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Intolerance is Intolerance

I just dropped by one of several anxiety/depression online groups that I belong to, and I found a “gentle reminder” from someone who I assume is a moderator urging people not to make any remarks about religion.

Even offering to keep someone who says they’re having a particularly difficult time in your “prayers,” is a no-no. The logic in this rule is that there are those people for whom the very mention of anything religious might trigger anxiety.

Like most other rules regarding religion, this dictum only takes into account one side of the story: those who don’t wish to see any mention of religion. Those who are religious, devout or otherwise, have to pretend that a part of who they are doesn’t exist.

Let’s think about this for a minute.

If you have a set of religious or moral beliefs, isn’t it relatively safe to assume that those beliefs have some role in defining who you are? While you may fall short of the ideals of your own morality from time to time — we all do — aren’t our personalities shaped in some way by our core beliefs? Of course they are.

To turn a blind eye towards the very existence of religion is one thing; to suppress the rights of others to make even a passing mention of their own beliefs seems to me equivalent to forcing people to pretend to be something they’re not or much less than they actually are.

I politely pointed out in a reply to the “gentle reminder” that I have no doubt that there are those who have been hurt by religion. I’m sure religion has let everyone down in some way. My most recent post to my re-launched religious-themed blog, “The Cross Examination,” is called “Sick of Church.” I think many of us have reached that point at some point along the way.

But not everyone who happens to have some religious belief — whatever form it takes — is out to hurt someone who doesn’t share those views. And it would no doubt be difficult for someone who takes such a non-religious stance to believe, but not everyone who has some religious view is out to convert everyone else. Some of us are content to live our lives to our own code of ethics and give help generously when we are asked, not before. Some of us hope that if we live in a way that fits with our beliefs, we might inspire others to look into the beliefs we hold true. Even if they don’t accept and embrace them, we have still managed to provide some example that might show others a different way of thinking. I don’t think that’s such a terrible thing.

I also pointed out that for every person who feels that any encounter with anything that has to do religion is stressful in any way, there is another person who might be stressed out by having to pretend that he or she doesn’t have such views.

It’s their board, and I’ll certainly do my best to abide by their rules. I’ll keep in mind that if someone is having a bad day, I won’t be allowed to suggest anything that might be construed by anyone else as being anything representative of any kind of religious doctrine. I don’t think I’d have violated their rule, but when I see such blatant intolerance, I have to wonder how the people who created such a policy might choose to read anything anyone else might write. They see, I’m sure, exactly what they want to see.

The “gentle reminder” ends with a pleasantry that this is about maintaining the spirit of respect. It’s about supporting each other, they say.

Funny, but I feel neither respected not supported by such an intolerant policy.

Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.