Questionable Motives

September 13, 2010

What is the root of religious intolerance?

Scripture. Holy scripture. And we need to be courageous to face this most unpleasant fact. The only way for religion and Enlightenment values like freedom of expression to live together in peace and tolerance is if religion becomes domesticated. And that means that the scriptures need a good editing to annul the intolerance and bigotry it promotes by order of god and for the scripture’s literalistic adherents to be marginalized by main religious body of followers. And this needs to be clearly stated by our political leaders who, so far, have done a piss poor job enunciating this necessity; instead, they have kowtowed to the religious sense that all is fine and dandy in their religion… except for a few dingbats, wingnuts, and deluded folk who actually dare to believe that the scriptures say what god means. I know… crazy talk!

As Dan Gardiner clearly explains in this article:

Of course religions can evolve. It is true, for example, that most Christians do not support the immediate execution of all homosexuals and very, very few would think it appropriate to kill a man who had carnal relations with a sheep. Or kill the sheep. That’s progress.

But, even if religions evolve, religious texts don’t. The language of brutality and bigotry is still there, in books said to be holy. Surely it is not surprising that it can still inspire suspicion, hostility, and division, or that, every now and then, some strange little man will read it and decide to burn a Koran or picket a gay man’s funeral or fly a jet into a skyscraper. It’s true that religion can inspire the best in us. But it can also inspire hate and madness. This is a fact of enormous importance, if only our leaders had the courage to say it.

The fact of the matter is that biblical and qu’ranic scriptures are filled with god’s sanctified intolerance for the Other and various admonishments and punishments that seem to suit his rather barbaric taste in allowable retribution. People who honestly believe that these scriptures really are the word of god cannot understand how others who claim to be of a similar religious persuasion can cherry-pick which are to be understood to be benign metaphors and which are to be taken literally. Arguments for moderate and tolerant religious beliefs are usually based on theological interpretations that rely on a rather sophisticated reading that elevate the good bits over and above the bad bits. But many adherents feel uncomfortable agreeing to go along with these man-made interpretations rather than stick closer to the source. And I do not think we can fault these folk for relying on the source material… a practice hammered into my head by the repeated mantra of many a professor: when in doubt, go the source.

Our leadership – like most religious folk – would have us believe that these believers who rely on the source scripture for and are willing to act on their religious beliefs are some fringe group that has been radicalized into fundamental extremism. I think that is unfair and is an avoidance technique to have to deal with the truth of the matter: it is the religious and tolerant moderate who has moved away from the word of god as revealed in scripture. Unless and until we recognize scripture itself as a never-changing central impediment to achieving tolerance and legal respect for the rights and freedoms and dignity of the Other, we shall continue to pretend that this intellectual cowardice to face reality is a synonym for tolerance. It isn’t. It is an enabling attitude. And that enabling cowardice shall continue to exact a heavy price in human suffering in the name of god.

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  1. Hello tildeb,

    Fascinating blog. Many profound and provocative theories here – I’ve checked it out a couple of times.

    As for your latest post and as it relates to Shore’s blog/participants – you conclude that for those of us who call ourselves Christians, but also believe in equality and legal rights for all have basically bastardized, or cherry-picked from the Bible in order to cling to vestiges of religion, while fundamentalists who are intolerant (or hell-bent on converting the ‘unsaved’)are truer to said religion.

    I’ve pondered similar thoughts.

    Do you post on other quasi-Christian blogs besides John’s?

    Do you participate on other quasi-Christian blogs like John’s?

    Comment by Susan — September 15, 2010 @ 8:06 am | Reply

    • Thanks for popping by, Susan.

      I think a strong case can be made for literalists to be closer to the so-called truth of god’s word because they take their scripture seriously and I think are more intellectually honest about their theological beliefs because it’s a package deal: if one wants to base their theology on scripture, then it makes sense to me that they are intellectually consistent to follow its literal advice. I think they are quite wrong, and immoral to do so, but that’s beside the point.

      I post elsewhere whenever something grabs my attention but I as far as christian blogs go I am often edited and my comments deleted. I enjoyed participating at the internet monk for quite a while and have tried to challenge Sentinel’s articles but get deleted quite bit.

      I was quite content on Perlocutionary II but that site was removed when the admin retired and pulled it. What a fantastic group of eclectic contributors and I miss their collective wisdom and deep academic knowledge. I learned a ton.

      I like John’s site and there are lots of good commentors, you included. But I think expressions of religious belief is in need of much more criticism for the assumptions and assertions that often underlie its theology. What motivates me is to honour what’s true, to point out opinions that rely on belief rather than knowledge, to challenge what’s believed to be true rather than what is probably true. And I do so because we need to be far more concerned with bettering the here and now rather than the hereafter.

      Comment by tildeb — September 15, 2010 @ 11:05 am | Reply

      • I hope you are not heavily edited over at John’s, and believe you probably aren’t.

        Belief, or faith cannot be explained. Religion…is difficult. People need it for different reasons.

        So many people happily sing along to “Imagine” yet, for most, imagining a world without religion, giving consideration to ridding their lives of faith — it would be like asking them to cut off their own limbs or sacrifice their children.

        I bet if the song came out now, it would be received quite differently.

        You know the words, I’m sure, seeing them in black and white – rather powerful. FWIW:

        Imagine there’s no heaven
        It’s easy if you try
        No hell below us
        Above us only sky
        Imagine all the people
        Living for today…

        Imagine there’s no countries
        It isn’t hard to do
        Nothing to kill or die for
        And no religion too
        Imagine all the people
        Living life in peace…

        You may say I’m a dreamer
        But I’m not the only one
        I hope someday you’ll join us
        And the world will be as one

        Imagine no possessions
        I wonder if you can
        No need for greed or hunger
        A brotherhood of man
        Imagine all the people
        Sharing all the world…

        You may say I’m a dreamer
        But I’m not the only one
        I hope someday you’ll join us
        And the world will live as one

        Comment by susan — September 15, 2010 @ 3:59 pm

      • No, I’m not moderated at John’s (so far).

        Faith, I think, can be explained and explored and religion, too. In fact, I think we have to before it rips apart our world, which just so happens to be the point, I think, to Imagine: we cannot live as one until we drop the shackles that keep us apart. And religion is one that just keeps on giving.

        Comment by tildeb — September 15, 2010 @ 4:06 pm

  2. It’s definitely the point of “Imagine.” I love it. Simply profound and profoundly simple.

    I don’t know how to explain my faith – at least not in a logical manner that doesn’t diminish my explanation.

    Oh well.

    Comment by susan — September 15, 2010 @ 6:15 pm | Reply

  3. I prefer this:

    I’m a believer.
    Well, that’s not really true.
    I’m more of a make-believer.
    But it sort of adds up to the same thing.
    Here in the lap of the Gods, neither party holds a universal truth, and our hopes are like litter in the open road for everybody to drive through.
    Teetering on the swath, my physical limitations dwarf just by the wonder of living.
    Brought on for no real reason other than just the wonder of life.
    And now, being what I want to be catches up so fast with me.
    I have to make up better and newer possibilities just to keep up with myself.
    And now, nothing is a problem.
    My mouth is dry from the heat, endless possible futures and the sweet promise of tomorrow is quenching my thirst.
    All we need to do now ? is to cheat death, for as long as we can.
    So that when the day finally comes, we can pull a clean sheet from our pockets and write down all that we have achieved, all that we have seen, to make sure we have left nothing behind.
    We are nothing.
    Other than that then we give away for free and we are nothing but the sum of our parts.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — September 16, 2010 @ 4:26 pm | Reply

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