Religious Intolerance in the New Millennium
Religious Intolerance and Religious Extremism
Religious Intolerance and Religious Extremism
To accurately assess the problems incurred by the current spate of religious intolerance, it's important to take an acute look at religious extremism first. In many countries of the world today, theocracies govern every aspect of human life. How much of this is truly aligned with religious beliefs and the need to take control? As we've all seen, Middle Eastern countries are awash in sectarian violence based upon the rock of religious beliefs.
To the keen eye, this sectarian violence appears to be gender biased in the extreme with a two-pronged effect: The first is to maintain male solidarity over governance by keeping the other half of the species under control. In some of the least sectarian countries, women are not allowed in public without a male escort. These women live entire lifetimes never knowing their right to freedom. These men, on the other hand, enjoy a lifetime of dominance in business, government and every house of worship. But, the Middle East didn't spawn this unusual form of gender bias. They merely expanded upon what was, since Biblical times, the rule and never the exception. In fact, the Middle Eastern theocracies only serve to place a huge spotlight on gender bias that might not have existed but for mass media of the present.
What about Religious Intolerance?
Religious intolerance is not new. History books are full of examples of extreme religious intolerance in nearly every country of the world. Each religion manages to splinter in terms of religious dogma. Also not news. All of the wisest religious prophets and sages shared their spiritual ideas and formed established religions without realizing most of their spiritual ideas were based on their own brand of blind faith. Splintering was always going to occur when groups of men with differing views begin to divert from the original spiritual ideas. When the splintering began, with it came religious wars and sectarianism.
Within nearly every established religion, there was a splintering into sects. In order to quell religious uprisings, it was necessary to "reorder" basic tenets of faith. This may explain the garden varieties of Bibles created to "reorder" to suit the particular splinter religions need to contain the "faithful." From this point, religious intolerance developed into a "them" and "us" mentality. Depending on the degree of disagreement within each sect, religious extremism was necessary in order for religious leaders and religions to further define their objectives, all of which are funneled through the prism of mental control of humanity.
Religious Tolerance in Modern Life
In the most developed countries of the world, that propose to be a "democracy," religious intolerance has evolved into a far more subtle form of control. In the US, for example, religious intolerance has its basic formation in behavioral modification, still a control strategy, and in subtle insistence on "morality," as proposed by certain religions. Sadly, the worst examples of religious intolerance include the element of isolation as exemplified by religious leaders like Jim Jones, Jimmy Swaggart, Warren Jeffs and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.
In the early part of US history, the first colonists fled countries that imposed monotheocracy on them. The US Constitution clearly states, "Congress shall make no laws respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble; and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." The Founding Fathers based the First Amendment to the Constitution on the clear separation of church and state in the first ten words of the First Amendment...Congress shall make no law "respecting an establishment of religion."
Yet, there are many religious extremists who reinterpret those words to mean that Congress can ignore laws that don't respect "their" establishment of religion. Therein lies the conundrum. Upon closer study, the first ten words are clear: Congress must not respect the establishment of any religion without violating the First Amendment. Senators and Congresspersons who violate this Amendment do so at their own risk.
How Religious Intolerance Becomes Embedded into Society
For religious tolerance to be deeply embedded in society, it requires a well-calculated effort by a core group or single minded individuals to circumvent the rights of those with differing religious beliefs. Insistence on the core group's religious beliefs in its most pristine definition is the embodiment of religious intolerance. These individuals are known as orthodoxy. They adhere strictly to their religious tenets without considering the changes that take place as humanity evolves. While an orthodox belief system may work in insular religious sects successfully, for the great masses inhabiting earth, such a strict belief system is often at odds with the parochialism that exists in each small village, town, city, state and country. The First Amendment protects insular sects practice of religion. It doesn't not protect their religious beliefs that include converting others to their religious dogma or practice against their will. Those three words, "against the will" are the real issue.
From Religious Intolerance to Religious Extremism
Most individuals have not failed to witness the extremities to which some intolerant religious fanatics will go to achieve their goals of supreme power. By identifying the link between control and religious extremism, it's easier to see how some religious fanatics go too far into attempting mind control. Their strategies, as we have witnessed begin with isolation, followed by severe deprivation rewarded only when the human will is bent in the controller's direction. When this happens, the religious follower no longer possesses the ability to make their own judgments and have lost the freedom the First Amendment protects them from. With equal provisions for deprivation of food or sleep, the individual is more easily brainwashed. That's why so many cult leaders have so little difficulty brainwashing their followers. Severe hunger or desperation for sleep is the simplest way to break down human will and with it, human spirit. All former ties to society, family and social contacts no longer exist.
Warren Jeffs, a Mormon fundamentalist, managed to banish most of the marriage age males in his religious group. Women outnumbered the men by 10 to 1. Husbands and wives who were married at the time they joined Jeff's group, were quickly separated and remarried to those Jeff's chose for them. Single-minded, linear mentalities like Jeffs have a belief in their own omnipotence and use their charisma to reinforce that belief.
What Should the Response to Religious Intolerance and Religious Extremism Be?
Individuals must learn to be objective where their religious beliefs are concerned. Religion and spirituality are not one and the same. Religion is established by humans. Spirituality is not. Individuals must also guard against those who would impose their religious beliefs on young children by skewing school curricula to inject religion in subtle ways into their studies. Parents must help their children to recognize these subtleties and teach them to feel free to discuss them. Children should also be taught to respect the religions practiced by others without feeling obligated to take part.
The workplace may be an area where the difficulties of reporting abuse of the 1st Amendment with regard to imposing religious views is concerned. Employees must feel free to discuss any problems with their employers. If the employer is imposing religious beliefs on employees, the options may be few. Either report it to the state Department of Labor or make it clear that as an employer you choose to practice religion as best befits your, not your employer's needs.