Hatred Is Not a Religious Belief

I don’t usually write about religion. I’m not the kind of person who wades into areas fraught with potential peril. I’m the kind of person who flees from fraught. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. So here goes.

I think people should be free to believe whatever they want. They should get to worship whatever god or goddess or many gods they believe in, alone or with others who want to join them. They should also get to NOT worship if they choose to, and their morality should never be questioned because of that choice. People should all be judged by their actions, not by their professed beliefs.

I will fight to defend anyone’s right to believe and practice what he wants to, so long as his religion doesn’t impinge on anyone else’s.

People should be allowed to practice their own religious beliefs in peace.

What people should NOT allowed to do is marginalize, disenfranchise, persecute, abuse or harm innocent people and claim that it’s in the name of their religion. That’s not a belief. That’s bigotry and criminal behavior.

It doesn’t matter what religion you start out with, what you call it, or what you claim to believe: if you are hurting other people and fomenting hatred, you are a person of violence, not a person of faith.

From the little I know of comparative religions, almost all of them are based in kindness, generosity, and peace. Anyone who uses his religion as an excuse to practice violence and cruelty is twisting and perverting what’s actually there in an act far more harmful and offensive to the original religion than anything a peaceful and tolerant nonbeliever could ever do.

Seems obvious, right? But there are huge numbers of people all over the world–and in this country–who stridently claim that their religion gives them the right to criticize, marginalize, refuse to hire, persecute, bully, and even kill people who are innocent of any crime, who simply want to be allowed to live their lives in peace. We can’t accept “my religion says you’re evil” as an excuse for hatred. That’s medieval.

Basic morality says we should be generous to those in need, kind to those who are suffering, and tolerant of those who are different. If your religion is teaching anything other than that . . . you should probably get a new religion. There are a lot out there to choose from.

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “Hatred Is Not a Religious Belief

  1. I showed your blog post to a friend of mine and he offered a link to a recent blog post that brings up the related issue that the “religious-right has persecuted other religions in their effort to redefine freedom of religion as something that only applies to themselves.” http://bit.ly/1DImI53

  2. Lee Bell

    I can certainly see why hatred shouldn’t be a religious belief, but what happens when the tenets of certain ideologies include the submission of ‘non-believers?’ Those in the West must begin to understand that it’s very dangerous to ascribe Western values to the entire world, as though we all share the same world view. http://www.meforum.org/4974/muslims-shouldnt-pray-to-defeat-non-muslims

    This has nothing to do with the Right or Left…but moral clarity.

  3. Claire

    Well, Christianity had its Crusades, didn’t it? Same idea.

  4. Ellen Austin-Li

    What I’ve been left thinking about these days is how crucial separation of church and state really is. It seems that this is an imperative in the modern world, where electronic media so readily disperses ideas incongruent with certain religious ideologies. How wise our forefathers were when they crafted the U.S. Constitution — precisely because their ancestors had come from places that practiced religious intolerance. You struck the nail on the head when you called what illustrated religious intolerance as medieval, that’s exactly what it is! These things will continue to occur until the entire world practices separation of church and state. No tolerant society can exist any other way.

  5. Claire

    So agree, Ellen. There are a couple of good organizations you can donate for that are working for the separation of church and state: People for the American Way and Freedom from Religion are the first that come to mind.

  6. Ellen Austin-Li

    Oops– excuse the messed-up sentence above, bu I’m sure you get what I am saying!

  7. I so agree with your point. It reminded me of an onion article I ran across recently. http://www.theonion.com/articles/god-angrily-clarifies-dont-kill-rule,222/

  8. Claire

    Wow, Charles, that’s an incredible piece. I love the Onion. Couldn’t agree with it more.

  9. As an atheist, I’ve always lived by the Golden Rule, and it’s served me well so far. I just don’t understand why it’s so hard for some people to be tolerant. I’ve had to block family members (all Conservative or Fundamentalist Christians) on Facebook for their constant rants about people not like them: gays, Muslims, gays, liberals, Muslims, etc. How can they stand to be so negative and hateful all of the time?

  10. Reblogged this on Just Another Blog and commented:
    I couldn’t have said this any better. We need more tolerance and understanding in the world, not more fighting.

    Even though I’m an atheist, I acknowledge how religion can be a comfort to believers, but when their faith begins to harm others…

  11. Claire

    Thanks so much, Jen. I’m honored you reblogged it. Also I was excited to see you’re another Joss Whedon/Rob Thomas fan. We clearly have the same taste.

  12. It’s always great to find people that like the same things you like. If I was going to worship something as a god, I think I’d choose Joss Whedon.

  13. Claire

    I once was writing at a Starbucks and he was at a nearby table. I kept trying to get up the courage to go tell him how much I adore everything he’s done, but I was too big a chicken. (Well, not EVERYTHING he’s done–Dollhouse never worked for me.)

  14. I would have been way too chicken, but I would have been tweeting about it.

    There were bits of Dollhouse I liked, but it wasn’t the greatest. I think it was starting to get better at the end of the second season.

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