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.