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Big Brother 2012 house mate, single Dad, actor, singer, personal trainer, stripper, adult entertainer, public speaker, activist, columnist, presenter and former secondary school teacher. Canadaphile, Francophile, atheist, fighter for freedom and tolerance, real child protection, sexual liberalism, European integration and abolition of the monarchy.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Respecting Religion

I was deeply disturbed by a recent event that took place at my old university. According to The Independent, students attending a debate about sharia law organised by the Atheism, Secularism and Humanism Society at Queen Mary University in London were told they would be "hunted down and killed" by a man who burst into their lecture theatre and filmed them on his phone.  The man had reportedly been motivated by a call to action placed on extremist website, Islamic Awakening.

After I was informed of this, I made the following postings on Twitter:

How long are we going to let religious nutcases who have no evidence for their beliefs, threaten, harm & kill us in our own free-thinking land?  You might be able to bully & beat religion into your own children, but don't fucking dare threaten me with your unsubstantiated bullshit.  The idea that religion, by sheer virtue of being a religion, demands respect is utter nonsense. It requires no more respect than the respect it has for other groups in society. Which is not a lot much of the time.

I was then pleasantly surprised to be joined in a debate by one of my former students who challenged some of my views, particularly the manner in which I had expressed them:

I dunno, that seems to me to be a bit of a generalisation.  I'm anti-religion myself, but to state that religious groups not be respected undermines society's views on tolerance all together, right?  We should respect all groups of people regardless of if what they're saying makes complete sense or it's all utter bullshit.

Its not the bullshit I have no respect for, it is the lack of respect some religions have for others and yet expect respect.  

Sure but that applies to extremists.  It appears (to me anyway) like you're criticising all religious people.

It definitely applies to extremists but, I would argue, also applies to some who might class themselves as moderates too.  

We should absolutely tolerate difference, but for things we have choice over, we must be prepared to justify and be judged for.  Tolerance for the intolerant is surely intolerable even for the most tolerant if the safety and security of all is paramount.   I promote tolerance of difference for things which we have no control over. My tolerance does not extent to hate-mongers.

Which isn't the case because the majority of religious people i know are peaceful, respectful and -to an extent- open-minded.

Many religious people are indeed. But many are not and they use religion to justify their actions.  Those who are peaceful and respectful are so in spite of their religion, not usually because of it.  They are pickers and choosers and ignore the most wicked and brutal parts of their religion.  Which is good for society, of course.  But their moderation comes from a moderate society, not from a religion.   I am not thankful to their religion for their moderation, I am thankful to an enlightened society that has impacted on their interpretation of their religion to justify to themselves and make it seem more respectful and relevant to others.

Exactly, and I commend liberal thinkers who take into account sociological changes when interpreting and practicing their religion and respect them more for it.   The beauty of free people do not have to follow religious texts to the word and can change aspects of it.  I don't think religions should be viewed as institutions set in stone that cannot be changed, so I think it's wrong to criticise religion itself, rather criticise those who are too narrow-minded to accept different views.

I do not disagree with you at all, (think I share a lot in common with you to be honest) but, playing devil's advocate, let me present the following arguments to you:

- If a holy text is, as some believe, the actual word of God, why would it need changing?

- Is not the changing of interpretation to suit modern society simply a PR campaign by some in those religions to make it appear more palatable and spread the delusion of God to people who might otherwise question it?

- Should the fundamentalists not at least have more respect for the fact they are not 'pick and mix' followers?

- If a God-created religion needs changing, isn't it evidence that it was not created by a God at all?  If she has, surely she would have had the foresight to have predicted these societal changes.

Hmm... I guess, because personally I view all religions as different interpretations of one 'higher entity',   I pretty much disregard the validity of 'holy' texts.  So when I look at them I'm more inclined to be focusing on positive aspects they promote, and disregard the more negative as mere views of the time that they were written, which is why I, on the whole, respect religion but condemn religious fundamentalism.

But if you disregard the texts you disregard the whole basis of Judaism, Christianity & Islam and simply say that their belief is a belief in a higher entity and that is all. Which clearly gels with your own interpretation, but isn't that you basically saying that each of those religions is based on utter bullshit except for the fact they believe in a higher entity?  Therefore expressing, as I was, a lack of respect for much of the basis of each of the main religions in this land.

I think any religion is just a human attempt to conceptualise and understand a higher entity, or 'God', so I wouldn't call the basis of religion 'utter bullshit', just an attempt to rationalise the world as we know it and I think it's a false dichotomy (A level English ;) ) to say you either respect or disrespect religion as a whole.

But your belief is not in a religion but in a higher entity. So if a text, which is the basis of these religions, is simply a human effort to rationalise the world as we know it at the time that we know it, isn't that therefore a nice way of saying it is 'utter bullshit'?  That it is man-made twoddle and the only leg they, rather shakily, stand on is a belief in an unproven higher entity?

I know of some interpretations of some religions for which I have more respect for.  But I do not respect them automatically because of their religious status.  Religions too often have an untouchable status in our society which elevates them to a level which some seem to think excludes from criticism and ridicule.  'Religions' are, after all, no different from 'cults'.  The differences are only in numbers of followers and length of life-span that has granted them greater acceptance in society.

 I'm not saying I disrespect religion per se.  I'm saying they should not just expect respect because they are a religion.  Of course, I do not class all religious people under the same light or, indeed, all denominations of a given religion.  

Clearly, I would not class you as someone who is religious.  Believing in a higher entity does not make you religious.

So what would your view be on the Danish newspaper that depicted the prophet Mohammed?

Denmark is not a Muslim country.

Denmark is a democracy.

Why should rules that people who choose to be Muslims follow be imposed on those of us who choose not to be Muslims?  If visitors to Saudi Arabia must accept the principles of a violent and brutal Sharia legal system, then those who choose to reside and visit Denmark must accept that it is a free-thinking and democratic system with its own laws, none of which are dictated to them by any religion whatsoever.   

Its funny how so many newspapers in Islamic states will make anti-semitic comments or characterise Jewish people, but the moment a newspaper in a non-islamic state pokes fun at their religion the reaction of some muslims is of threats of death and violence.
As a citizen of the UK who chooses to continue to reside here, the only laws I follow are the laws of the land.  I am not Christian, Jew, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, etc.  Anyone from any of those religions tries to impose their rules on me they can (with no respect whatsoever) fuck right off.

I can't really comment on islamic newspapers because i've never seen one LOL, but, in regards to the Danish one, surely that was an issue of disrespect for a religion, despite the fact Denmark is a secular state, the press should still have respect for a rule which is so highly regarded in the q'ran, although perhaps religions and religious people (even  though the number of people who think like this is small) should be open to criticism.  But i think it would lead to a lack of  intolerance to other religions.  Wait i've lost my train of thought :S

Ah, but this is exactly the crux of my argument: Why should any religion command respect just because those who believe it might be offended? This is ridiculous.

This is a religion that often has no respect for anyone who dissents from it in lands where Islam is the official religion.  That will stone, hang, beat, lash anyone who does anything they deem as 'wrong'.  

The West is too often too scared to criticise precisely because of the extremists (not only in Islam) who are nothing more than bullies, brutes and psychopaths who believe they have a god on their side.  

Should we have to cower to them because of this?   

 Should we have to tip-toe and be victims of their bullying tactics or should, like the brave editors of the Danish newspaper, actually say, 'look, you live by your rules I live by mine! Don't like them, fuck off to a land where you agree with the rules.'

Too many people use the West as a money-making entity but have zero respect for our brand of tolerance and throw it right back  in our faces.  You want to live in a land where people are not free to criticise others, or express themselves sexually or according to their own religious beliefs or even possess none, as free/equal women, then please, go to Saudi Arabia or Iran or numerous other Islamic states.  You have options.  This land is for people who CHOOSE to live somewhere not dictated to by religious dogma.

Practice what the hell you want in this land, but don't impose it on others.    

Any religion worth its weight in gold (or any other matter) should have no problem with being questioned. Its only because it fears people knowing too much or being able to question too much that it imposes such rigid and intolerant practices.  Any religion that imposes such practices is not a real religion.  If 'believers' only believe because they are bullied into it through coercive means and abusive practices, then its not a belief, is it?  Its an imposition.
Religion, where it fails, bullies and abuses, must be exposed.

We should never be too scared to stand up to the hypocrises of religion. 

Very, very, very true.

Noooooo! Don't give in that easily!!!!

Can we continue this after my economics homework is done? :'(

1 comment:

  1. I happen to be in a Muslim country and from a religous family, but let me tell you it's such a shame that such extremism still exists and dares itself to threaten other people's lives based on their beliefs; I am fully ashamed of ... .
    I declare that the current century is the century of liberalism and democracy and those who consider themselves having the right of killing or threatening others' lives for their beliefs are a threat to humanity and society and should be convicted as potential criminals before committing a crime.
    "Religous should be a useful tool for Society, not an authority to rule society or further an excuse for criminaly-insaned behaviors."