It's been a bit of a strange day. By that, I mean that it started off alright, but now it's plummeting downwards faster than a one-winged duck in open season. All of this is due to religious intolerance.
However, it's not the sort that you'd be most familiar with. This isn't the usual 'my religion is better than your religion' kind of argument, it's an 'all religions (and therefore religious people) are stupid' sort of thing. I know that this sounds like the beginning of a rant, but please, let me assure you that it's not out of anger that I'm writing this, but out of exasperation.
Religious intolerance in general is a very old problem. To my mind, it stems from every human's need (and desire) to belong to a group, and the demonstration of one's loyalty to said group by insulting, mocking, or physically attacking members of another group. It's pretty much n the same vein as xenophobia, and about as pointless.
Even though it might be sociologically or anthropologically explicable, though, it doesn't make it right. There are plenty of other things which might be explained through the assumption that humans are base creatures with animalistic behaviour, such as wars, murder, and a whole host of other atrocities, ad that certainly doesn't make them right.
Religion seems to cause divides like no other factor. Wars, discrimination, and even slavery have been 'justified' by various religions worldwide. One could see why, in this modern age, people shy away from the topic of religion. It's become unpopular, almost taboo in certain circles or age groups, to be a member of a religion.
This is a far cry from your stereotypical, run-of-the-mill religious intolerance. In our society, certainly in some circles that I've experiences you are mocked for being religious in any way. Even if you're not a member of an organised religion, the mere notion of any sort of spiritual belief (no matter how abstract, or well-intentioned) seems to whip some people into a kind of bloodthirsty frenzy. Not only do we still have religious groups attacking other religions, but we also have a number of atheists attacking members of different religions. It's downright confusing.
Personally, I was a Christian for a large portion of my life, and fluctuated between religion and atheism in recent years, before settling rather indecisively in the agnostic column. I've never been insulted by a religious person for my atheism, but I've certainly been mocked, gibed, and made to feel terrible by atheists for my religion. Although the situation was definitely humourless, in some way it seemed ironic to me, as I was being called an idiot (and worse) for not questioning things, but no-one who was insulting me ever asked me what I actually believed in. They never gave me the chance to express my beliefs in the Big Bang, and evolution; they didn't listen when I explained that I didn't believe that Jesus was the son of God (and was probably a composite of forward-thinking people), but that I thought that he had some good ideas. God or no God, isn't being the best person that you can be the most important thing in life?
No-one ever seems to ask before they judge people, and it's a shame. We're all the same, after all, and your beliefs are your own, aren't they? The freedom to follow and express one's own religion is in the UN Charter of Human Rights; it can't get much more fundamental than that. It just seems silly to fight with people who essentially believe in the same moral and ethical code as you, just because it's called something different. Beliefs are completely personal. If you hurt someone, sure, that's an example of a belief that should be discouraged, but the generalisation of all religious beliefs as 'stupid' and 'wrong' is just plain nuts. Surely the goal that we're all working towards is one of universal equality, right? If you say, as others have said to me, that you're tying to be the best person you can be, well, doesn't that involve not fighting with other people over views that don't hurt anybody?
It's just a thought.