Religion and spirituality in Oklahoma

By Carla Hinton, Religion Editor Published: October 25, 2008
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hn McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., attended at Warren’s Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.

Saad Mohammad, director of Islamic information for the Islamic Society of Oklahoma City, said he thinks the reason people are talking more about faith is because they are more aware of different faith beliefs than they were in years past. He said this enhanced awareness probably started before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but appeared to increase exponentially after the tragedy.

“Nine-eleven paved the way for more open dialogue about different religions and I think it’s good because it opens up an opportunity for education and dialogue,” Mohammad said. “This should be promoted by all faiths.”

The Rev. Ed Weisenburger, pastor of a Roman Catholic church, Our Lady’s Cathedral, said he thinks that more people are now realizing that faith has value in their lives.

“I think when we go back further in time to the 1960s and the 1970s, people were questioning organized religion as well as the beliefs of a 4,000-year Judeo-Christian tradition. Today we’ve moved beyond that and many people are embracing the faith of their ancestors and applying it to every facet of their life,” he said.

The Rev. Rick Stansberry, pastor of Christ the King Catholic Church, said it’s important to note that not all who discuss religion these days do it from a positive viewpoint.

He said he listened to a recent radio program that focused on people who are “recovering from religion.”

“One woman said that the church had been telling her that she was sinning. The reality is we’ve all committed sins,” Stansberry said.

He said the ill will that some feel for faith communities could stem from the self-righteousness of some religious people.

“The problem can be sometimes people who are religious can be self-righteous and think everybody should feel the way they do,” Stansberry said.

The Rev. Bruce Prescott, director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists and president of the Norman chapter of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said he is supportive of religious dialogue as long as it is not limited to one faith tradition in the public square.

“Our society is not one that has an established religion. That’s what the First Amendment says,” Prescott said.

He said in recent years some Christians have tried to dominate the public square.

However, Prescott said awareness has grown of other faith beliefs and even the notion that some people, like atheists, don’t ascribe to religion — and they don’t have to.

As an example, he pointed to the interfaith day of prayer and reflection program that has been conducted for the last several years at the State Capitol, coinciding with an evangelical Christian National Day of Prayer program.