"Om forbid that I should try, Mistress Weatherwax. I haven't even
given you a pamphlet, have I?"
"No, but you're trying to make me think, "Oo, what a nice young man,
his god must be something special if nice young men like him helps
old ladies like me," aren;t you?"
"Really? Well it's not working. People you can believe in,
sometimes, but not gods. And I'll tell you this Mister Oats..."
He sighed. "Yes?"
She turned to face him, suddenly alive. "it'd be as well for you if
I didn't believe," she said, prodding him with a sharp finger. "This
Om...anyone seen him?"
"It is said three thousand people witnessed his manifestation at the
Great Temple when he made the Covenant with the prophet Brutha and
saved him from death by torture on the iron turtle-"
"But I bet that now they're arguing about what they actually saw,
"Well, indeed, yes, there are many opinions-"
"Right. Right. That's people for you. Now if I'd seen him, really
there, really alive, it'd be in me like a fever. If I thought there
was some god who really did care two hoots about people, and who
watched 'em like a father and cared for 'em like a mother...well,
you wouldn't catch me saying things like "There are two sides to
every question," and "We must respect other peoples beliefs." You
wouldn't find me just being gen'rally nice in the hope that it'd all
turn out right in the end, not if that flame was burning in me like
an unforgivin' sword. And I did say burnin', Mister Oats, cos that's
what it'd be. You say that your people don't burn folk and sacrifice
people any more, but that's what true faith would mean, y'see?
Sacrificin' your own life, one day at a time, to the flame,
declarin' the truth of it, workin' for it, breathin' the soul of it.
THAT'S religion. Anything else is just...is just bein' nice. And a
way of keepin' in touch with the neighbours.
She relaxed slightly, and went on in a quieter voice. "Anyway,
that's what I'd be, if I really believed. And I don't think that's
fashionable right now, 'cos it seems that if you sees evil now you
have to wring your hands and say, "Oh deary me, we must debate
this." That's my two penn'orth, Mister Oats. You be happy to let
things lie. Don't chase faith, 'cos you'll never catch it." She
added, almost as an aside, "But, perhaps, you can live faithfully."
Her teeth chattered as a gust of icy wind flapped her wet dress
around her legs.
"You got another book of holy words on you?" she added.
"No," said Oats, still shocked. He thought: my god, if she ever
finds a religion, what would come out of those mountains and sweep
across the plains?"
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