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CHARLES TOWN – Almost 100 years ago, Baltimore-born writer Emily Post became synonymous with etiquette. Author of a number of books and a syndicated column, Post was second only to the Bible in her readership, according to The New York Times, and believed the hallmark of manners was to make others feel welcome and comfortable. Her down-to-earth column offered readers an opportunity to ask a wide range of questions about mannerly behavior in a cultured society.
This week, the Spirit of Jefferson debuts “Ask Sophia,” which will invite readers to feel welcome and comfortable as they pose a wide variety of questions – but rather than questions of etiquette, we’ll focus on religion.
Today, about 69 percent of the world’s population deems religion to be important and ethnographers recognize it as a dynamic process in any society. Most religions develop from a spirit of hospitality, but history demonstrates how in extremes it can be a force of separation or even hostility.
Religion, by its very nature, does not stand outside human experience as an “add-on” but offers a spiritual dimension to the way society interacts. Just as people grow and change through each new encounter, relationship and experience, religion provides the reflective tool to help society form its moral voice.
“Ask Sophia” will not advocate any particular religious position. It will offer observations and highlight what religions offer. There will be no effort to proselytize or favor one religion over another. The column will address particular questions readers ask, and respond to each question with a well-researched answer. One positive outcome could be better understanding among people.
We introduce the column this week with two questions that came to us from the community as we described this new effort:
Dear Sophia –
Why did you entitle the column, “Ask Sophia”?
Dear Jane –
Sophia is a popular name derived from Greek. It means wisdom. By calling the column “Ask Sophia” there is acknowledgement of the wisdom that will be shared shared both by asking questions and by searching for answers.
Thank you for the question.
Many people disagree about religion and religions. In fact, some people say that for peace among family and friends, you should never discuss money, politics, nor religion. How can a discussion about religion, which usually draws red flags, add to a feeling of welcome and hospitality?
You make a good point. Religion often draws fire when people see themselves as the only conveyors of truth. It is hoped that will not become a problem. Any discussion about life and religion will require honesty and openness on the part of all the participants. Your question prompted us to collect a number of definitions and ideas about religion. Certainly, readers will find some common ground among these ideas to allow a healthy dialogue to begin.
Religion is … a quest for the divine; a belief in more than we know or see; a belief in spiritual reality; a system of creeds and values to help us through life; as old and as wise as people; a value system based on belief in a superior being; a respect for human life and all creation; a belief in a higher being who is creator, redeemer and sanctifier; tolerance and acceptance of others; an organized effort to form community; and a belief in a system of prayers, reflection, and good deeds in order to attain fullness of life.
Thank you for your question. Please look for more “Ask Sophia” in next week’s Spirit.
— Email your questions and any feedback from this week’s column to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail your questions and thoughts in care of Robert Snyder, Attn: “Ask Sophia,” Spirit of Jefferson, P.O. Box 966 Charles Town 25414. If we use your question in print, we’ll identify you by your first name only.