What is sacred? Respecting the spiritual beliefs and commitments of others

Published: Friday, Dec. 2 2011 12:00 p.m. MST

"Through creation, God has revealed that everything in the universe is 'good,' but especially human beings, who, created in God's image, have a God-given dignity and worth," Gudreau said. This view of the sacred, she continued, "can form the way Catholics interact with others through actions such as 'welcoming the stranger in their midst' or 'choosing life.'"

Gudreau said that Catholics also experience the sacred in their lives through sacraments and sacramentals, symbols or signs, and in creation itself.

"For me," said the Rev. Patrick O'Neill, minister of the First Unitarian Congregational Society of Brooklyn, N.Y., "the relationship of all living things, each to the other and to the world which sustains us, is sacred. Whatever violates that relation violates the sacred. Whatever nourishes that relation increases it. Whatever calls us to an appreciation of that relation, calls us to holiness, invites us to the sacred."

And that invitation requires respect, regardless of whether or not you embrace the holiness being offered.

"There should be a great respect for other people and what they believe," Nelson said. "That's what I want for myself. I want people who don't believe what I believe to respect what I believe even if they don't agree with it."

Added Trotter: "We can and should demonstrate respect toward the faith and religious symbols of others, particularly those elements deemed sacred."

And what should be the response of believers to those who ridicule their beliefs, and demean that which they hold to be sacred?

"By and large, such disrespect is a manifestation of ignorance," Rabbi Zippel said. "Respect is a by-product of education. And so our appropriate response to those who speak from their ignorance is to love them, embrace them and lead them to desire a greater pursuit of knowledge of the sacred."

EMAIL: jwalker@desnews

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