In an article on the Veterans Today website, Dr. Ashraf Ezzat said some things that struck me as rather profound:
It is hard to imagine that after thousands of years of man’s pursuit of divinity we still worship not one GOD. Human knowledge and experience have critically evolved throughout history. We don’t eat or read or think or even listen to music like in ancient times. Music has dramatically evolved from folk – prehistoric- music to large scale symphonies. But we still practice religion like in ancient times worshiping multiple deities with different names.
Music is the universal language of mankind, why can’t religion play the same role?
Let’s detach religion from the hate rhetoric and dirty politics. Let’s strip away the false appearances. Let’s liberate religion from the bounds of ignorance and extremism. Let’s delve into an era of enlightenment and coexistence amongst believers of different faiths and beliefs. Let’s agree that we could practice different religious rituals but that we glorify the same GOD.
Let’s not hate and kill each other over religion. Nobody’s GOD will like that. Nobody’s GOD could have decreed that.
Religion should be like music acting as a subtle form of communication which, at its best, transcends the limitations of language and ethnicity in unifying the people.
Which got me to thinking about other ways in which religions, particularly the Abrahamic faith traditions, are like music:
Though some dispute it, most believe that blues music predates jazz – that the blues initially spawned and influenced jazz but then they developed concurrently. Later rock and roll emerged, relying heavily on the blues and (less so) jazz.
Which seems analogous to how Christianity has its roots in Judaism while Islam incorporates elements of both pre-existing religions (though it leans more heavily upon the Hebrew scriptures than the New Testament).
When a musical form becomes the springboard for a new genre, it is in no way outdated, invalid or incomplete. And just because it existed before the newer genres does not make it in any way superior. Though some people listen to only one kind of music, most people can appreciate many different styles. Even the die-hard head-banger can appreciate the elements of jazz, blues (and even classical music) that make up the DNA of rock’n’roll. (Just as the religions of the West and the East share the DNA of Zoroastrianism.)
Huston Smith, in his autobiography “Tales of Wonder”, tells us how he has for years ‘religiously’ practiced the spiritual traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam, yet ultimately identifies himself as a Christian:
“Of most things that happened to me, if they had not happened, I would still be the same person. Erase Christianity from my life, though, and you will have erased Huston Smith.”
I had a little trouble understanding this until Dr. Ezzat’s analogy stimulated my imagination and reminded me of a Neil McCoy concert I once was cajoled into attending ( consequently missing Buddy Guy’s performance at the Annapolis Blues Fest). I’m no great country music fan but I do like some of the older classic songs. Neil McCoy was good, but his music didn’t really turn me on, except for the “Hillbilly Rap” in which he spoofs Jed and Granny’s theme song in the style of an early rapper.
Just before that song he introduced the members of his band, each one showing off a little of their prowess with other musical styles: blues, jazz, heavy metal – they were all excellent. I have to assume that these fellows (like me) enjoy various types of music and that they (like Smith with religions) are virtuosos when it comes to their musical applications. Yet it is country western music that defines them, just as Christianity defines Smith.
I think it is perfectly reasonable to understand, accept and celebrate other faith traditions while realizing that it is through only one of them that you most easily meet God. Sure, some elements of all the great religions are simply awful, just as some music is played poorly ( and a lot of religion is practiced poorly) while a lot of music (and a lot of religion) is merely commercialized crap. There must be a common muse that inspires all good music, just as there is a common spirit that inspires all good religion. Obviously not all musical performers can find that muse, just as many religious people can’t seem to find that spirit. A good part of it, though, is pretty good, even if not to everyone’s liking.
But what goes into making a religion good, anyway? As with music, you’ll know it when you find it.