The Spirit of Things

I would like to think that I am a spiritual person. Most of my friends laughed when I told them that I was attending “Ignite,” a Christian rock festival and conference that drew more than one hundred teenagers from Andover, Exeter and Deerfield last Friday. Many of my friends are atheist or agnostic and disagree with Christian doctrine. So when I told them I was attending Ignite, they were shocked. I gave them the all-purpose excuse: I was invited by a close friend of mine. While this excuse was true, my decision to go to Ignite was fueled more by curiosity than anything. I wanted to see how Christians rock it out and learn about their views on the most controversial book of all time, the Holy Bible. At the beginning of the service, as the rock band was playing, I was laughing to myself and wondering, “What am I doing here? I’m not Christian… I’m not even religious!” About an hour into the event, I came to a sudden realization. This new insight took everything that I felt to be true and turned it upside down: maybe I have been wrong about religion and spirituality. I was raised a Jew and my parents always emphasized the difference between Jews and Christians. When I finally went out into the world, I took those messages with me. The Dalai Lama once said, “The world’s religions can contribute to world peace and growing harmony between the different faiths. It would be tragic if inter-religious rivalry and conflict undermines world peace in the 21st century.” Almost all religions promote the same sort of messages — compassion, love and generosity. Staring around the chapel, these virtues were evident as speakers came up to talk about getting closer to God. Of course, Ignite was taking these values and putting them in the context of Christianity. But after I took a closer look at other religions such as Islam, Judaism and Buddhism, it became apparent that these values are what drives these religions as well. When I looked around the front of the Cochran Chapel that night, I came to the realization that these people were striving to become what any Buddhist, Jew or Muslim aspires to be — a compassionate, loving person. Rather than accentuating the differences, why don’t we emphasize our similarities through the power of spiritual values? The Dalai Lama had a point when he stated that we could all use our common values to work towards common goals. Stop looking at a person’s religion and instead look at their values. There are some components of religion that nobody will ever agree on. It’s time to look beyond that doctrine and unite ourselves with our pursuit to become genuinely better humans. It is in judging others that conflict arises. We should accept that nobody is perfect and use our common, spiritual values to work together towards a greater good. Ben Talarico is a two-year Lower from Suquamish, Wash.