Religious Intolerance

Remember the pistachio pudding entry a week or two ago?  It was the one about how I bought powdered pudding mixes for some Christian missionary friends up in Chiang Mai.  After cross-posting that entry on facebook, one friend took a thinly-veiled swipe at organized religion, making a potentially hurtful comment on my profile page that could also be read by the missionary friends.  This bothered me.

After a conversation with the friend who made the anti-religion remarks, he apologized for any offense and asked me to remove the comments, which I did.  But I was left pondering his remarks in a broader context and wanted to put those thoughts down on paper, as it were.

Prophet Palin

There are many people who have suffered discrimination and persecution at the hands of organized religion.  As a gay man who continues to struggle for my right to be married to the person of my choice, I fully understand that there are people whose faith is pitted against my rights.

There are also many people who think that all organized religion, regardless of faith, is a sham.  Books such as Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” lay out a comprehensive argument why belief in a god is irrational and is bad for mankind.  Being a rational person, I fully appreciate the points people who argue against religion make.

There are also many people who have deep faith in one religion or another, people who are my friends, family members, and loved ones, whom I know to be good people who give deeply and generously of themselves, their talents, and their time, people who are not predisposed to impose their beliefs upon others, and who have been great supporters of Tawn and me and our struggle to have the same rights as any members of society.

There are many people who have a deep mistrust of people of faith whose faiths are different from, but as equally deep as, their own.  Hateful, ignorant comments fly from the mouths and the fingertips of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists about members of other faiths.  Witness the recent fuss over the building of a mosque in close proximity to the former World Trade Center in New York City.

I am a person who was raised in a family of faith and who struggled with the contradictions between the teachings of that faith, the teachers of that faith, and my own position in the order of things.  I am a person who many years ago arrived at a comfortable answer to these contradictions, an answer I do not choose to share here on Xanga because I think it is a personal answer.  Most importantly, I am a person who believes deeply in the freedom both of speech and of religion.  So I find myself in a middle ground that I feel gives me the perspective and the right to say the following:

We need to rein in the religious intolerance. 

Regardless of your beliefs, whether they be for a particular religion or virulently against all religion, there is nothing to be gained and no benefit to berating another person for his or her beliefs or lack of belief.  Bashing others over the head will not win them over to your side of the argument.  It won’t even make them stop to reconsider their own side of the argument.  All it does is increase the level of hostility, vehemence, and distrust.

I encourage people to have serious, thoughtful discussions about ideas of importance.  Questioning one’s faith is a powerful way to make it stronger and is also a powerful way to come to new realizations about its failings.  Questioning others’ faith can be done in a way to both educates ourselves and creates shared connections with people of different ideas and backgrounds.  But I don’t see any point to blatant and often ignorant religious intolerance, except to further your own anger.

There, I’ve said my peace.  Back to writing about food.


0 thoughts on “Religious Intolerance

  1. You said, “I am a person who believes deeply in the freedom both of speech and of religion.”Agreed. One of the most dangerours things of all is the tyranny of the majority. Though I am not a gay people, I may also have something that is the object of tyranny of the majority.

  2. I will continue to be vehemently intolerant of any religion – sadly, in my personal experience, most often fundamentalist Christians – who blatantly promote hate disguised, sickeningly so, as a tenant of faith birthed from their warped interpretation of the Bible. One does not have a serious, thoughtful discussion with such folk as they are bred to be neither.

  3. I am a follower of faith. I dislike people use it as propaganda. You and I share a lot of the same ideas. I do however, find it difficult not to react to many of the things people write here. I guess I still need to grow up some.

  4. @AppsScraps – Let me ask you, though, Brent, is it the religion that promotes hate or the individuals in it?  I ask because while the Pope denounces homosexuality, for example, I’m hesitant to arrive at the conclusion that Catholics are hateful, intolerant individuals.@Dezinerdreams – That sort of proselytizing is very off-putting, agreed.@choyshinglin – There is not one of us who on some level would be a member of the minority and subject to the capricious whims of the majority.@epiginoskete – I was hesitant to use this cartoon as I didn’t want the entry to be focused just on the anti-mosque, anti-Islam rhetoric although that is a good example of what I’m talking about.@Roadlesstaken – Perhaps it is the nature of faith that one gets quite heated about it?

  5. Having been raised as agnostic and then ‘discovering’ God in my late 20’s I realise that everyone has their own beliefs. They are valuable to that person and most did not come to them lightly. I think of how many well meaning people tried to convert me but actually just offended me. I was the most surprised when I chose to become a Christian. I don’t think it is my right to judge homosexuality (is that the politically correct term?). My cousin is gay and he loves God. He is a rational adult who knows his own body. I cannot judge that. I would even go as far as saying that where homosexuals are discriminated against it is a Christians responsibility to defend someone who is being hurt but sadly we often forget that part in the Bible that tells us to love and protect our neighbour. When I speak to youth groups I often challenge teenagers to defend those that are being picked on for their sexual preference. Sadly after saying that there have been churches that I have not been invited back to.I would be called intolerant though on my views on abortion. But that is a nature of a belief system.

  6. As usual, good thoughts on your part and thoughtful responses on the part of your readers. This discourse is what is necessary, of course. I often wonder if the vehemence with which some people defend or attack their particular belief isn’t an outgrowth of fear.

  7. I think there are people who disguise hatred and intolerance under the veil of religion. And then there are those fundamentalists who just seem to think “If I’m right, then you’re wrong”. Even here in Canada, there is a gradual shift to the right thanks to our PM and his cronies. Well written Chris – I hope you write more of these op ed pieces.

  8. @ElusiveWords – Oh, Matt, I imagine that op ed pieces are the last thing people want to see more of on my blog.  I think food porn would be much more enthusiastically received!  @Chatamanda – Isn’t that a curious contradiction?@jandsschultz – It would seem that fear must underlie much of it, otherwise they wouldn’t have much reason to behave in such a fashion.@Umnenga – You come about it with a unique perspective, I think, as so many people start out in a faith and then drift away.  You, on the other hand, came to your faith as you grew up.  Thanks for sharing that perspective here.

  9. When I first met you here on xanga, I felt such a connection, and love. Reading this today, tells me why I had that feeling. I love you dear Chris. This post was brilliantly written.What a friend to have!

  10. Well done! I have always tried to distinguish between the official church and the members of the church. I guess the Catholic Church is the best example I am think of right now. There is the Official Church position on everything and then there are the individual Catholics I know who say sure that is the Roman position but mine is and never the twain shall meet. I have not been a reader of your blogs but this certainly calls me to subscribe.Thanks

  11. I believe that God is love. I believe what the Bible says about loving and praying for my enemies. Nowhere in the Bible have I ever read “Bash each other and belittle others beliefs.” Also, I have never met a Muslim (a TRUE Muslim) who loved the thought of terrorism. I had someone from Facebook post something that spoke against the mosque being built near ‘Ground Xero’, and something along the lines of ‘We don’t even want you here, go back where you came from’. I was raised Christian, but I do embrace Islam. My husband, and many friends are Muslim. She knew this. Within minutes of my signing in, she popped up on chat, and said that the post wasn’t anything against me or my family. HUH?? Anyway, she is no longer on my friend list. God wants people to come of their own free will, and, whatever our beliefs are, we have no right to bash others. Sorry this is so long. It has just been a sore spot lately. Thanks for posting this!

  12. I think it’s very easy for people to get nasty when discussing things that they hold closely to themselves. Religion is a hot button topic for so many people. However, I believe that it is deeply important to be willing to discuss topics like religion with love and tolerance for those that we discuss them with and that means being accepting of the idea that others are entitled to their own thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Some people have a hard time with that sort of acceptance sadly…

  13. Thanks to my friend Ikwa for recommending this or else I would have never read it.  You make some very good points.  I consider myself to be very tolerant of religion, but as ElusiveWords said, so often religion is used to justify hatred.  That’s my problem with it.

  14. @ZSA_MD – Oh, thank you very much Zakiah.  Those words mean a great deal coming from you.@Fatcat723 – Wasn’t there some quote – Mark Twain, was it? – about genius being the ability to hold two contradictory ideas inside the same head?  Thus it has to be with believers who may find they need to take some of the policies of their religion’s leaders with a grain or two of salt.  Thanks for the comment and the subscription.@New_Egyptian – Multi-religious families are a good example of exactly the kind of tolerance and understanding that is required.  How awful, though, that your “friend” made such a remark and didn’t understand that it would of course be about you and your family as well, not just some generic rant against Muslims.  Thanks for joining the conversation.@TheCheshireGrins – Thanks for your comment Meg.  The kernal of your remark – that people need to be able to accept the idea that others are entitled to their own opinions – seems to be the most difficult part for people.  Maybe it is because some people with a fundamentalist view of their religion believe, by definition, that theirs is the only true faith and that others are evil non-believers who either need to be converted or destroyed.@Ikwa – Thank you.@gottobereal64 – Hi and welcome.  Thanks for making that last point because I think you’ve put your finger on the heart of my frustration, one that I didn’t articulate fully in my post: Religion is often used to justify hatred, yes, but I get very frustrated when people turn around and use that as the justification to be broadly intolerant of religion or those who are religious.  As Fatcat723 said above, there is often a difference between the faith writ large and the faith as practiced by individuals.  Thanks for contributing to this discussion!

  15. I myself cannot tolerate people who mock religion other than their own. I believe whatever religion it may be , it all boils down to one single goal, that is to teach one to do good. Don’t you think so?  

  16. i have never been religious but am a believer that all religions are good. they all have the same goal, which is peace and harmony. what turns me off from religion is the PEOPLE who practice it. i have met so many in my lifetime who believe that THEIR religion is above everything and anything and thus it’s their way or else. it is such view on life philosophy that doesn’t allow an inch of flexibility in life practice, and this what creates discriminations, segregations, and dare i say… hatred, towards those who don’t follow their believes. it isn’t the religion we should blame. for, i believe, all religions share the same god. for there is only ONE god in this world. it saddens me to know there are still so many out there who interpret the bible of their religion they way they see fit, thus creates not only segregations among the different religions but segregations within their own religious community. i heart those who are religious and yet still able to embrace differences in believes, such as the many friends i know and call as friends. so what if they are catholics, hindus, buddhist, muslims, jewish, straight, gay, etc. shouldn’t we pick our circle of friends based on comparable characters and personalities instead of religious believes? time is changing. the world is getting smaller. the earth we live in is deteriorating. so why the heck are we still making an issue out of differences in believes and lifestyles? HELLO people of the world. WAKE UP!!

  17. @rudyhou –  Nice rant, Rudy. I have to imagine that as the world becomes smaller, we will go through a period of intense struggle as those who have a “my belief system and nothing else!” mindset struggle against the changing world. Eventually, though, I think that more moderate and tolerant mindsets will prevail. This process may take decades or even another century, but I do hold out hope that eventually people will learn to respect the faiths of others. Thanks for sharing your views and contributing to the conversation.@icapillas –  For the most part, I agree with you that religions are generally about teaching behavior and setting social and cultural norms. There may be some exceptions but it is a reasonable statement to make, broadly speaking.@caki730 –  Thank you.

  18. thank you…this is something i have beenthinking about a lot lately…i remember having a conversation with my friend who became enraged at the idea that people could actually be *stupid* enough to believe in a God. I just…never understood why he was so angry. I would understand if it’s about persecution of people, because of religion, but it’s not even that it was…just anger because of the existence of faith. Well anyways, i know that sentence was really rambly, but recently all of this hatred stemming from the building of the mosque… is really painful. I just don’t understand. Why do people act like if youre muslim you are not american, or are a bad person, or shouldn’t have rights? I just have people very close to me who are muslim and it’s sad to hear such hatred spouted about them, just because. It’s not like they did anything, ya know? : /

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