One of the conundrums of religion is the sad but real fact that many people of faith have little tolerance for those without faith. In other words, there appears to be a lot of hate going around. Why does this happen? It is my view that any form of atheism and agnosticism are perceived as a threat to the religious. After all, if one believes they are strong in their faith and a question about their faith appears unanswerable, who wouldn’t begin to wonder and speculate about the foundations of their faith? It happens to everyone. At this point the only thing left to do for a person without an answer is to resort to “faith” as faith gets by with little or no logical formation for it to exist. While this debate could be productive it is stopped cold in its tracks when arguing from logic or supposition. The subsequent “disliking” of faithless non-believers usually takes the form of distancing one’s self from the logician. If you remain distant from the cause of discomfort then discomfort does not have to consciously exist nor do inconvenient reminders of one’s irrational faith and logic. All one needs to do is stay away from its cause. In the short term this works but in the longer view one must take ever stronger and stronger measures to counteract the possibility that logical thoughts of others are the cause of many fears and anxieties.
There are a number of tools we have at our disposal to manage the questions and subsequent anxiety about religion. We could talk it out, try to understand it, we could rationalize it to ourselves, ignore it, pretend it doesn’t exist, run away from it, and get angry. Anger, minimizing, ignoring and exclusion appear to be the most frequently used tools to deal with what is not acceptable thinking or questioning about one’s faith. That is why there is so much religious hostility in the world. Too often the mantra of those with clear-cut but unprovable religious mandates espouse something like the following statement: “If you don’t believe as I do, I will (kill, hurt, ostracize, label, etc. [fill in the blank]) you!” Nations often take up arms against each other because of one’s beliefs. These nations are often driven by religious ideations and are no different than an individual. Taking up word weaponry to prove one is wrong or to hurt another is not uncommon. Most war efforts are driven by fear and/or anger. In order for one to avoid confrontation or lose a word war we resort to hostile statements while ostracizing the offender. The result is rage, intolerance and isolation. The tendency to isolate one who thinks differently than we do is born of a lack of understanding of both one’s own views and that of others. Of course this works both ways.
The irony in all of this is that many religious types claim to be concerned about the behaviors and thinking of those whose views run contrary to theirs. Yet, when pushed to understand that of another an impenetrable wall arises and communication is severely thrashed. This is an unfortunate result of closed minds, minds that will not consider the views of another when a position runs contrary to theirs. The need to perpetuate their thinking brings a kind of comfort outlasting that of logic. A place of disgrace lingers in the background as a person of faith will surely find themselves placed should they ask the wrong questions or betray their growing lack of faith in their religious culture.
Integrity is at the heart of most religions and expressions of faith. Therefore, it seems only right that a person of faith who is seeking to be a person of integrity would be willing to open up their faith questions and those of others with an approach that questions with honesty, fairness and reasonableness and not hostility, isolation, shunning and ridicule.