Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bigoted? Intolerant?

I was struck, hard, by one particular sentence in this article over on Witchvox. By way of explanation, I read a small, eclectic array of religious blogs, ranging from Christian, to Pagan and Wiccan, to Muslim, to athiest and others. Just because I am a Christian doesn't mean I can't appreciate the life-loving sentiments of Heartsong's Hymnal or the painful finding-yourself testimonials in the articles written by Witchvox teens. There are alot of leadership and growth and spiritual health practices that cross religious lines in eerie ways, showing that worship has borrowed from itself for so many centuries and that people are so predictable (psychohistory, anyone?) that some of the traditional trappings of religion are really the bonds formed through community. The same bonds that we have shed with the idea that they're 'religion' and religion is bad. Our communities, and our lives, are poorer for it.

Regardless of my justification - edging towards rationalization - of reading a myriad of religious blogs outside of my own practices, the article I mentioned previously struck me as bitter. The author was burned and burned hard and I have nothing but good wishes for them. Like all good articles, this one made me think. One particular sentence, however, made me think alot. I even got around to asking religious questions of those I know can handle religious discussions. The sentence that settles wrong with me on a very fundamental level is:
"Jesus is the only way, truth, and light, and no one gets to the Father but through him". Say what you want, but that is an intolerant and bigoted belief.
Let me see if I can pinpoint why this sentiment and understanding bothers me so much. Quoted here, it's slightly out of context. That's okay. I'm not really wanting to put it back in context, because the context isn't what bothered me.

No, what sits wrong with me is the underlying idea that, "I believe I'm right." is somehow intolerant. Not even doing anything about it. Just walking up to someone and saying, "I believe I'm right. I believe you're wrong." A statement, to the person who says it, of incontrovertable fact.

Tolerance, as defined by Websters, is: "a: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own b: the act of allowing something"

Alright then. So I tell someone I think they're wrong. Is that me being intolerant? Or is it intolerant on the part of the person who I'm telling if they shut me down completely and get pissed off that I've 'infringed upon their rights as a human being' by telling them that I really do think they're wrong.

I don't have a right to be right. Neither do you.

It could easily cross into intolerance (and downright harassment) on my part if I insist on giving you the 'you're wrong' speech long after you've told me to knock it off. But me telling you that that's what I believe? No. No, I don't think that's intolerant.

I think I should cut this short before I go on several tangental rants about religion, but that's all my argument is. Telling someone they're wrong isn't intolerant. If it is, we're all intolerant, insensitive, and doomed to horrible existences.

1 comment:

Autumn Heartsong said...

Hi, Alli, and thank you for the mention in your post. :)

Of more interest is the topic of the post itself. I agree with you completely on this one. There is a big difference between a personal belief, even one that implies an exclusive deed to "rightness," and being intolerant or displaying bigotry. Until and unless the person holding such belief tries to force others to believe it, too, it is a personally held spiritual belief, and those are sacred. Of course, the person claiming intolerance and bigotry has a right to believe that, as well.

All the hoo-ha about beliefs seems to be rooted in two things - the way we react to knowing someone believes differently from us (implying that we're - gasp! - wrong), and the behavior of the believers.

I hope the person in the article can get over the pain of being burned and move on to feeling in control of his or her own right to believe anything he or she wants. It's our absolute, irrevocable, undeniable right and responsibility to decide for ourselves what's right or wrong. We can say what we believe outloud. We can think other beliefs are wrong. It is also our right and responsibility to decide how we will react to being thought wrong, how we will allow other, contrary beliefs to affect us. I typically try to let them have as little effect on me as possible. I do draw the line at any attempt to force me to change my beliefs to be more like someone else's. Note the use of the word force. I don't count gentle, respectful witnessing or honest debate as trying to force me to do anything. I'm free to listen or not, to act or not. Unless sharing of beliefs crosses the line into force, harrassment or disrespect, the only potential harm is from my own choice of reaction.

Now if I could just force everyone to believe that way. ::grin::