Religious intolerance might seem like an odd topic for this time of year… a season when many religions (traditional and what we consider “pagan”) find something important to celebrate. Peace, brotherhood, love and new beginnings.
We all know that religion is a touchy subject. One of those things you can’t typically discuss with many people without getting into a heated argument. Relationships have ended for less. Feuds have festered for it.
It seems that our beliefs are such an intensely personal matter, so fundamentally a part of who we are that we feel threatened at the merest hint of disapproval or the suggestion there might be another (better?) way. Even in this modern day, when we’re all supposed to be so evolved.
Except we’re not.
Intolerance for religion is alive and well. We need look no further than the Middle East to see vile, inbred religious hatred in all it’s horror, yet here at home we have our own ugly examples. Subtle anti-Semitism. Holding fast to the worst stereotypes. Verbally bullying someone of a different faith. Silent disapproval directed at a woman wearing a head scarf.
If we’re honest, we all have our prejudices when it comes to faith. We might pretend otherwise, but deep down, where no one likes to look… too many of us still secretly think that “our” way is better. What a shame faith and striving to be the best person possible is such a source of discord among us. It doesn’t have to be.
One of those statements that’s often repeated about religion is that it is the number one cause of violence and war throughout human history. And while the Crusades are a shining example of religious bigotry, it turns out religion isn’t the worst offender when it comes to violence. Someone actually did the math; of the 1,763 recorded wars waged in all of recorded history, only 123 were religious in nature — a dismal showing of just 6.68%. Not nearly as high as I was told.
That’s not to say religion doesn’t evoke some pretty intense feelings. That we won’t defend to the death our own view of what is right and what is truth. In this age of attacks on core beliefs, in times when it seems the word God is offensive to someone and being removed from every place possible, we cling resolutely to this, our faith. What we believe beyond doubt to be true.
Everyone else does the same. Though in the end, I think the arguments between people are pointless. There’s this quote, attributed to Mother Theresa, that hits the nail on the head.