I don’t claim to be an expert on religion, my own or anyone else’s.What I know is only my personal experience and the experiences that people of my own faith and others have chosen to share with me. I believe that religion is an innate and important part of our humanity and I don’t wish to criticize its existence. However, along with being an enormous asset and source of strength, religion can also be one of our most caustic weapons. With time and fervor religion and dogma begin to take on a life of their own, almost as independent and tangible as that if their creators.
Like all species, religion evolves within an ecosystem. It strikes a balance with the culture, resources, and needs in its environment.Scarce or important resources are sacred. A code of conduct reflects the needs and expectations of the culture and guides the interactions of the community. Stories and lessons of cultural identity are passed on to successive generations.
But what happens when we take this species out of the cultural context in which it developed? If done with knowledge and consciousness, it could adapt and add to the diversity of the area where it is introduced. However, when done with force, it could easily follow in the path of the cane toad in Australia or the zebra mussel in the lakes of Minnesota and become and invasive species that causes a grave imbalance and loss of important resources and heritage. Scarce water or plants that were previously sacred and treated with respect become part of a domain to be dominated and used with little discretion. Respect for elders and traditional wisdom is replaced by a value for the youth and physical ability, and causes upheaval and discontinuity within families.
Of course, the results depend on the disposition and cultural awareness of the people introducing a religion to a new area. As I said, it can be an informative and diversifying experience for everyone involved, but only if done with awareness, tolerance, and a desire from both sides to gain understanding.