Sunday, 7 October 2012

Post #4 Evaluating Intercultural Behaviour

It was the year 2003 and Paul and I arrived at Andrew’s house eager for a day of console games. As we made our way in, I noticed very unique features of the house. It was heavily decorated with Chinese words, symbols, statues of unfamiliar idols, stone lions and artistic crystal ornaments. Certain idols were provided an altar with burning incense.

Andrew and his family were devout Taoists, hence the appearance of the house. In contrast, Paul was a staunch Christian and was devastated with what he saw.

Paul: “Andrew! You can’t be worshipping demons!”

Andrew: “They are not demons! It’s my religion just like yours.”

Paul: “I know you think they are but there is only one God, and if you continue worshipping demons, you will burn in hell.”

Andrew: “By cursing me, it doesn’t make you Christians any better!”

Each religion tends to foster the belief that only their own is real. As such, two overzealous members of different religions engaging in a debate regarding the matter is a recipe for disaster. Paul was accustomed to the fact that any idol other than the Christian God is associated with evil. While there was a harmless motivation to spread his religion’s gospel, it would have been useful to be more accepting that Andrew was exposed to his culture through his background for most of his life and that even conversion could not happen overnight. Also, due to the nature of his religion, Andrew regarded “burning in hell” as an offensive remark rather than a mere suggestion of consequence. Yet by regarding Paul’s remark as a negative representation of Christians, Andrew has likewise committed an unreasonable judgment of another religion.

It is critical that we understand that religions are meant to give people a sense of identity and ultimately inculcate values as long as they do not involve immediate harm to people. Hence we should respect differences in traditions and customs while celebrating similarities of shared human culture.


  1. Hey Renick!

    wow, your friend Paul is quite harsh! If I had been Andrew, i would have immediately asked him to get out of the house. :P

    I would think that as a Singaporean, having been brought up in a multicultural country and having friends of different religions, one should have more tolerance and open-mindedness to religion and race. Personally, I am curious about the beliefs of the different religions. I would want to find out more about the history behind their beliefs, why is there 1 god or many gods. Once I know more, I would not criticise what they believe because everyone is entitled to their own opinion and beliefs. My Arabic teacher once told me that we cannot force our beliefs on one another, otherwise, it would be a competition among the difference religions. Instead, we should find and appreciate the commonalities that each religions shares.

    Here is a link I found that gives us the similarities that Islam and Christianity share:

    So just as how you have aptly put, we should respect our differences while embrace the similarities. :)

  2. Hi Tasha!

    Thanks for always being such a graceful classmate in helping me ensure that my blog doesn't have zero comments, I really appreciate it.

    I am agreeable that all religions deserve tolerance as I really think that its the most fundamental way of teaching people to be good unless the religion involves tying people to an altar and cutting them up or burning them. It definitely doesn't mean that any one person in your own religion is not capable of doing bad either.

    Yep although Singaporean, I think what happens sometimes is that people might be brought up in one religion in which their whole social circle revolves around it, friends, school. I come from a christian school (12 years) and know many people of such backgrounds. So some might not have been exposed to others and at a young age many might expect all school mates to be of the same faith as that of the school.

    I also find it unfortunate that there has to be different religions and the fact that any attempt to explain the existence of variety would ultimately undermine some. However, despite the differences, I think what people should take a step back to consider is that everyone somehow at the back of their minds would believe in some form of higher power or force of the Universe as many things can't be accounted for by human or science explanations.

    Thanks for the link! I'm pretty sure if I am not mistaken that the Islam and Christian God are the same yea?

  3. Hi Renick!

    Nice new background. Coincidentally, it reflects my state of mind when trapped in a situation where people are arguing about religion, or whose Truth is The Truth: gray and tumultuous. Mostly because it is upsetting to watch relationships potentially driving towards the rocks due to religious dispute. I think that when people with differing religions come together, each individual should at least try to frame his/her beliefs in the form of personal world views or approach to life, rather than claim superiority over others' beliefs. From my experience in watching IVLE forum discussions go aflame with religious indignation (when the original topic was not about religion in the first place), I now believe that while being overly politically correct may fail at getting our message across, or even invite suspicion that we are secretly alluding to something else, being sensitive to our phrasing of ideas is crucial in forwarding fruitful discussion.

  4. Hey Eunice!

    Thanks for your comment. And wow, what you have said is really deep and all too true. Unfortunate that relationships that would otherwise be perfectly healthy have to suffer as a result. And yes! I precisely agree that religions should be framed to address life in general and not superiority over another. If used for the latter, how is it different from being a social status. I must admit however that I might be often inclined to make the mistake of being overly politically correct. When it comes to my religion, I tend not to evangelise non believers but to urge them to keep an open mind and that it happens when it happens (refering to believing).

  5. In light of all the recent acrimony coming from several major incidents of intercultural conflict, this is a timely and important post. Like Tasha, I feel that your friend Paul showed such arrogance and "me attitude" that, if I were in Andrew's shoes, it would have been tempting to toss Paul into the street.

    You describe the scenario well, Renick, and you provide a worthwhile "interpretation." Indeed, for so many "believers," their socialization s clearly more the root of their adherence to a belief system than any sort of studied decision. Paul was probably just as guilty of that self-righteous perspective as Andrew.

    How did you react in that situation?

    1. Hi Brad,

      Thanks for your comment. I too feel that such overzealous behaviour can be a persistent problem.

      Your quotation marks in mentioning "believers" was exactly what I was trying to illustrate as the problem: many conflicts arise as a result of one group of people seeing their culture as being socially superior over others. I feel that a person of faith also tend to not being doing his or her own religion justice either in such actions as this would constitute "using the religion's/God's name in vain. Its tricky though when one is brought up from young around a single social element.

      I am actually a convert which might be why I saw it as an intercultural conflict. Being a christian, I tried to tell Andrew that while I wasn't going to start preaching to him, he should keep an open mind as these supernatural things appear to people at times and in forms when they least expect it such that they can no longer deny a belief. To Paul I suggested that if he had absolute faith in his religion, he should rest assured that God will reach out to Andrew eventually. I urged the both of them to take it from me: a once atheist devil music fan that experienced a change in life through faith and religion.