Say a Prayer (or Don't) for an End to Religious Intolerance
Say a Prayer (or Don't) for an End to Religious Intolerance

Say a Prayer (or Don’t) to End Religious Intolerance

Whether you believe in God or not, the issue is about respect.
May 5, 2017
6 mins read

Articles of Faith

Whether you believe in God or not, the issue is about respect.

By Shannon Mondesir, Brooklyn College

Tolerance, for whatever reason, can be challenging sometimes.

How many times have you rolled your eyes every time you friend mentions that she can’t do something because “it’s a sin”? How often do you have to go out to brunch alone on Sundays because your friend is the altar server for three masses back to back? How many heated debates have you gotten into with devout Christians on Facebook, insisting that God is nothing but a figment of their imagination?

The truth is, though, going to church and believing in God was more common back in the day, so it may seem that there are a lot of people nowadays who either don’t believe in God or don’t believe in religion. The subject is a touchy one in today’s society, and believers who profess their faith have a high chance of being met with eye rolling depending on where they live.

However, according to the Pew Research Center, the vast majority of Americans still do believe in God, though there is often an up-and-down balance between years, according to research. Therefore, the non-believers have to deal with people prancing around and loving on Christ. Joy.

But hey, before you get all sour grape-y about it, think about this—why does this bother you so much? To be tolerant of someone else’s religion is not a hard task. Simply turning the other cheek is one way, especially if it’s impossible for you to be respectful.

Say a Prayer (or Don't) for an End to Religious Intolerance
Image via Al Jazeera

Let’s say you’re scrolling through Facebook, and you come across a video of a good Samaritan saving a drowning dog. Your heart elated with appreciation at the rescue, you rush to write down your thoughts of pleasure in the comments below the video, but before you can put thoughts down, your eyes land on a comment that says: “Praise God the dog was saved!” Your keyboard warrior instincts are tingling as your fingers fly off the keys to reply to the comment: “God didn’t save the dog, the guy did.”

This is an example of religious intolerance. Whether God sent the man to save the dog, or it was simply the man’s doing or not, to go after someone else’s belief in their spiritual figure is wrong.

The fact of the matter is that, even according to our Constitution, people are allowed freedom of religion, meaning that everyone has the right to believe in what they want to believe in regardless of how silly it is to you. To be frank, the subject of religious tolerance can much be seen in the same sense of freedom of a woman’s body or freedom of sexuality, in that if it doesn’t affect you, how is it any of your business?

Perhaps try looking at things from their perspective. Take someone who believes in the power of prayer. It may seem ridiculous to you that a person is praying to a nonexistent being in the sky as their source of comfort. But, it makes them happy. Right? So as ridiculous as it is to you or not, how does this affect you in any way?

Another way to be more tolerant of someone else’s religion can be to learn more about it. Do you know how many people hold stereotypical connotations of what a religion is actually like? A scary amount, that’s for sure. Before 9/11, Muslims were not treated nearly as harshly. Islamophobia is rampant throughout America and the rest of the world, due to the negative stigma terrorist attacks have placed on followers of Islam. A simple Google search would inform you that Islam is a religion of peace, and that the men who attempted to attack America were radicals, a total misrepresentation of their own religion.

Unfortunately, to be human is to be ignorant nowadays. And Christians have had a bad rap for literally centuries. How many times has an atheist tried to point out that Christians are terrible people because they judge others whilst being total sinners themselves? I’m willing to bet a lot; however, to judge a whole religion on shitty people can be—say it with me—ignorant.

So is God real or isn’t he? We’ll probably never know, so the best answer is no answer at all. This debate is often had, but at what cost? Debating heatedly over something that someone else strongly believes in is wrong—if believing in something spiritually powerful is something they want to do, then let them. Let them believe in what they want to believe and so can you. Too often people crave to be right, but in this topic, there can be no right or wrong answer.

Shannon Mondesir, Brooklyn College

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