Religious Bigotry

When I was a child, growing up Catholic in the pre and slightly post Vatican II world, I was strongly encouraged by the priests, nuns and lay teachers not to associate with non-Catholics. It is well known fact during this time that many Catholics viewed other faiths as wrong and would lead to the corruption of their young. The common term we used to identify non-Catholics was “publics” or the all encompassing term “Protestants”.Unknown to me at this time, other faiths were busy protecting their flock from the evil influence of Catholicism. I remember being 8 years old and getting my first taste of religious bigotry I was innocently practicing. I was walking to my Grandfather’s house in my green plaid uniform, when I passed a group of Wheaton College kids. “Here comes a little Papist” the smirking students loudly said. Having no clue what why they called me that, I asked my Grandfather what the word meant. On that day, I learned about the word bigot. And the most important lesson my Grandfather taught me was that religious bigotry was practiced in every faith and every doctrine. That it was wrong and hateful. He taught me that no church is better then the other. But it was how you conducted your life in a manner that was good, honest and caring and that was the true doctrine.Religious bigotry is prejudice or discrimination against one or all members of a particular religious group based on negative perceptions of their religious beliefs and practices or on negative group stereotypes. I want to focus on Christianity as a whole not split off into sects, churches or organizations. Not because I am picking on Christians but because this faith is what I know.

We as Christians are busy group. Catholics are still pissed at the Protestants because of that nasty Martin Luther issue, Protestants are still pissed at the Catholics because they did not follow their idea of the “true” faith, Muslims are all terrorists and everybody hates the Jews. Lordy Miss Gordy! Can’t we just get along?

Discussing religious bigotry is slippery slope indeed. I have in my life experienced and practiced religious bigotry myself. First as a Catholic schoolgirl, confused by the papist stereotype and then again as a born-again Christian. Religious bigotry is completely invisible to the person practicing it. In fact, I thought it was my mission to save the world and make everyone think like me. This type of bigotry always disguises itself as piety and righteousness. This holier than thou belief that only Christians can go to Heaven or that they are more superior because of their self-perceived connection straight to the big guy, is not only insidious but evil as well.

I remember telling my Grandfather, the same one that warned me about religious bigotry, that he was going to hell because he did not renounce his Catholic faith and become born-again. I was an avid reader of Chick Publications Tracts. You know the one where Catholics are portrayed as worshipping the God Baal? Boy did I feel superior! I was convinced that it was my job to bring him over from the dark side of Catholicism. Thank God he was patient with me. He smiled, patted my hand and told me that he had a relationship with Jesus a bit longer than I did. At that moment I knew what a bigot was – it was me.

How many times do we hear the rumors that Atheists are going take over the world or that all people who believe in the Islamic faiths are terrorists? That Wiccans are busy casting spells that would make the old woman from Hansel and Gretel look pious? Or that the Jews are to be blamed forever for Christ’s death? Our soldiers are dying because God punnishing us for having gays on TV? We are so busy trading statistical percentages of who killed more people – Christians or Atheists that we forget that we are spewing prejudism. With the Internet, religious yellow journalism and propaganda are rampant. A few well placed posts can ignite the ignorance and hate in Christians everywhere and within a few moments cause such an email fury that spreads religious bigotry with every key stroke.

Now with the presidential race upon us, what religion the candidate is practicing is more important than if a candidate is even competent to be our President. Remember Jimmy Carter’s campaign? It was highly spoken of that he was a “good” Christian. His largest voting base came from the religious right that through pulpit campaigning elected him on his choice of the Christian God, not the fact that he was good leader. So we got a President that tearfully apologized for having lust in his heart and at the same time couldn’t put a policy together to save his life.

Ministers/Priests/Theologians condemn all other kinds of bigotry. But they close their eyes to their own congregations bigotry. Most use religion to justify themselves. Christians say Jews killed Christ so they are dammed and deserve the discrimination they experience, Men are superior to Women because Eve gave Adam the apple of sin, Homophobics justify their hatred of gays by finding condemnation for homosexuals in the Bible. So bigotry and religious justification walk side by side. We are blind to our own bigoted ways. Who cares if someone is a caring, good, kind, loving person, if he ain’t with G.O.D he can’t be with me. Hogwash!

Look I don’t care where people go to church, what Gods they pray to, or what scriptures they draw inspiration from. But I do care when people use their religious beliefs to balls out condemn those that believe differently than they do.

Here is a few pointers on how not to be a religious bigot. Get religion out of politics, stop forwarding the emails that spew hatred towards another religious belief, and realize that this Country has many different religious or spiritual beliefs so get over yourselves. Stop tying to get me to join your club, got my own thank you and open your mind to something that may well educate you and stop justifying hateful bigotry by hiding behind your God.


20 Responses

  1. If Christians would just follow Jesus…He was tolerant, forgiving, and inclusive. Religious bigotry would not have been something He was promoting, and people that do are not following Jesus. I remember only too well being smug that I belonged to the only true religion and that the “publics” were going to hell for not getting with the program. Great blog…excellently written. I totally agree.

  2. Crap! I thought they were pubics! Boy was I confused, then we learned we’de get pubic hares but I never got any freaking rabbit!

    Seriously though – aside from the reminiscing.. well written and I agree – more BS hads been commiteed in the name of God through history by all sides that I imagine God might be a bit disappointed in his little ant farm.

  3. John: We all have to remember that Religious Bigotry is not only a Christian problem but exists in all faiths include a non-faith such as Atheism. But because the Far Christian Right is all but governing this election, this type of bigotry needs to be discussed.

    Anonymous: Very clever! In addition, Atheists must be careful not to fall into the bigoted trap as well.

    A true non-beliver is one who does not get affected by others beliefs. Say someone tells an atheist “Aren’t you afraid you are going to hell?” Well if the atheist is a true non-beleiver then this does not worry them because they do not believe in the Christian hell. See where I am going with this?

  4. Jude: I think I will follow the teachings of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, who teaches peace, and love, and good meatball marinara sauce! CONVERT to the Pastafarian beliefs, or you will be smothered in Raman noodles that were boiled in stale beer, and served by strippers with VD!

    So many heathens to convert, so little time….

  5. Ziggy Marley said it best “All religion should be wiped out”. Killing in the name of “God”? What about the 5th commandment? I beleive in a God of my own understanding. A God who continues to walk, guide and protect me. We are all very Blessed.

  6. I’m an atheist, and I feel organized religion seperates humans in a way that nothing else can. I think we should decide as individuals on which way to lead our lives, not as part of a group. I also think we should make these decisions based on what we learn in life, not what we’ve been told by a book. What’s the purpose in life if we’ve already got all the answers, all the rules laid out for us from day one? Just sayin..

    Of course, the purpose of every religion is not (or at least was not, to begin with) to seperate us. I suppose it’s the work of religious bigotry (which is really inevitable, since wherever you go there will be people with the strong belief that they’re better than others because of, well, whichever component they choose to base it on – whether it be class, race, religion, etc.) Where was I? Yeah..I suppose it’s the work of religious bigotry that really ruins it for people who just want to live and worship freely, and creates that kind of animosity and even prejudice against people of those religions by other people, particularily atheists.

  7. Margeaux your comment was dead on.

  8. Fee I like your sentence “the God of my understanding” That you can embrace spirituality without comparisons to other faiths is truly reaching the ultimate comfort zone.

  9. What surprises me is not that religion is in politics, but that anyone still believes in god.
    I dare anyone to read Christopher Hitchens book: “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” and tell me they are still true believers.

  10. Well FZ , I did read this particular book and although he did have many valid points, it did not do much to shake my own personal faith or spirituality. I preferred the “Portable Atheist” over the one you spoke of. This text delved more into the historical and scientific context of belief in “religion”.

    Belief in God(s) predates Moses and the Christian understanding of God of today. True, religion is man-made and in that light fallible. But to many people it provides spiritual comfort when people cannot draw that strength from within themselves.

    Now, considering that this is a man-made idea then what is the harm in believing as one does? Where the harm does come into play is when Religious Bigotry is rampant in the mind and actions of the believer.

    By you saying “I dare anyone to read C.H’s book and tell me they are still believers” proves my point of Religious Bigotry. You are forcing someone with the word “dare” into your way of believing. You may not believe in a God(s) but you are believing in something and that is your interpretation of Atheism so you now have your own church or “club” of fellow believers that think anyone who is “not” an atheist is somewhat less in your eyes – hence your own form of Religious Bigotry.

    My Tom, my resident agnostic says “It does not bother him that people in general believe in the existence of God and cling to their churches or faith but when these people try to control my government or my life and condemn me for my beliefs then it is wrong”.

    Thanks for posting!

  11. I’m agnostic… I know you’re probably considering that to be atheism… but stop yourself right there and understand that even reacting to what I just said is the root of bigotry…

    I am not a bigot… although I will admit that the urge to lash out at the practices of other religions does come too strong many a time… It’s the fact that we can’t understand other religions that makes us reject, deny and defame it…

    We need to stop associating people to religion…. I can’t help but think “Martin Luther” when i think “Protestants”… But maybe that’s just me…

    We’re all flesh, blood and bone at the end of the day… so let’s respect that… amazing blog… 🙂

    check mine out 🙂

  12. Brat I have a multilayered family of my own. My husband is agnostic (yes very different from atheist), one son is an atheist, one is Catholic, one is born again and I am a mixture of Catholicsm, Born Again, SlideBack Again, Wiccan studying, Zen Buddhist admirer. Whew!

    But when you sit down and realize how many of us including myself practice some form of religious bigotry it is astounding.

    What got this blog going in my head was the volume of Christian based hate email that headlines were pure yellow journalism. It riled up so many of the Christian readers that if they were all in the same room they would probably lynch someone.

    What gets my goat is the immediate defensiveness that comes when you challenge someone and in this case a Christian emailer, that spewing this type of propagandish hate mail is bigotry. First things they say is NO WAY – NOT ME.

    I sometimes call myself a Pollyanna because I truly believe that all faiths and non-faiths can have a cohesive and decent discussion on the presence or lack of God.

    Thank you so much for posting. I hope to keep this discussion going.

  13. hello again… before i begin, i don’t think your RSS feed is working as it should be…

    well, first, i doubt this discussion will ever stop because you couldn’t have picked a better (or worse) time to start such a discussion…

    has anyone noticed how religion is suddenly so much more important the color of my skin?? It sickens me to think that there is so much discrimination and it will just never stop… but that’s not the discussion here…

    Your family sounds interesting, and I marvel at your tolerance… but since it’s your family, it is a lot easier…

    When you think about it.. religion comes down to this… belief… not a belief in the religion… but a belief in a set of popular ideals that weren’t even yours to begin with… and considering that you were probably born into your religion… your mind is closed to any other ideals by the norms of society. So religion is in everybody’s minds…

    even if every single religious structure in the world ceased to exist and people were given new beginnings… religion would arise… sooner or later… because there is nothing more powerful than the proper ideal at just the right time… so what am i trying to get at?? religion is volatile… just as the mind is fickle…

  14. Good points Brat. I have always been a great believer in education. Not just numbers and spelling but the study of man and his faiths. I was extremely lucky to have an amazing progressive priest in school who taught to not follow blindly but to question so that you will have deeper understanding.

    An intersting blog would be to discover how someone chose their beliefs. Examples, it never ceases to crack up The Plumber (Tom), that I pray to St. Anthony for a parking space BUT he does raise his eyebrows when we score on in the front of the lot. Now this came from learning the intercession of Saints from my childhood Catholic experiences. Is it my own belief now? I think so because in all my travels I have taken through different faiths that is the one thing that I cling to. One could also call it Cafeteria Catholicsm.

    Unfortunatly, I do not think this blog post will reach the ones who may need it and that is the toxic emailers that spread religious bigotry sometimes without even knowing it.

  15. SIDE NOTE TO THE SERIOUSNESS: Eric I just read up on the Flying Spaghetti Monster in your post! Amazing!!! I thought it was a joke but there truly is a religion although a parody, but it was intriguing how this guy pushed it through the Kansas City Board of Education.

  16. Jude: It is just amazing the stuff you can find on the internet. The Flying Spaghetti Monster has become an almost religious cause for liberals and progressives here in confronting the Religious Right groups, and their insane desire for shoving their extreme religious ideology down our throats. It is a parody that really shows the extremism of religion in our society. Of course, if you thought the Flying Spaghetti Monster was bad, well…you haven’t been reading Teh Holiez Bibul. This is the Good Book translated into kitty pidgin. And just to give you a sample:

    Genisis 1:6-10 6 An Ceiling Cat sayed, im in ur waterz makin a ceiling. But he no yet make a ur. An he maded a hole in teh Ceiling.7 An Ceiling Cat doed the skiez with waterz down An waterz up. It happen.8 An Ceiling Cat sayed, i can has teh firmmint wich iz funny bibel naim 4 ceiling, so wuz teh twoth day.

    9 An Ceiling Cat gotted all teh waterz in ur base, An Ceiling Cat hadz dry placez cuz kittehs DO NOT WANT get wet.10 An Ceiling Cat called no waterz urth and waters oshun. Iz good.

    Iz good.

  17. Holy Cow! This is more irreverant than I thought!

  18. My mother told me that all the religion you need is right there in the Bible. She was raised Babtist, my father Cathoilc. We went to the Methodist church and left after they asked us to leave when we could not pay our monthly dues. She also told me that “organized” religion only separates mankind and is a tool to control the masses. “Take your Bible David, read it and pray…and you will find God” she told me.
    Politicians want to control the masses and what better way than to appeal to the minds/souls of the general public.
    I believe that mixing religion with politics is just downright dirty business. There is no room for religion in politics.
    Come to think of it… one might say that big religion is actually a tool of the Devil considering all of the bigotry, hate, death, and wars it has caused.

  19. The whole point of my blog was that to truly be a “good’ person is to respect other people’s choices of the way they practice their faith.

    During my “glassy eyed Do you Love Jesus” phase, I actually read the bible the way one would read a book. Took me MANY months and I discovered there are scriptures all over the place that in some ways contradict each other. Bottom line it is in the intrepretation. One must remember that it was a gaggle of bishops at First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD that decided what we would read and how it was to be interpreted. There is a huge amount of writings that didn’t make the cut that for centuries no one got a chance to peruse.

    Now these newly discovered writings are being deeem heretical not only by Catholics but by other Christian sects as well. What is everyone afraid of??? Now that is another blog that I may have to explore!

  20. Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success.

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