Is My Religion 'Intolerant?'
Regarding my essay, "Please respect my religion
," someone has suggested that it "attacks the very premise it tries to uphold" and that the "writer has no 'love' or 'tolerance' for anything but their own beliefs." No specifics were given, just a blanket dismissal and the utterly false contentions that I have "no love or tolerance" and that I have "beliefs." First of all, please show me where are the "beliefs" in my religion? Secondly, my religion is extremely loving and tolerant, as we can see from the very loving responses from people from a wide variety of backgrounds and beliefs. A major point of my exercise, in fact, is to increase not only love in and for this world but also tolerance of numerous perspectives, including and especially what is called "freethought." I define "freethought
" as "the liberty to question and doubt unscientific and uncritical beliefs, especially as concerns religion." Note, however, that the term "freethought" connotes in my mind the ability to think freely
, which means that the individual may perceive reality in whatever way he wishes, so long as his perceptions do not spill out onto others in a deleterious fashion.
Someone else has commented, "The article is not respecting other religions in itself - oxymoronically." The entire essay is designed to be tongue in cheek but also to be instructive in how we who are not "religious" in the typical manner are constantly being surrounded by "organized religionists" telling us to "respect their religion," when their religion doesn't respect us. I am also attempting to impress upon those "organized religionists" that our perspective is as "sacred" as theirs, if not more so, and that we have as much right to express it as they do. Sacred mission
One aspect of my life's chosen "mission," if you will, is to expose and speak out against "religious" pathology causing problems on planet Earth, including constant warfare and the deaths of hundreds of millions globally for thousands of years. I take this mission as seriously and sacredly as religionists do their own religion. Therefore, in the spirit of "respecting people's religion," I have declared my mission in a way so it will be understood that I have every right to point out all these pathological aspects of human religion. That fact does not exclude appreciating the beautiful or positive aspects of religion as a human artifact, which I have striven to do likewise in my writings.
Is my religion "intolerant?" Let's examine that notion in consideration of what I've written in my essay. Again, I have not expressed any "beliefs." If anything, my statements largely constitute nonbeliefs
or even antibeliefs
. Moreover, I have not said that everyone must think atheistically, theistically, polytheistically, pantheistically or any other way all the time or at any given moment. I have specifically stated that I am not
interested in mind control and that what you do within the privacy of your own mind is entirely up to you.Banning religion?I have not called for the banning of all religion
or the destruction of religious artifacts or places of worship. Again, what you do privately or even publicly in designated places is up to you, unless it spills out onto others in an objectionable fashion. Such divisiveness and socially disruptive intrusions would include having prayer rooms in public facilities, such as schools, or in institutes of higher learning, set aside for one particular group, favored above all the rest. In my opinion, it's got to be all or none, and that includes space for not only the major religions but also atheists and skeptics, Wiccans, Pagans, feminist Goddess worshippers and so on - are you prepared for the onslaught of special interest groups when you open that door in public facilities? So, no groups, religions or cults should be specially favored at such public facilities. Our public educational system is best kept as secular as possible, but teaching dispassionately and without proselytizing the basics of religion, mythology, philosophy, rationalism and skepticism would be preferable. There is plenty of time and opportunity for religious practices elsewhere.No God?
Furthermore, I have not said anyone cannot contemplate "God," however one defines that term - again, I could not care less what you do with your own thoughts in the privacy of your own mind. Your private thinking is entirely up to you and absolutely none of my or anyone else's business. How is such a philosophy - or, as I say, tongue somewhat but not completely in cheek, religion
- remotely "intolerant?" On the contrary, such a view represents the greatest possible tolerance. Indeed, I have worded my essay carefully in order to make it inclusive
, as opposed to the fascistic organized religions we are accustomed to.No saviors?
In this same regard, also note that I did not say one could not
believe in a savior, prophet, avatar or other supposed incarnation of God. I said my religion does not ask
or require you to do so. Whether or not you wish to sit and contemplate a savior, prophet or other supposedly godly figure is entirely up to you, in the privacy of your own mind, so long as your rumination doesn't spill out onto others in a deleterious and antisocial manner. You can even have your houses of worship and holidays - I don't care, again so long as you understand that there are those who not only don't share in your perception of reality but also will oppose some aspects of what they view as pathology that is destroying the harmony on Earth. And if your house of worship is teaching hatred and alienation of others, do be prepared to hear complaints about it from nonbelievers - my religion gives us the right to complain about your hate speech, so please respect my religion. Yes, intolerant of hatred and derision!
The hatred and divisiveness, in fact, stem from the intolerance
of the religious supremacists, who believe they have the "one true faith" and that everyone else is sinful, illegitimate, unsaved, inferior and even evil, along with the rest of the arrogant derogation spewed the way of the nonbeliever. I'm simply saying, we're here, get used to it, and, if you must, learn to tune us out like we do religious proselytizing. Then we'll get along just fine. How is that perspective "intolerant?"
I can get along with almost everyone, so long as they don't regurgitate their antisocial tendencies, neuroses, psychoses and pathologies all over me. Am I intolerant of enduring such an experience? You betcha! And proudly so, as not tolerating such intolerance is a sign of a healthy psyche. Appreciation of religion as a cultural artifact
I view religion as not necessarily an "ultimate truth," although some very interesting aspects of religious ideation contain sublime truths and fascinating facts. Instead, at their best and from an anthropological perspective, humanity's religions represent cultural artifacts
that reveal much about the human species as a whole. This abundant human
revelation includes a significant amount of science that often has been allegorized and hidden under gobs of superstition. As a lifelong treasure hunter and student of archaeology
, I like to "dig up" worthwhile religious, mythological and cultural artifacts, and clear them of the "dirt" or neurotic and fallacious debris. That's all. But the neurotic doesn't want to go away - that's one thing that makes it neurotic. Ditto with the psychotic - it psychotically imposes itself on us. These are stubborn stains that keep popping up. Public Displays
Let me give an example here of my perspective of how to deal with a religious holiday, appropriate for this time of year: Do I mind that Christmas decorations are put up in the public square? No, not all, any more than I do seeing images of Santa Clause and his reindeer. I also wouldn't mind seeing atheist/skeptical signs saying "Christmas is a myth"
or a hoax
, because it really represents the birth not of a Jewish godman 2,000 years ago but that of the sun
at the winter solstice
. In my opinion, the winter solstice is a celebration almost everyone on Earth can relate to and participate in, although the date changes to June in the southern hemisphere. I suggest we would all be better off focusing on such natural and mellow celebrations, as opposed to holidays that are ethnocentric, biased and emotionally charged. In this latter case, my view is definitely intolerant
- of the intolerant. Pruning the religious tree
However, my view/religion is highly tolerant of the feelings of wonder, awe, ecstasy and joy - these are all hallmarks of a religious experience. I would simply like to redirect people's attention to the cultural smorgasbord of religious, spiritual, mythological and philosophical thought dating back many thousands of years. From this mass, we can separate out the unpalatable bits such as arrogance, conceit, megalomania, supremacy and domination, along with the abundant hatred, violence, murder and mayhem, and focus on the good parts, which I try to bring forth in my books, articles and other creations. I'm just pruning the human religious tree, so to speak, cutting off dead branches, excising rot and cancerous lesions, and planting more seeds. That need is not too difficult to grasp, and my pruning is not at all intolerant - on the contrary, it constitutes an attempt to salvage an invaluable and unfathomably old tree collapsing under the weight of its dead branches.