Barry Goldman's objections to religious and spiritual diversity, as articulated in his Jan. 3 Times Op-Ed article, are too cynical and trite to even merit space in this newspaper. His Aunt Mary's quotation, "Whatever Jews believe, that's what I believe," is the policy of someone without intellectual or spiritual hunger. For Goldman to laud this attitude as proper shows an amazing amount of disdain on his part for the curiosity and exploration that religious growth requires. Using terms such as "superstitious hocus pocus" is simply another way of calling unfamiliar beliefs unfounded. Think of all those silly Hindus eating a vegetarian diet, those foolish Quakers sitting in silence, those odd Buddhists chanting together.
Goldman's derision of those who conduct their religious quests unaided by recognized authority raises an eyebrow at such small-minded simpletons as Martin Luther and Ralph Waldo Emerson. To say that "we used to be a nation with a broad consensus" misses the point completely. When only "acceptable" religions were mainstream practice, many people were left out, overlooked or dismissed. We are a nation founded on the freedom of religion, and to the Spanish Catholic monarchs who financed the expeditions of Columbus, the beliefs of the radical fringe of the Puritans of Plymouth would have been as completely absurd as "vibrational healing gong baths," or perhaps more so.
According to historian Leonard Shlain, it was only the rise of monotheism that brought about religious intolerance. Before that, there was no "only right way" to be religious. The polytheistic tradition that we have our gods, and you have yours, and everyone gets to decide what they want from their own religion, goes back to the Bronze Age.
I am pleased to be a member of the Unitarian Universalist church, where on Sunday mornings I sit with a congregation of atheists, Buddhists, Christians, Jews and pagans. We sing a few hymns, listen to a sermon, discuss our community and think of ways to make the world a bit better for everyone. Pretty wacky, eh?
People need religion as much as they need work and love. We are blessed to have both laws and a culture that allow us to explore, investigate and keep changing our minds until we settle on the beliefs that are best for us.
And I'm really tempted to Google "vibrational healing gong baths." That sounds like fun.
Judith Martin-Straw is a former editor of the Culver City News and is publisher of CulverCityCrossroads.com.