Religious Intolerance? People & Ideas Should Not Be Treated as Equals

Original photo by Marina Taskovic, altered with permission.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from theists is that I’m intolerant of their religion. Quite often, these people act as if it’s a personal attack on them specifically. I am indeed intolerant of religion, but it isn’t my fault that these people can’t understand that there’s a difference between hating an idea and hating the people who believe in that idea.

Ignorance IS NOT Bliss

I want you to think about something for a minute:

If you had cancer, would you simply tolerate it? Would you let it run rampant and unchecked as it destroys your body? Would you say it has every right to exist even as it robs you of your life? Your average person will opt for treatment. They will choose to fight the disease that threatens them. You don’t just accept it and go on as if it isn’t there, because the only options are fight or die.

Religion is a cancer. It is a symbiotic parasite that feeds on the minds of mankind. Much like HIV, this disease doesn’t kill on its own. What it does is weaken the defenses of those who are infected and leaves them vulnerable to infection by otherwise manageable maladies. A person who has a fear of the unknown or things that are “different” may have a proclivity towards racism or homophobia, and these issues are manageable on their own—but then you add religion to the mix, things become more dangerously entrenched. Instead of fighting this fear with knowledge, people like this will embrace their fear because they’ve been given a justification for it. They say, “It’s okay to tell homosexuals they’re unnatural and immoral, because this book says that my chosen God agrees with me on the issue.” They see nothing wrong with hating people because they believe that their God hates these people too.

Doctrines do not offer a divine validation for hatred. They were devised specifically to masquerade as divine validation in order to offer a clean conscience to men who had horrible ideas. Religion is simply a way for horrible people to continue acting like horrible people—but not feel bad about it. It is a cancer of the conscience that is eating away at the basic humanity that each of us knows is noble. Quite honestly, most people are just plain too good to be following such horrible ideas. If you have shown even an ounce of compassion for another life on this planet, then I’m here to tell you that you are too good to worship any God ever proposed by any doctrine, because those doctrines are tales of Gods who have loathed mankind. They are tales of vengeful tyrants bent on domination through force, and they merely reflect the power-hungry minds of the men who devised them.

Excising the Tumor

When treating cancer, there are typically two routes to treatment. The first is non-invasive treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The second is the invasive method, consisting of surgical removal of the tumor. This second method is how atheists like myself take to treating the cancer that is religion. It has to be cut out. The surgery is going to hurt. It’s going to leave the patient in pain. But once they start to recover, they will see that the pain was worth it.

I’ve certainly hurt some people’s feelings doing what I do. I’ve made a lot of people angry. But anger is a funny thing, because it has a way of making people honest. Some of the most heartfelt messages I get from people about the content I post on my Facebook page, come from anger. Many are pure venomous rage, but at least it’s honesty. That means we’re getting somewhere. If I can just get them to take a good look at themselves, then maybe I can get them thinking again.

But I’ve still got to keep hacking away at the root of the problem – “The Divine Facilitator.”

A Snake In My Home

The bottom line is that I am intolerant of terrible ideas. I am intolerant of racism. I am intolerant of misogyny and sexism. I am intolerant of homophobia. Most importantly, I'm intolerant of any system or ideology that promotes or offers justification for such atrocious ideas. And I'm intolerant of these things for the same reason that I wouldn't tolerate a rattlesnake taking up residence in my living room. You don't let a poisonous and venomous creature simply call dibs on a portion of your couch. You chop its head off and make a belt out of that sucker.

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Now there are some who take the conciliatory "live and let live" approach. They see that religion offers some good things and so they take the pacifist approach, and many of them don’t like people like me any more than theists do. Their view tends to be that even the rattlesnake serves a purpose by eating smaller vermin. The problem with that approach is that you have no guarantee that you won’t one day be on the menu. The fact is, if you leave a snake in your home, you've got no grounds to complain when you get bitten. You have to ask yourself if the benefits outweigh the costs.

Now, a snake serves a niche in the ecosystem, and if we removed them all it could be very detrimental. Religion however, no longer serves a tangible purpose. There is nothing that can be found in religion that one can't find in various forms of philosophy. The simple truth is that religion is masquerading as an indispensable part of society while it fights to dismantle the very society it claims to be a tool for. In the truest sense, religion is a suicide bomber who's taken a hostage it actually wants to kill. You can't negotiate with that, you just have to shoot it in the head before it can do too much damage.

Call It How You See It

Look, we've all got to call it how we see it. I've been called a bigot due to my position, and while I fully disagree with that assertion, everyone is entitled to their opinion. But the clear distinction in my mind is that I don't hate people, I hate ideas. I don't hate Christians or Muslims or Jews, but I do hate the doctrines and dogma they subscribe to. Their religious beliefs do not prevent me from treating them with love and compassion as any decent person should. I accept their right to believe whatever they choose, but I don't have to respect those beliefs and I don't have to treat those beliefs as if they're sacred.

I won't tolerate a snake in my home. If you're willing to de-fang the snake so that it isn't a danger any more, then we can talk. But as long as that snake can bite and is full of venom, I'm going to attack it. Because the best defense is a good offense. I'm going to offend people with the things I say and write, because people are often offended by the truth, and it can be a hard pill to swallow when someone tells you that everything you've been raised to believe is absolute fantasy. I know I was certainly very adverse to that idea at first.

Just Think About It

So I want to leave you with a final idea, a little something to consider.

The KKK and Aryan Nation as well as the Nation of Islam are all federally protected religious groups in the United States. They have parades and rallies and are able to openly spread their message to all who will listen. And the message these groups are spreading is hatred. Now, they have every right to speak their minds, but I'll be damned if anyone is going to tell me I have to just sit back and tolerate it. I don't have to invite them in my home. I don't have to sit quietly while they pontificate on the virtues of hatred wrapped in a religious cloak. I don't have to respect their ideas in the least. I only have to respect their right to have and speak those ideas. Just as they should respect my right to say with conviction that their ideas are pure lunacy.

For me it boils down to a simple idea:

If I am tolerant of an ideology that perpetuates hatred, then I am complicit in the acts of hatred that arise due to that ideology. It makes me a facilitator and an accomplice, and I simply can’t accept that position. I won’t accept that position. I don’t care how much good some religious people have done, or how much some religious groups have contributed, as long as religion is being used as a divisive tool against humanity and society as a whole, then we are at odds with each other. Because quite honestly if I’m tolerant of this insanity, it’s the equivalent of walking by a woman being raped and looking the other way simply because I had seen her assailant working in a soup kitchen earlier that day.

“Oh, you guys built schools in Africa?
That’s awesome.
That’s a great thing for those children.
Now do you think we can get someone to tell these folks that when the Bible says, ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch’, it doesn’t mean pour battery acid down the throat of your own child because the local priest told you your kid is a witch?
That would be lovely.
I’ll start being tolerant of your religion once you start policing your own people.”

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