Religious Tolerance

Topics: Religion, Faith, Separation of church and state Pages: 7 (2096 words) Published: November 22, 2008
I am tolerant, you are permissive, I have reasonable scruples, and you are a conservative. (Author Unknown) Does this sound like the thoughts of most of us?
Many people think that they have to understand and accept the religious beliefs of others in order to get along with them. Respecting someone’s choice to practice their religion does not mean that you must believe the same as they do. In today’s society, we are faced daily with choices on whether or not to tolerate the practices and actions of people around us. More times than not, people ignore actions of those around them when their actions do not affect them personally. If a person dresses in an offensive style or uses inappropriate conduct in the presence of others, more times than not, this “offense” is simply overlooked or ignored. Religious differences are something that is rarely ignored and has been the cause of much hatred, deaths and violence around the world. Why is it that when we see an injustice such as this we are able to just walk away? Many people do not want to get involved. Many feel that they cannot make a difference. Everyone must get involved for this horrible behavior to stop. When people argue about the tolerating of other religions and their practices, what is being shown is that the need for tolerance in general is not as important as the effect that the religion is not so bad that the believers should be prohibited from practicing it or that they should be murdered or harmed in any way just because others do not have the same beliefs.

"People don't simply wake up one day and commit genocide. They start by setting themselves apart from others, diminishing the stature of those adhering to dissenting beliefs in small, insidious steps. They begin by saying, 'We're the righteous, and we'll tolerate those others.' And as the toleration diminishes over time, the inevitable harms are overlooked. It is for that reason that James Madison wisely wrote that 'it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties'." Michael Newdow.

It is ironic that violence has been sanctioned in the name of religion. Religion has played an important role in promoting peace and yet is the very foundation of many wars. It is the recent worldwide trend toward fundamentalism and absolutism that has led religions to promote hatred, or at least to sanction it in the name of a higher authority. Nowhere is this better expressed than by Tom Lehrer, a professor turned satirical songwriter, in his tune "National Brotherhood Week": "Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,/and the Catholics hate the Protestants,/and the Hindus hate the Moslems,/but everybody hates the Jews...."

Violence and hatred is running rampant all over the world. People are still fighting in Ireland because of the differences between Protestants and Catholics. In Bosnia, Muslims are undergoing "ethnic cleansing" and Serbian Orthodox Christians committed genocide against Muslims —an antiseptic euphemism for mass murder! India's Sikhs and Hindus routinely clash, burning houses of worship and killing one another. Israelis and Palestinians die in strife between religious visions of the Holy Land. The list of religiously inspired conflicts goes on and on. Abridged from "Why Do We Hate Each Other?" USA Today magazine, March 1994. Reprinted by permission of the Society for the Advancement of Education, ©1994. Let’s take a look at some of the numbers gathered by “The Black World Today” website journalist.

TimeLocationPerpetratorsVictims# of Victims
1450 to 1792Europe, New England, South AmericaChristiansSatan worshipers & other hereticsApprox. 50,000 to 100,000 1492 to nowWestern HemisphereWestern European ChristiansAboriginalsMillions or tens of millions 1770 to nowAustraliaBritish invadersAboriginal people720 thousand 1885 to early 1900’sDemocratic Republic of the CongoKing Leopold II of Belgium and his colonial administrationCongolese population...

References: Roleff, Tamara L. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999
Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center: Gale
Yu Bin,
“Clash of the Uncivilized”, Extremism Mars World Stage, Pacific News Service, May 6, 2002
"The clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order," Touchstone Books, (1998).
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