03 May 2012 @ 11:48 am
I got into a long "discussion" with my sister yesterday/last night, because she posted a video of Stephen Fry talking about how belief in the afterlife impedes your ability to live a good this-life. (It actually wasn't as condescending as I had imagined it to be initially, though.)

Playing the mediator card as I so often do, especially about something I'm as passionate about as religious studies, I just tried to debunk some of the generalizations I was seeing. I'd also lent my sister, per her request, my copy of the Bhagavad Gita: As It Is (so the translation by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada), and she had started texting me how "Christianity totally ripped off Hinduism". I agreed that a lot of cultures have similar things in their religions (otherwise how would we even know to call it "religion" if not reoccuring themes?) and asked her what SHE found to be similar. When she replied with "dogma" and the forcing of strict relgious practices on practitioners, I tried to explain that the Bhagavad Gita is, while the more modern Hindu epic text, not the end-all of religious authority. First there was the rigidity of fire sacrifice told about in the Vedas, then the more philosophical turn of the Upanishads, then the epic tales of the Ramayana and Mahabharata (the Bhagavad Gita is a book inside the Mahabharata). And nowadays, the people who identify as Hindu are generally just practitioners of Bhakti Yoga, which is what the Bhagavad Gita kinda kicked off anyway. Basically, they're simply devoted to a god of their choosing and that's...their religion. Individual practices are based on what country/area they're from and level of devoutness, etc.

So I was trying to get across that just because she's now finally read one of the "Hindu" texts, it doesn't mean that it's viewed the way Christians view their Bible - it doesn't tell them exactly what to do, but provided a starting point for a cultural/religious shift.

Well, my sister hates being argued with and apparently decided I was calling her stupid by "telling her things [she] already knows" and even went so far as to decide that calling me "butthurt" was a good way to reassure me that she was perfectly calm in this discussion.

Obviously I'm done responding to her if she's being so ridiculous, but it was pretty trying for me to have her be insulting huge swaths of cultures and religions and simply hand-waving the facts I was trying to show her as "Oh you just think you're smarter than me because you've read more than me, but I know more than you about religion because I've been interested in it longer and I wanted to study religion in college at one point!". Uhm, no. This isn't a contest about who knows more, this is about learning to respect other cultures and not just assume that everyone who identifies as a certain religion practices in the same way.

But of course, my sister thinks she can do no wrong and that if you try to correct her or show her new information, that what you're really saying is "I'm smarter than you". I realise I'm not perfect and perhaps my tone wasn't as neutral as I can hope it was, but it's frustrating when she immediately feels cornered and starts getting insultingly self-defensive.

This sort of reminds me of the time she told me that all Muslims follow the Quran to the letter and are prejudiced and violent. I mean, literally said to me that their religion is terrible and inherently all about killing people who disagree with you, and that anyone who identifies as Muslim but might NOT feel that way just isn't a true Muslim. I just... Hopefully she doesn't say stuff like that in public, I guess?
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