On Religious Tolerance


I got an anonymous comment on my post yesterday. It was…gross. I left it up so you can read it if you want, though I wanted to delete it on sight. But it leads me to a topic that matters a lot. The commenter was sharing a ridiculous but not unique line of thinking about President Obama wherein s/he criticized him for acknowledging Muslims and possibly being a Muslim himself.

Answer me this anonymous trolls of the interewbs: If President Obama was a Muslim, why would it matter?

A person’s religion is almost never relevant. It was not relevant on 9/11: the actions of the terrorists were the issue. It was not relevant during World War II: Hitler’s actions were the issue not his interpretation of religious primacy. President Obama’s religion is not relevant: his actions as President are the issue. That commenter’s religion is not relevant: the fact that s/he was talking like a garden-variety religious bigot is.

I HATE religious bigotry like I hate nothing else. It is probably the lowest form of prejudice because it’s so fucking arrogant. What gives any person the right to think “MY faith is better than your faith”? No one knows for sure. That’s what makes it faith, not fact. Assigning relative values to religions and judging others based on those values is pretty reprehensible. It engenders a spirit of discrimination, no matter what language you try to couch it in.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t love your faith if it brings you joy and comfort; I’m saying that you should accept that other people’s faith brings them joy and comfort and try not to think less of it if even if it is different than your own. Be willing to walk a parallel path without judgment. Why? Because the actions of those who refuse to acknowledge the value of others faiths are among the worst in history. The Crusades. The Inquisition. Witch burnings. The Holocaust. It is only the conscious effort to tolerate and accept others that stands between us and revisiting those terrible forms of religious persecution.

As a non-religious person in America, I am deeply troubled by the arrogance and exclusivity of religion I see all around me. Is a day coming when my lack of faith will brand me as inferior to those who hold their faith high? Or will we manage to remain a nation where all religions – or no religion – enjoy equal protections and regard?

Sadly, the choice about American religious tolerance is not up to me. It’s up to religious people. Please, choose well.

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20 comments for “On Religious Tolerance

  1. DMCostorf
    April 27, 2011 at 7:20 am

    Altho’ I do not know the actual facts I would add Gitmo to the list…Technically, I know its more like the Japanese internment camps but I can’t help but think that alot of those arrests and subsequent deportations were all about being Muslim.

    My biggest issue with religious talk is that they do not follow it. I know many wonderful religious people who inspire me to know God’s graces…but Pat Robertson or a Koran burning idiot are not among them…

    Thank you once again for your outside voice for my inner voice…

  2. April 27, 2011 at 7:42 am

    I love you and I love this post. 100% agree!

  3. April 27, 2011 at 10:25 am

    Thank you for this post. I feel exactly the same way. We are all HUMAN BEINGS, no matter what religion or race we are. Well said.

  4. Avalon19
    April 27, 2011 at 10:45 am

    You would think that after all the progress our great nation has made these last 200+ years, that this would not be an issue. Life will always have obstacles, that is not a choice. What is a choice is whether you live your life to be a part of the solution, or fill yourself with hate and be a continuation of the problem.

    I grew up in a small white catholic town, and if you werent exactly that, you were miserable. I overcame the prejudices i learned there, and have been a much happier person ever since. Im with MIAM and Donna on this one.

  5. Amanda
    April 27, 2011 at 11:00 am

    applause, applause, applause. Well said. I avoid any kind of organize religion for this reason.

  6. April 27, 2011 at 11:03 am

    completely agree.

  7. shutupanddrive
    April 27, 2011 at 11:06 am

    “Judge not, lest ye be judged”. I am not a religious person, I do not belong to a church, but I do believe in that saying and what it means. I try to live my life like that on a daily basis. If going to church makes a person feel closer to God, then good for them. You have your beliefs and I have mine. Don’t force your opinions about it on me, and I won’t unleash my wrath about what I think about “organized religion”. I don’t condemn or judge anyone about what they believe it, so please don’t do it to me. That being said ~ Peace Be Wtih You…..

  8. April 27, 2011 at 11:29 am

    What an insane comment to make. (Anonymous person, I mean.) I think the definition of tolerance has become skewed in recent years, though. Tolerance doesn’t mean everyone’s right; tolerance means we’ll agree to disagree. I know not everyone’s going to be Christian like me, but A) spewing hatred at non-Christians is not going to make them want to become Christians, and B) God loves everyone. That’s kind of his thing.

    But I do have to say, while people are being encouraged to me more loving and accepting of Muslims and other religions, I don’t see anyone saying, “Be nicer to Christians.” 🙁 A few noisy Christians who burn the Quran don’t speak for the rest of us. Most of us are really trying to do some good in the world!

  9. April 27, 2011 at 11:36 am

    I’m going to expand on my earlier comment to this post, as I’m not laying in bed on my phone, half asleep.

    This nation was founded on religious freedom. And not just the religious freedom to practice Christianity. Anyone has the freedom to practice (or not practice) any faith that they want, as long as it doesn’t cause harm to others. Even IF the president was Muslim, who cares? As long as he has the same morals as I do, so what? I mean, all of these senators and presidents and various other elected officials are fucking their assistants, getting gay whores to service them, but THANK THE GOOD LORD they are Christian!!!!!!!!

    Hypocrites, all of them. It makes me sick to just think about how stupid and intolerant people are. This is why the world is sick and warped right now. I’m looking forward to the day where we just wipe each other out and the next dominate species can take over and hopefully learn from our mistakes, as I don’t think we will any time soon.

  10. Ivan
    April 27, 2011 at 11:40 am

    I live part of the time in Indonesia and part of the time in the US. Both countries have some form of freedom of religion in their constitution. Indonesia is primarily Muslim, while the US is Christian leaning. It’s interesting to me how similar the religious bigotry in both countries is. The Terry Joneses of the world act the same regardless of where they are or what religion they spew hate toward.

    One of the more disheartening things I’ve personally experienced is friends in the US who’ve gone off on anti-Muslim rants. My family in the US are all Buddhist, and in Indonesia they are all Muslim. I feel compelled to stick up for my family members here who aren’t anything like the stereotypes many people in the US seem to believe. It almost seems as if there’s a willing suspension of critical thinking around this issue, where otherwise intelligent people decide to just believe something totally crazy.

  11. Rebekah @ Mom-In-A-Million
    April 27, 2011 at 11:58 am

    @Rachel you raise an interesting point: why is there no active call for consideration of Christians? I’m going to guess it’s because nearly 80% of Americans identify as Christian (http://religions.pewforum.org/reports). The Christian faith in its many forms is widely visible and Christian sensibility infuses much of American discourse. As a political observer I have witnessed a near constant reference to Christian faith among politicians and the Federal legislature is overwhelmingly Christina in it’s affiliation (http://pewforum.org/government/faith-on-the-hill–the-religious-composition-of-the-112th-congress.aspx). Christianity is the mainstream structure of belief in America and it would be a stretch to suggest that there is any sort of oppression, persecution, or stifling of Christianity is happening in an official capacity. Arguments about religion in schools or in the public square tend to focus on removing ALL religions or including ALL religions, not giving special consideration to any one religion. And I’ve never heard of any legal action to prevent a Christian organization from operating, though it’s possible that I’ve just missed the headlines.

    Now, to say that there are negative actors among the Christian majority of America who are handing the rest of Christians a boatload of bad PR would be entirely accurate. How the media covers that actions of the good versus the bad of any group is a market function: outrage sells more than the warm fuzzies, sad as that may be. That leads to a certain amount of misperception out there, which can lead to negative attitudes from some quarters. The only antidote to that is for Christians to continue doing good work in their community to try and balance out the bad press. The smart people among us know that the good people in any group usually outnumber the bad and we should remember to say that out loud more often. 🙂

  12. Brittany
    April 27, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    I agree 100%

  13. betalisa
    April 27, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    No active call for consideration of Christians? I hear it all the time! The “fight against the ‘war on Christmas’,” attempts to get religion/prayer into schools (do you think it’s Muslim prayer they’re asking for?!), demands for school voucher systems to fund private (and particularly religious) education. Yes, while our country–work week, holidays, taxation system–heavily favors the Christian religion, there are plenty of “Christians” who will still claim victimhood.

    There was once a kingdom where a symbolic ring–and the crown–was passed down to the most beloved, most good, son. On his deathbed, one king could not decide which of his three sons he loved the most. So he had a jeweler copy the ring perfectly. To each of his sons, he gave a ring and said “You are the beloved.” When he died, the sons argued over which ring, which story was true. The wise man of the kingdom said to them, show in your words and deeds that you are the most good and the most beloved. Your father loved you all, and believe what your father told you.

  14. April 27, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Brilliant. My MIL is very Mormon; I am an optimistic agnostic. She once asked us how we could raise our children in a moral way without religion. I often wonder how you can raise them morally with it. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate why others would find the value in religion and faith or condemn their choices, but rather, that I often find the actions of those affiliated with religion (any religion) to be no more pious than the behavior of those they seek to defame.

  15. April 27, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Two thumbs up my dear. Fine family fun!

  16. April 27, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Oh yes, I have to completely agree with you. Another poster on here commented that the United States was “Christian leaning”. I completely disagree with this observance. The way I see it, the US is a Christian society. I’m in the middle of yelling at my kids, so I don’t have time or the energy to give my opinion right now, but i will later. I do fully agree with your comment though.

  17. anthrogrrl
    April 27, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    This is one of the things that I struggle with the most when it comes to religion. And yet, I know many atheists who are as vehemently disrespectful of folks who are religious as many varieties of Christian are about atheists. It comes form all sides.

    The trickiest part? If I am to be truly respectful of someone else’s beliefs, and one of the tenets of their religion is that theirs is the one and only true direct line to God, then I have to respect that aspect of their faith. That said, nothing makes my blood boil like Muslim bashing. I happen to have a lot of friends who are Muslim, and none of them are planning on bombing anyone or anything, thank you very much, so please begin to understand that there are as many varieties of Muslim as there are churches under the heading Christianity. And if you don’t want to be judged as a Christian based on the antics of the FLDS Church, then quit judging good people around the world based on the horrors perpetrated by a small percentage of fundamentalist whackos.

    *steps off soapbox*

  18. April 27, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    It’s funny how many people claim to be for the same ideas as the founding fathers, and yet they are incredibly discriminatory against those who are not Christian. Freedom of religion is a core American idea!

    My family is completely agnostic, and we’re raising our kids to respect all cultures and religions. I’m an ESL teacher, and I work with wonderful kids of at least six different religions (Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish, and Buddhist). Many of my students face discrimination based on their religion from so-called Christians. This makes no sense to me because the Bible says, “Judge not lest ye be judged.”

    I do not agree with everything President Obama does, though I did vote for him. (I think he’s been way too moderate–I’m a hard core liberal.) However, if I were going to criticize him, religion would be the very last place I would go. I could care less about the religious affiliation of any leader, so long as that religion isn’t preached to me.

    I understand why you’d get so upset at that comment.

  19. April 28, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Is this the wrong time for me to say “Preach it, Sister”?

    Because really? That’s about all I’ve got to say about this.

  20. May 29, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Wow, the kind of comment Anonymous wrote is scary in its level of ignorance. I just came across this and I’m glad I did, I love your perspective and style.

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