The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
We all need services and products. Needs and wants, wants to needs. Listening to my favorite local radio station this morning, I realized that I have seen and heard many millions of commercials selling everything from acne cleansers to zylophones, or tax aid from accountants to Zippity-Do-Da Cleaning during my lifetime. I’ve learned to listen carefully and look for good and honest value for my hard-earned dollars, and it took me years to understand that reliability and quality should be my first purchasing considerations.
So we know what we want—the best value—but how do we distinguish which product or service gives it from the constant barrage of hype?
Really, most importantly, the buying decision comes down to two choices: impulse and convenience if you don’t care too much, or belief based on some knowledge or past experience. “Brand Loyalty,” the marketers call it, that all-too-human tendency to stick with what’s familiar, reliable and comfortable. Once you buy a product or service, and it performs relatively well, you tend to remain loyal and continue down that same path.
But what about brand loyalty when “choosing” a religion?
Frankly, most of us don’t “choose” our religion. Instead, we grow up in the practices and traditions and cultural interpretations of one religion or another, or of no religion. Very few of us actively set out on a quest to choose our religion. Strangely, while we compare products and services, we rarely compare belief systems. Our religion—our deepest, most closely-held inner convictions—gets chosen for us, by our heritage or our parents or our culture. That’s brand loyalty to the extreme, even to the extreme of hating or despising those who don’t agree with us, or worse actually killing in religion’s name, as we’ve seen throughout history and now highly practiced by Islam’s hijackers.
In this case, as I hit “like” this morning on Facebook, I agreed with the meme “If religion means hating and killing, it’s better there be no religion.” I first heard this at age 22 when I read:
Religion should unite all hearts and cause wars and disputes to vanish from the face of the earth; it should give birth to spirituality, and bring light and life to every soul. If religion becomes a cause of dislike, hatred and division it would be better to be without it, and to withdraw from such a religion would be a truly religious act. For it is clear that the purpose of a remedy is to cure, but if the remedy only aggravates the complaint, it had better be left alone. Any religion which is not a cause of love and unity is no religion. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 132.
If you’re lucky, you get to choose the food you eat, where you sleep, what you drink, where you work, what you buy, what you drive, your date or mate, to have children or adopt. You even get to choose the radio station you listen to.
Can you say you’ve also chosen your religion? Or has your religion chosen you?