Why is religious bigotry acceptable

father gravestone

I don’t talk specifically about my faith very often because, even at 50, I haven’t figured it all out. Occasionally, religion creeps into my fiction, or I’ll touch on collateral issues, but I loath proselytizing. What I believe, and how I put my faith into practice is very personal. I don’t even insist that my children or spouse share my opinions.

Do I pray? Yes. Do I pray on a regular basis? No. Do I routinely tell people “I’ll pray for you” when I know I won’t? No. Do I believe there is an omnipotent supernatural being who hears and acts on those prayers… I don’t know. And, that is where the faith part of my religion comes in.

There have been days when I have been on my knees, my body wracked with sobs so overwhelming it’s as if my very soul is broken. Other times, I’ve tossed up a little ‘thank you’ when a moment of Quantum Physics could have gone drastically different and I appreciate that the coin flip went my way.

Do I attend church? No, because I am weary of the hypocrisy of organized religion. Do I think that everyone else should believe as I do? No. Do I think that what I believe is the only truth? No, and I won’t know until I die, none of us will.

I have friends of other faiths, and friends who are self-proclaimed atheists. My son would be categorized as an agnostic. I value and love all of them, respect their opinions and beliefs, and they respect me. I would never do them the discourtesy of telling them they are wrong, or stupid, or disillusioned for those beliefs, nor would I try to convert them to my way of thinking. And, I’ve taught my children to not do that.

It’s not my place to judge anyone… from what little I remember from Bible School, that’s God’s job.

I don’t understand why people of faith are the targets of such contempt. Why it’s considered fair game to call into question someone’s intellect simply because they believe in God. Why prayer is ridiculed, why longing for a heavenly reward is a punch line. People can get down right apoplectic about prayer and faith.

If you want to burn incense, face east, count beads, flog your self, or pay homage to the Flying Spaghetti Monster… knock yourself out, it doesn’t harm me in anyway.

If I’m delusional enough to believe in a zombie Jesus, to talk to an imaginary white-haired father figure in the sky, or believe that I’ll be reunited with dead loved ones in the land of milk and honey after I die, let me. It doesn’t harm you in any way.

But, make fun of me for all that, teach your children it’s okay to be bigoted and intolerant? Then shame on you.

27 thoughts on “Why is religious bigotry acceptable

  1. What you have said is how I feel. I have another dimension in my life and that is the fanatical Baptist. I grew up in the faith and have never been able to be a part as an adult. I can’t sit and agree with what I feel is rubbish and the politics don’t get me started.
    Anyway, good post and I do believe it the we will all see one another in the hereafter, atheist, agnostic, jew, baptist, muslim, hindi and contrary to what some feel, no separate seating.

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  2. Like you, my faith is personal. Like you, I accept and respect others whose beliefs differ from my own. Like you, I agree that there is far too much hypocrisy in organized religion.

    I agree too with your statement: “I would never do them the discourtesy of telling them they are wrong, or stupid, or disillusioned for those beliefs, nor would I try to convert them to my way of thinking.”

    … and then everything shifted, as I read the criticism you dislike in your own summation.

    “If I’m delusional enough to believe in…”

    Even those of us with the best intentions, judge something.

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    1. Sorry, that was my lame attempt at sarcasm. I truly don’t consider myself, or any one else of faith delusional or in any way disillusioned.

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  3. I agree with you – and I think much like you – what I believe is my business, and what you believe is yours, as long as what you believe doesn’t impose itself on me. That said, there’s a line from a song by the “Klezmatics” called “I Ain’t Afraid” that goes, “I’m afraid of what you’ll do in the name of your God”. That becomes the source of some people’s Religious Scepticism and antagonism.

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  4. I agree with you soooo much it’s scary.
    My faith is deep down in my soul. It’s been shaken, more in the past year than ever before, but it’s still there.
    We attend my mother-in-laws church occasionally because it means SO much to her. I would rather find a different church, one in which I feel more comfortable, but that’s easier said than done. Until/unless that happens, we’ll occasionally/semi-regularly attend MIL’s church, because she’s awesome and I love her.
    But I reserve the right to thing naughty thoughts in my head throughout the service. Because….I can.

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    1. There have been occasions when I attend church with my parents when I visit with them, mostly because, like you and your MIL, it’s important to them. I too, have yet to find a ‘church home’ where I feel completely accepted.

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  5. When I told my psychiatrist, who is Muslim, that I’m agnostic, he raised his eyebrows and said, in his glorious Middle Eastern accent, “In Montgomery, Alabama? Unheard of!” And he laughed like he and I shared a delicious joke. We do have one mosque, but he was clearly suggesting that agnostics are as rare as Muslims in this town. It was one of the nicest responses I have had to my own position.

    But. I will say that there some bad things that level the playing field. Having a kid who is different in some way often wipes out boundaries that might otherwise exist. My friends at the kids’ school? We could not be more different. And there are topics we avoid out of respect for each other. But they are real friends, intelligent friends, and some of the best damned people in the universe, all of whom go out of their way to make my kids’ lives not just bearable but downright good. As do I for them. I would like to see faith practiced more like my psychiatrist does, like the parents at my children’s school do, where respect is assumed and genuine love is the basis for our actions.

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    1. That is how it should be. That we lift each other up, not tear each other down. Your beliefs are yours and help mold the person you are. I am more concerned that you are a good person, than I am about whether you believe in God. They aren’t mutually exclusive.

      Your doctor sounds very cool.

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  6. You see me all over the media that is social as well as writing for internet sites talking about being a “left wing Christian”. I wish I didn;t have to do that. But you know when you were in high school or college and you’d hang out with your friends and deep down you knew that most of them were good people but for whatever reason two or three of them would act like jackasses and you’d get judged as the same as them? That’s what organized Christianity is like.

    My wife and are Christians. We believe in everything you do. But we also support tolerance and kindness and wish that politics never enetered a pulpit.

    Relgious bigotry, among the religious is the worst because it goes against everything Jesus said, did, taught and represented,

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    1. Jesus hung out with societal pariah, outcasts and sinners. He was all about love and acceptance. Love thy neighbor, do unto others… what happened to those teachings? It wasn’t do unto only those you approve of.

      I wish politics never entered the pulpit too.

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  7. I grew up with a mother who was very into organized religion and a father who was not religious at all. They were both good and tolerant people. I think the people who profess to know the most about what’s right and what’s wrong have the smallest minds. Ooops – I guess that was a judgement. 🙂 Great post.

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    1. Your parents sound like mine. My grandmother was an extremely religious person, and also a very judgmental and intolerant person against anyone she believed was a sinner.

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  8. I agree that it’s none of anyone’s business what people believe. But I think I have an answer to your question, at least in some cases. It think people are reacting, perhaps not always kindly or appropriately, to stances taken by organized religion that DO, they believe, harm others. This gets into religion and its role in politics and our legal system. I can think of a lot of things from this week – the whole issue of prayer during disaster and its questions about who gets spared and who doesn’t and why and what that says about belief in a god and so forth. Again, I’m with you that tolerance of others’ beliefs is that way to go and that bigotry in whatever form is not a good thing, especially if everyone is running around doing their own thing and harming nobody. Sometimes, though, the perception, true or false, is different, so people act… not so nice. I really appreciated reading this and hope that my comments come across in the way that they are intended. Religion and personal beliefs can be a bit delicate, and I can be a bit like a bull in a china shop, so please know that I really appreciate how well written.this was. Good stuff!

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    1. I stopped attending church because I felt most people acted one way during the week, and a completely different way on Sundays. I left because of the veiled hate I saw from ‘good church people’ toward anyone they thought was unworthy. Faux churches like Westboro are heinous, and don’t represent Christians like me, who just want to live their lives in the best way they know how. Vultures come out during disasters. I hate hearing anyone say that tragedies like Moore OK were acts of God. The God I believe in is not a indiscriminate killing machine. Sadly, you only hear from the extremes, it sells. There are so many more people of all faiths in the background doing what they can to help, not asking for any recognition, or making any holy proclamations.

      I appreciate your thoughtful response… this is how it should be. Civil discourse.

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      1. I agree, and I am loving civil discourse.

        Sometimes it’s not just the super extremes, though. Those are easy, and I think most people, even non-believers, can pick out that they are extreme and do not represent Christianity.

        Here’s kind of what I mean, maybe, and the disaster times thing. I have a friend that teaches her children to pray for their safety during hurricanes, and when they are spared, she believes that it is because they prayed and that their god is all powerful. This is fine, and I get it that many people would pray in that situation. The part where it gets complicated is when thinking about the families that perished. Was their faith not strong enough? Did they not deserve to be saved? Couldn’t my friend’s god have prevented the storm entirely instead of careening it into the paths of other people’s houses and not theirs? And is there a better answer than just “oh, we can never know, but it all happens for the best as part of some divine plan,” an answer that can feel kind of hurtful, like people were either targeted or allowed to suffer as part of some plan – eek! What will her children grow up thinking? It depends on how she answers those questions, I guess, and then what the kids grow up doing with those answers and how that’s perceived by people who, for example, did lose everything. That’s kind of where I was going with that. People absolutely shouldn’t be ridiculed for praying and having faith in the face of crisis, nor should people be looked down upon for NOT believing. Both responses are valid as ways of thinking about events.

        It’s pretty much like you said, everyone should be OK to just do their own thing. I think we need to be sensitive, though, all of us, to each others’ beliefs. I had to grit my teeth and smile, considering the source and appreciating the sentiment if not the exact words when my mother was dying and people would pray for a miraculous recovery that I knew wasn’t coming and that felt like a punch in the stomach or would tell me that it was all part of some plan and how I should rejoice when she went to heaven because god needed another angel and a million other things that only made me sadder. I politely said thank you and boiled inside wanting to do something very, um, “un-Christian.” We just need to all try to cut each other some slack, both sides.

        Where it gets less of an everyone doing their own thing and more impacting the lives of others is when we get into issues like abortion, birth control, sex education in schools, gay marriage, even infertility treatment and so forth. I don’t want to open a whole bunch of cans of worms that each of these are. I just mean that if many churches (not all) and many of their followers (certainly way less than all) take a certain stand on these, it can be hard to separate out who believes what, and it’s true that people are often lumped together and divided based on religious belief. I’ve been surprised by some of the beliefs held by my Christian friends because I know that some of their churches preach the exact opposite. I’ve been wrong before on that, guilty of stereotyping people. Hearing voices like yours express tolerance for non-believers is a good reminder. The deal with these big issues, though is that many people on both sides of the issues feel DO impact their lives and DO see harm being done. So, quite often, both sides point fingers at one another. It’s harder to find a compromise on these.

        Very long and rambling response, but thank you for making me think and reminding me that just because someone says they are a Christian doesn’t mean that I necessarily know where they stand on many things. I know this and have many friends who remind me once in awhile, but it’s good to hear again today.

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        1. Oh, believe me, I totally get what you mean about praying during disasters and having God’s favor if you come through unscathed. It’s the same when applied to illness and injury. I’ve seen it in my own family with my son and his mental health issues. I’m not praying hard enough or don’t have strong enough faith. There may even be some who believe that I’m being punished for some heinous sin by having my child suffer.

          Also also agree with you about how religious (read:Christian) mores are used to justify banning same sex marriage, denying medical care, and fertility treatments. I am a double whammy… I’m Republican and Christian, but support marriage equality. Christ preached acceptance, tolerance, love your neighbor. One of my favorite quotes: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Mahatma Gandhi

          I want to believe that Jesus would be heartbroken over some of what is being done in his name.

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    1. I agree. Terrible atrocities have been done throughout history in the name of God, but you can’t blame every member, of every religion for what fanatics have done. I’ve never oppressed anyone, I’ve never killed anyone, I’ve never stolen from anyone, I’ve never tried to force my religion on anyone. Still, because I label myself Christian, it’s socially, acceptable to degrade my beliefs.

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      1. It should never be acceptable to degrade a person because of their religious beliefs. Those that do only show how small they really are. Unfortunately, there is a lot of enmity between believers and nonbelievers with both sides feeling like only they know the truth.

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        1. It would never occur to me to question someone’s faith (or lack thereof) or make fun of them for what they believe. If they commit crimes, using their religion as an excuse, that’s something all together different.

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  9. You said it! Believe what you want but don’t come preaching at my door or tell me I’m wrong. And I’ll give you the same courtesy. Organized religion isn’t worth my time so don’t try making me feel bad about my choice.

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    1. It is all about choice. As long as I’m not infringing on your rights, why should anyone care what about my faith. All I ask, is that people respect my right to believe how I want, and I’ll respect your same right.

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