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Dear Ameer…Today is my 56th birthday and I want to thank you for celebrating it in your loving home with creative friends from different philosophical backgrounds. Let me share with you a couple of things that I learnt as a student of human psychology and philosophy that might help us in our ongoing dialogue.

        Over the years I have met three groups of people who have been following three different philosophical and ideological traditions.

        The first group follows the religious tradition. Such people not only believe in God, Prophets and Scriptures but also belong to a sect and attend a church, mosque, synagogue or a temple on a regular basis. Many of them also follow a religious leader who guides them in their rituals as well as in making the right choices in life.

        The second group follows the spiritual tradition. They believe in Higher Power but do not follow a religious tradition and do not belong to any religious sect. They believe more in personal meditation than attending any religious service.

        The third group follows a secular tradition. Such people neither believe in God nor do they belong to any religious sect. They neither attend any religious institution nor do they get involved in spiritual practices. Rather than believing in divine revelations and consulting scriptures for their guidance in life they rely on their own logical and rational thinking inspired by modern science, psychology and philosophy. For them their conscience is more sacred than holy books.

        The more I interact with the followers of different traditions the more I realize that their personalities are as important as their philosophies and their behaviors are as significant as their beliefs. Followers of any tradition can have a fundamentalist or a humanist personality.

        People with a fundamentalist personality like confrontations. They get involved in heated debates and angry arguments. They focus more on differences and try to convert others .which leads to social conflicts and finally end up in bitter debates that bruise both parties emotionally.

        On the other hand people with a humanist personality have a cooperative attitude. They believe in a genuine dialogue and listen to the other person’s point of view. They are respectful even when they disagree. Such people can have friendships even with people with a different philosophy and ideology.

        The relationship between people with a fundamentalist personality become complex and complicated if those people are leaders of religious groups or political parties. The conflict between the leaders can involve their followers. Such conflicts can culminate in wars, sometimes holy wars and many innocent people can get hurt even killed.

        On the other hand the relationship between people with a humanist personality can produce wonderful results. Leaders of different religious, spiritual and secular organizations and institutions with humanist personality can rise above their ideological differences and work together for some humanitarian goal and decrease human suffering.

        The more I become aware of the differences in personalities and philosophies, behaviors and beliefs, the more I am finding it easier to become friends with followers of different traditions. I have been successful in arranging workshops and seminars with people who followed religious and spiritual traditions. They knew that I am a Secular Humanist but were quite willing to join me in my professional and creative projects as we had a common goal to improve mental health education and raise social consciousness. Mutual respect and common goals helped us in working together and serving our communities.

DearAmeer, I am aware that we belong to different philosophical traditions but I feel very fortunate to have met you and become close creative friends in such a short time. We both have a genuine respect and regard for each other’s personality and philosophy. I look forward for us to dream, work and create together. This letter is a spontaneous expression of thanks and a pride that I feel in our friendship.



July9th, 2008

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