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Thread: Religious Intolerance vs. Ignorance

  1. #1
    Administrator Black Dragon's Avatar
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    Religious Intolerance vs. Ignorance

    I've recently been thinking about the phenomenon of religious intolerance. Not too long ago I found myself in a very uncomfortable situation. I was teaching a class on the origins of Islam, and one of my students asked a very loaded question. Specifically, "why are Muslims so violent?"

    On one level, this question troubled me. At its root was the misconception that the majority of Muslims engage in violent acts. Yet I also understood how this student arrived at such a conclusion. After all, he has lived most of his life in a region where there are very few Muslims. His primary exposure to the Islamic faith (prior to taking my class) consisted of news reports on terrorists. So I couldn't fault him for arriving at this conclusion initially.

    But this got me thinking: how much religious intolerance is really simple ignorance? How much is actually based out of true hatred? Or do the two go together?

    Have you personally experienced religious intolerance? In your estimation, was it based on ignorance, or something more sinister?

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    Moderator Telcontar's Avatar
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    I've personally SEEN religious intolerance. Being areligious myself, I cannot experience it firsthand.

    I certainly don't think that most intolerance is founded in true hatred. Hatred is too strong a word for the dislike that most people will level at things they don't actually know anything about. Often intolerance is simply a knee-jerk reaction, sprung from a bias people might not have even known they had. Whether or not that is the same as ignorance... I'd need to think on it more. A strong case could be made, though, as the sort of bias I'm talking about generally arises from a set of misconceptions and false facts.

    Case in point, that 'most' Muslims are violent. This is incorrect. Muslims make up a sizable percentage of the world and the majority of them live as peacefully as any other religious follower. A few of the extremists are giving the rest a bad image, very true - but this has happened before in history with other religions and beliefs. There were even Buddhist terrorists at one point.
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    Leadership Kelise's Avatar
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    I'd like to think that true hatred isn't often involved - I agree that hatred is a pretty strong word. A lot of it comes from bad news reporting - only showing one side of the story - and what we're taught in schools and through the Government. We are pretty much told to be suspicious of Muslims these days, particularly in airports, like travelling through major hubs such as Changi and Heathrow...

    Add it all together, and suspicion turns to paranoia, distaste, rudeness... and in the end you just don't see any good in them.

    So it may not be hatred, as much as you don't stop to think that they may be okay.
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    Moderator Ravana's Avatar
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    The two are not necessarily linked—in fact, the most intolerant people are likely to be among the better-informed ones: they have reasons to hate others. (Consider how various Christian sects went at one another hammer-and-tongs from the 4th century up to nearly the present day over doctrinal differences, about which they were generally quite well informed. Some still do, though in general the ironmongery has been stowed in favor of less legally actionable methods.) Where ignorance plays the biggest role is when these people then try to persuade others to buy into their hatred, as they are almost certainly not going to present a fair picture of their targets… and much of their intended audience will never bother to do any fact-checking (or even believe someone coming along later and pointing out that their information has, at best, been badly twisted).

    It appears to be part of human nature to possess an "us-versus-them" mentality of some sort; perhaps more importantly, it appears to be part of human nature to want to be a part of some "us" or other… at which point rationality often gets sacrificed for the sake of conforming with the expectations of that group (especially since not doing so often gets the person thrown into the "them" group automatically). We are social creatures; nobody reading this is a hermit. If you were, you wouldn't be reading it, after all. We are an "us"… and even apart from any other prejudices we might individually possess, we almost certainly share some fairly strong views concerning illiteracy, and probably about those people who willfully remain so or see no value to being literate—unquestionably a "them," for our purposes—whether those views are informed ones or otherwise.

    Being areligious myself, I cannot experience it firsthand.
    I envy you your naivete. Throughout much of history, the only thing that could cause you to be hated more than being a member of the wrong religion is not being a member of any religion at all. Someone of a rival sect can be seen as simply (if perhaps perniciously) wrong-headed; someone who doesn't adhere to any sect is generally perceived as undermining the very concept of religion itself—simultaneously incomprehensible to the believer and a threat to the believer's own self-image as an intelligent (sic), rational (sic) being… as well as to what that believer probably considers the underpinning of the basic laws and morals of society.

    If you really think you can't experience religious intolerance yourself, go try to join the Boy Scouts. They'll straighten you out on the matter.
    Last edited by Ravana; 4-25-11 at 4:41 AM.
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    Senior Member Amanita's Avatar
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    The general issue has been covered well by Ravana. By the way, you really take the the demand seriously that you have to be an expert on everything to write fantasy.

    But on the distrust/hatred towards Muslims. I think it’s distrust not outright hatred, at least not most of the time.
    There was this one comment on a video about the Bhopal disaster where someone wrote: „What’s the fuss about? It’s only Muslims that died.“ Despite of knowing that some of these idiots on You Tube shouldn’t be taken seriously I didn’t get that out of my head.

    But back on topic. There are Muslims who go to great lenghts to kill themselves and as many innocent people as possible, claiming that their faith demands this. And these people are a direct threat to us which makes them very present in everyone’s mind. In addition to this, the media report plenty of other terrible things done by Muslims once again claiming that their faith demands this.
    - Abducting and beheading people, filming this.
    - So called honour killings among immigrants.
    - Authorities sentencing women to death because they’ve been raped.
    - Other authorities sentencing a woman to be gang-raped as punishment for a crime her brother supposedly has done.
    - Taliban attacking girl’s schools with poison gas so girls will prefer to stay at home in future
    - Guards forcing girls to stay in their burning school and die because they aren’t covered well enough to go out of the door.
    - And so on …
    Media generally tend to report the bad things and stay silent about most good things happening and in case of „enemies“ their bad doings are brought to the forefront even more. This has been that way in earlier wars as well, and I assume it wasn’t different with the Communists during the Cold War even though I’ve been too young to really know back then.
    As Ravana has described above, people always tend to have an us-versus-them-mentality and with the Communists gone, „the Western World“ needed a new enemy.
    Despite of this I do believe that the Islamist terrorists and hate preachers are the main reason for the surge in dislike against Muslims in general. At least in Germany all those discussions about Muslims have only surfaced after the 9/11th attacks and the subsequent terrorist attacks in Madrid and London.
    If important Muslim authorities would state that terrorism is not what their faith demands, and try to influence others into this direction as well, I’m sure many distrustful people would change their opinion even though those who seriously hate Muslims probably wouldn’t be affected by this.

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    Senior Member Fnord's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ravana View Post
    Throughout much of history, the only thing that could cause you to be hated more than being a member of the wrong religion is not being a member of any religion at all. Someone of a rival sect can be seen as simply (if perhaps perniciously) wrong-headed; someone who doesn't adhere to any sect is generally perceived as undermining the very concept of religion itself—simultaneously incomprehensible to the believer and a threat to the believer's own self-image as an intelligent (sic), rational (sic) being… as well as to what that believer probably considers the underpinning of the basic laws and morals of society.

    If you really think you can't experience religious intolerance yourself, go try to join the Boy Scouts. They'll straighten you out on the matter.
    This has been my experience. In my personal interactions, it seems that the religious are far more tolerant of people of other religions than people without any religion at all. In fact, if I remember correctly, the Qur'an explicitly states this. I'm the sure the Bible makes mention of it too. So while following the wrong god might be bad, following *no* god is far worse.

    That isn't to say I've been abused for it, but it has definitely led to conflicts, especially with my family or in-laws. But I've heard people quip before that, in the U.S., a muslim will be voted into public office before a self-avowed atheist ever will be. We do have at least one muslim congressman now, but I'm not sure we have any who are (publicly) atheist. There is just something about it that rubs the religious the wrong way.

    I personally don't care about someone's religious beliefs. I have long outgrown the angry Christopher Hitchens-reading evangelical god-hater type; it's such a waste of energy. I think there's plenty of room for everyone so long as we don't kill each other for thinking differently. We haven't gotten there yet, but I'm not going to hold an entire religion accountable for the deplorable actions of a relative few.

  7. #7
    I've spent the majority of my adult life in Africa and the Middle-east, and most of the intolerance I've encountered (whether it be ostracizing individuals or outright murder) has been based largely on tribalism, not the words of a nominal deity. People like to belong to a herd, and if the herd espouses a particular philosophy or belief the weak-minded will go along with it, even if they don't truly believe that what they're doing is right. It happens in religion, it happens in politics, it even happens in sport.

    Islam can be quite intolerant and violent if you take the Prophet's words at face value. The Bible is also quite intolerant and violent before Christ shows up and tells everyone to chill out. It seems most Creators have an appetite for blood.

    As Tony indicated, ignorance is at the root of the problem: insular people living insular lives, the boundaries of their existence and hence their intellect curtailed by either their society or circumstances.

    Education is the key to freeing people's minds, but unfortunately this can only really be achieved through a remodelling of economic and political structures. That's no simple task, and I doubt it will happen on this planet before humanity goes the way of the dodo.
    Last edited by At Dusk I Reign; 4-25-11 at 7:46 PM. Reason: I removed an errant 'y'. I expect a reward when I die.

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