Friday, July 22, 2005

The Syrian version of “I believe in …. because….”

One thing you’ll find apparent in Syria, is how the vast majority belong to the “believers’ community”. You can rarely find people who question their own faith , at least not openly. The question “Is there a God?” has no necessity to be asked. You are most likely to be born to a family that tells you there’s a God. Your teachers and classmates at school know that there’s a God too.

Usually, when you ask people around the world about their religion and why they believe in it, you'd expect an in-depth answer like this:
"I believe in [fill in the religion you want] because it offers me so much peace of mind, it gives me strength, and it makes me closer to [Insert the higher power you want].

On the other hand, after a long and productive conversation in Syria, you'd receive an answer in the vein of this model:
"I believe in [fill in the religion you want] because this religion and that religion are completely wrong. I have all the evidence to proof my assertions.That being said, my religion is the correct one, because the rest are wrong. Besides, it's the religion of my parents, and they can't be wrong".

I have received this kind of reaction for almost all my life, whether online, or in real life. The interesting thing is that these kind of answers don't pertain a certain sect or religion, because I have received them from Christians, Sunnis, Alawites, and Druz.

The fascinating thing is that those methods - of proving others wrong - used by these people could be used again to prove their own religion wrong. The method they use to argue about other religions consist of historical facts, changes in the holybooks, burning old manuscripts, and influences from pagan or former religions. All these methods could be applied to all religions and sects of Syria, (Whether you and I like it or not).

Of course, proving everybody else as a "wrong believer" is the easy way out to prove the dilemma and the skepticism of your own faith. This actaully shows a lack of faith, lack of confidence, and lack of the general knowledge about one's religion.

I am also surprised how people know and learn about the "others'" religions even more than they do, or care to, about their own. Can't believers go deeper inside their own religion and find out why they belong to that religion, instead of knowing why they don't belong to other religions?


Religions in Syria nowadays serve less and less religious purposes. They've become more of a card of identity, that enables you to say "I'm this or that", "I can get married to this and that", and "I don't prefer to hang out with this and that".

I don't like to generalize so much, but I'm trying to shed some light on some of the Syrian mentality. This entry was sort of an introduction (to prepare some sectarian people) to accept that there will be some info, that they might not like, about other religions. I Do hope that the information that will be provided later about the various sects of Syria won't be held against the people of those certain faiths.

Lastly, our purpose as the youth of Syria is to pinpoint our mistakes and hypocrisies in order to grow and to improve our society. Please, keep that in mind.

12 Comments:

Blogger Fadi said...

Great topic and analysis friend.
It touches on something that no ordinary Syrian would like to discuss in the open. It is discussed in very close circles or among some "literate" elite.

Freedom to accept God or not, or just be "agnostic" is usually forbidden and there is a lot of restraints from the society, family and even oneself not to question stuff! regardless how much skepticism a person may have.

And it is never said better: "I believe in [fill in the religion you want] because this religion and that religion are completely wrong. I have all the evidence to proof my .....". And sometimes even worse: "this is the religion of my parents and family!!" or "I was born [fill]"

Also unique to Syria (and the east?!) is the difference between religion and faith!! Interesting thing I noticed in the Christian community that I never seen in western countries: they pretend to be strongly religious, they go to churches, pay dues, talk about religion ...but they rarely pray!! Especially men who consider praying shameful or "unmanly". And again, have no idea what is their faith all about. So, as you implied, religion in these settings is just an ideology, not faith.

Again, difficult no to generalize so truth is somewhere out there! :)

3:56 PM  
Anonymous I LIVE IN SYRIA said...

Do you accept me if I said I hate all religions?

8:00 AM  
Blogger Ihsan said...

You put your finger on the wound (donno if this a valid english proverb).

I couldn’t agree more with what you said!

However, your assertion, how people know about other religion more their knowing about their own, is not really accurate!
People, mainly, do know the false and the distorted versions of the other religions and sects! Not the true versions! I was brought up to know bad things about Shiiate and Alawites, (not Christianity, cuz I attended Christian schools), I grew to think that they are evil-worshipers….. Until, I started to look up things and read. I was really shocked of the outcome! However, I was even more shocked when I discussed the elders and the youth of my religion because I was accused of being false and having a “weak” faith!

One last point I would like to mention is the so-called tolerance we have in Syria! People are muted out of fear not love! People do not dare to speak out loud because they will be in troubles, not because they do respect the others! The proof I have is the internet discussions. I have read so many discussions between Syrian from different sects and I saw what I never thought existed! One should not generalize though, but the bigger portion is like that.

Thanx

11:03 AM  
Blogger Stellar said...

As an open minded and religious person, yes there is such thing, I agree with what you're saying.

What bothers me is that the way people are brought up in the Arab world all together. People in general aren't brought up to think for themselves regarding anything, not just religion. They fill the youth with fear, one way or another then the youth wouldn't be as independent and productive as they need to be for their own sake and the sake of the community of their country.

There's nothing wrong with questioning anything. I do it all the time to grasp a better understanding of what's going on. I believe that people who do the research and learn about everything are more appreciated and they themselves probably will find some sort of proper peace and purpose in life.

If people actually do the research in their own religion properly and question the bullshitters that give them extreme ideas they'll find that a lot from what they know is seriously wrong. For example, do people know that there is this verse in the Qur'an?

"Those who believe (in the Qur'an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve." Ayah/Verse Al Baqara:62

I think that says something important to all mankind about religion especially Muslims.

People need to open their eyes and start seeing that who are we to judge other people whatever faith they are. We all are here on earth to live our lives.

8:52 AM  
Blogger yaman said...

Hello!

I was wondering if you could make a post about atheists/agnostics in Syria. How common are they? How outspoken are they? What is the state of the freethinking mind in Damascus?

I'd really love to know more about this, because I did feel a little alienated during my visits there.

3:58 AM  
Anonymous Civil Disobedience Ultimatum said...

The movement is growing..

3:15 PM  
Blogger Tolerant Damascene said...

Yaman,

I'm going to talk about Atheism and my experience with Atheists later on.

For now, I'm concentrating on a few organized and not-so-well-organized sects.

:)

5:23 PM  
Blogger Justine said...

That was so interesting! I look forward to reading more.

8:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found syrians to be much more able to talk about the existance or not of g/God(s).

Perhaps it's mainly my Syrian family.

The city I come from in Syria people don't automatically assume you are a believer in God.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Tolerant Damascene said...

Really anonymous?

Can I ask which city you come from?

5:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Such an interesting topic. If you stop and think about it. The main reason behind believing in God is FEAR. All you hear out there is:
you can't do this because God will punish you. Or, if you do that you will not go to heaven. Is that the best reason why I should believe in God?!

Looking forward to reading more about Syria.

5:32 PM  
Blogger isadsu said...

great topic

this argument :"I believe in my god because others are false gods" is an general argument of most believers all over the world not only is Syria,here where I live (USA) many chrurches are spreading the same message:my religion is the only one accepted, and all others are lost" at work almost everyday I have to deal with the favorite question: have you been saved yet?
of course with the pity look in his eyes
so is a general argument among many believers regardless what nationality

the reason is simply ,bcause todays believers have lost the real meaning and main message of every religion , and that is tolerance
Jesus said : love your neighbour
Quran said: you have your faith , I have mine

this is the message that todays believers have lost ...don`t you agree ?

7:40 AM  

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