Recently I went on a small weekend outing with a new found friend here in US. And she question me about the religion, this post is result of that. I did not even thought about that beforehand.
First I have to say that I experienced a nasty surprise when I saw that in US religious believe is in essence matter of being right, and that people of different congregation fanatically pushing their issue. That’s something rare in Europe, and usually is frown upon because it leads to aggression. And I’m even more sensitive on the whole issue because I saw how people who were passionate followers of “true religion” end up slaughtering other humans who happen to think differently.
So here in US I’m shying away from people who call themselves religious, because in my mind they are extremists. The kind of people with whom is dangerous to disagree.
On the other hand, I had a habit that I brought from my country to say that I am Orthodox and keep a symbols of the religions visible in my dwelling and on myself. The fact that it passed years and years when I went to a church last time did not change that. In my mind that was something to do to show to which nation one belongs. Because in my country there is a strange equalisation between religion and nation. It was introduced by Muslims during the rule of the Ottoman and it’s still there and today is emphasised by declaring all Muslims in the Bosnia as Boshnjaci, although that name should belong to any person who has Bosnian citizenship regardless to the religion. But it is not. Citizenship and nationality are not same in my country, but religion and nationality are. So all Croats are considered to be Catholic, all Serbs Orthodox and as a new stuff, all Boshnjaci are in reality Muslims.
In my country is not unusual that someone will say that they are Catholic/Muslim/Orthodox but they do not believe in that. It is considered normal.
So the question was: is that because of the war? And I have to say that it certainly has the influence. During the war if you did not “belong” to anyone you were under risk to be prosecuted by all sides. At least if you say you belong somewhere, then that side will not bother you. So we were saying that we belong to the appropriate religion, the one your ancestors had, because your name, family name and sometimes dialect showed that belonging. (Remember, that was formed during the Ottoman rule where people were classified by religion and separated by religion. Ottomans did not allow mixing…)
So the little cross I was wearing around my neck turned into some sort of talisman, something to prevent bad things of happening. When I left Bosnia after the war, I met an Arab from Dubai who sat next to me during a German language class, and started with enthusiasm saying how his father was funding a Muslim army in Bosnia. I was terrified. I did not know what to do. During the war there were Mujahedins fighting on the side of the Muslims in Bosnia, and they had very, very, very nasty reputation. So bad, that people were preferred to kill themselves then to allow Mujahedins to capture them. Civilians I mean. And for the female, capture by Mujahedins would be equal to a hell. A real hell.
So I continued carrying my cross, this time openly and visibly so no more Arabs confused me to a Muslim from Bosnia.
I kept that habit. For me that was a sort of the protection.
Then I moved in US to learn that here if you say that you’re belonging to a certain religion and have symbols of that religion visible usually means that you’re one of the extremist who is “always right”. So in this country, my little cross is not a talisman anymore but declaration that I’m a kind of person that were doing the worse atrocities in my country during the war.
So I understand why my friend was pushing the issue. She could see that I am not an extremist in any way.
But all that started an internal questioning within myself. Why really I do put those symbols up, when last I went to a proper mass 6-7 years ago? And in true, I do not like hypocrisy of the official religious institutions who do not follow the essence of the believe within their dogma, but just insist that they are “right”, so it’s not likely that I’ll go and listen again a proper mass.
Hmm, that’s something I need to work within myself. But it was a quite revelation that I do put up those religious symbol as they are some kind of talismans...