Spreading the Word: Intolerance?

This article sparks some rather interesting albeit for many challenging issues.  At its center is a study that finds devout religious people to be more likely to have more prejudice views of different minorities.  Some of the explanation stems from the fact that as a group such as monotheistic believers fixates on their religion/superior being as the sole one, they often slip into a dualistic mentality of followers and nonbelievers, with the nonbelievers inferior or wrong.  The article goes into a great more detail and is worth checking out.

Articles like these can be hard to digest, process, or accept.  Some may read it and feel that “well, I’m religious and that’s not me, so it must be wrong.”  But it’s not quite that simple.  So often when we read something that paints something we highly regard in a negative light, we are instantly resistant.  Our barriers are quickly drawn up and quite hard to pull down.  To that, I would say, that some of that might actually also have relevance to what the article is trying to get at with regards to challenging our fundamental or traditional beliefs as well.

Though it’s easy to either blindly accept or reject what the article has to say about some kind of pre-programmed bias, I think it’s more useful to step back and ask several different questions about what inherent biases you might be operating under or influenced by.

Do I do that?  And this might be the hardest one of all since it requires a degree of reflection, self-awareness, and honesty that many of us have trouble attaining or maintaining.  If you answer is an immediate and resolute “no” without thinking, reflecting, or running over in your head the various times you’ve had negative encounters with any person of any type, I think you might be not really digging as deep as such a question asks.  Getting outside our heads is an impossible task, but also a good exercise to better understand one another.  In this case, looking at how you act towards not just specific minorities, but particular social situations; such as the waitress who is slow with your order or gets it wrong, or the person at the coffee shop getting you the latest fashionable coffee drink, or the person doing your nails, or the person in the beat-down car in front of you, not moving as fast as you’d like them.  We often say these are situational circumstances that tick and tweak our negative response, but how much quicker are you to be triggered when the person doing it is part of some “Other” group to which you don’t identify, know about, or feel hostile to?

Another question to ask is what the culture at large (or my particular sub-culture) has to say about something.  In this case, I’ve included the two videos below.  One is of Pat Robertson blaming the major earthquake that struck Haiti in winter of 2010 on Haitians making a pact with the Devil and suffering the consequences.  The other is Jerry Falwell and Robertson again, discussing the destruction on September 11, 2001 to be the fault of feminists, gays, and other people of “alternative lifestyles.”  In both, the rhetoric of the minority as being dubious and troubling is pretty loud.  Both illustrate in some way; how cultures shape and influence, direct us to “right” and “wrong” answers.

It’s also useful to try to make analogies or comparisons with other situations of that may not always be equal in comparison, but help you to frame where your biases fit.  I often step back from any situation where I feel that a person is not doing the “right thing” and ask myself, if I am sure that I’m angry/frustrated/annoyed at the proper thing.  So let’s take the case of the coffee.  If I’ve gone into a store and ordered it.  If the order is taking a long time; and I get annoyed, I may find myself feeling negative toward the server.  But I step back and ask, am I always angry waiting this long?  Is it because of how I’m interpreting his actions?  Do I feel that she isn’t being nice enough (and yes, I intentionally switch the gender-pronouns to show what else might be having an effect in the situation)?  Is it because I’m tired?  Running late?  If I’m running late, then I’m much more aware and conscious of time, than this person may be and their lack of expedient delivery of my coffee might not be a slight towards me, but it can be hard not to think of it as.

All of this brings us back to the problematic “Other”  (Problematic in the sense that we find problem with the “Other”—not that the “Other” is inherently problematic of its own accord).    The one who is not me and whom I have trouble identifying and connecting with.  Within history, these differences have been the source of anger, resentment, violence, destruction, but we still are challenged by and fearful of outsiders of many different sorts.  The general answer to why there’s such problems around the “Other is just that we fear strangers, but I think articles like this help us to better understand why and how we fear others.  


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  1. While this article is not necessarily thought provoking in the sense that it touches upon a taboo subject, it does make the reader reflect upon their actions based on the points brought up. As someone who is very opposed to aligning myself to specific groups and classifications, I found the following quote from the article hit quite close to home, "Some may read it and feel that 'well, I’m religious and that’s not me, so it must be wrong.' But it’s not quite that simple. So often when we read something that paints something we highly regard in a negative light, we are instantly resistant." This point speaks particularly high volumes to me. As much as I try to see every point of view on an issue, I am more often than not extremely biased based on my own personal experiences. Although it seems trite to accuse religion as a main offender of intolerance, it still remains the epicenter of classifying and grouping specific types of people. While I am not necessarily a fervently religious person, I am fairly well-versed in the main doctrines that each major religion holds dear. Through my study of religion, I have found that the part I connect with most in religions is essentially the same in all of them. The idea of being a charitable and accepting person is enough of a reason for me to align with a group with those ideals. Unfortunately, semantics come into play quite quickly once the nuances of each religion are inevitably scrutinized. When we integrate the subject of monsters into this discussion it is quite obvious that this grouping of individuals, combined with the outcasting of certain groups have the makings of disaster to ensue. When it comes down to it, intolerance is a learned trait and the sooner people are indoctrinated with the idea that people must be immediately grouped the more hatred and ignorance manifests itself, as exemplified by Pat Robertson's display on CBN.

  2. I quite agree that religion is often a major factor in intolerance. I was raised in a southern baptist church and my parents are both fairly religious. Oddly enough, my father considers himself a "liberal" person (probably only on one or two issues,) but he is, in fact, quite conservative. From his religion he learned that homosexuality was a sin and that God punished those who sin eventually. I want to clarify that I do not share these beliefs (I am not religious in any way) and also say that my father is not quite as much a bigot as he seems. He is cordial and friendly to homosexuals, treating them as he would anyone else. But when it comes down to it, his common sense tends to be overshadowed by the intolerance preached in most conservative churches. He would never act that way in public, but it is clear what he defines as "other." It is defined by his religion. No matter how much he scoffs at religious radicals and cults, he unknowingly falls into the same trap of intolerance, trying to alienate or distance himself from those deemed unrighteous by the religious powers that be. Intolerance is a terrible concept that unfortunately effects many people, not only in religious circles. I can relate to the coffee example (who can't?) but I do feel like that is on a significantly smaller scale. Perhaps in the future intolerance will cease or at least diminish. But that will only happen if religious groups change their doctrine or interpret it differently.

  3. I struggle with religion, strictly with this issue. Although I am Roman Catholic, I strongly refuse any affiliations with their political stances, moral stances, and social beliefs. When going through the confirmation process in high school the woman in charge of the teen group, I guess that is what you can call it, brought in a man who was a “former homosexual” that found Catholicism and basically told us that there is hope for us to steer clear from a homosexual lifestyle. This was completely uncomfortable. And it still validates my issues with religion and going through the confirmation process. As a child going through Bible class the teachers used to preach how important it is to accept everyone as they are, because we are all “God’s children.” So why exclude the men and women who have chosen a different sexuality, they are the children of God too. Unfortunately this mindset is not designated to the South, but in California, of all places that preaches their liberal beliefs strongly. When Proposition 8 was on the ballot, the legalization of gay marriage, my town was so strongly split down the middle as to who supported gay marriage or did not. Protests broke out, and the people who were not for gay marriage claimed to be the followers of God. It saddens me still today when this issue continued into my high school and there were several discussions and fights on proposition 8, mainly because of the religious clubs on campus. The only way to counter this ongoing practice of intolerance is information…correct information. So many people ignore the actual facts and just blindly assume on their own pretenses. Like Pat Robertson blaming Haiti for the earthquakes, I mean has he ever heard of plate tectonics? I personally know people in high school who are convinced homosexuality is a choice, and it is that person’s fault for wanting to be different. Spread the word of tolerance. As humans we must accept each other for being human, simple as that.

  4. As someone who was raised in a fairly religious background and attended church regularly into their teens, I can safely say that sometimes church does breed a very "us and them" mentality, especially in their younger members. This is one of my biggest issues with religion and one of the reasons why I choose not to associate myself with any particular religion or denomination anymore. As I was hearing about how all of the nonbelievers in the world were inherently not as morally righteous as me and the others who were involved in the church, I had to look at my friends who weren't members and didn't belong to any religious affiliation in general. None of them seemed worse than me, and I didn't feel that I was above them in any way, which a lot of people in the church seemed to think. I felt very strongly that I couldn't be a part of something that chastised my friends for something that wasn't really their fault, but just for being slightly different than them. In my eyes, religion tends to monstruize and alienate people just for not agreeing with their tenants, and where as I'd never want to criticize anyone for their religious beliefs or principles, I'd expect those in a religion to never do that to anyone else, as well.

    (Posted by Jake Gilbertson)

  5. I would first like to address the video clip of Jerry Falwell blaming the 9/11 attacks on gays, feminists, and abortionists. I’d like to start off by saying that I honestly cannot believe that anybody buys into this or can see any miniscule sense of validity in what he had to say. I think this is absolutely a case of religion basically turning a person into a very intolerant being. It is not only that this religious man (and I think it’s safe to call him this based on how he talks about God) not being accepting of other people’s actions and lifestyles, but he is actually using them as a scapegoat for a terrorist attack done on the U.S. that was not done for the reasons he mentions. He should probably be blaming the terrorist’s hatred for the U.S. for them flying airplanes into the ground and huge buildings, not people just trying to live their own lives the way they want to. After reading the article, I got the sense that it was trying to convey the idea that the more religious groups of people are, the less tolerant of other religions and lifestyles they will be. It mentioned trying to preserve tradition which I think is important to any religion, but times are changing and I think certain religions should also take the necessary steps to become more accepting of others like they are preaching.

  6. I watched both Pat Robertson clips with my mouth agape. I watched them both again. I showed my suite-mates. I've been exposed to radical right-wing views such as this before. My family members hail from ultra-conservative northern Virginia. I remember finishing night-time programs, and seeing the 700 club appear on my TV. I didn't want to watch it, it would always bring about a bitter mood. But I was fascinated - were these people serious?
    It could be the soon to be completion of Making Monsters, or it could be the blog archive name, but I started to try to understand Pat Robertson and company. What were their motives? What's their role? I do think very certainly that these type of people are extremely serious, and stand behind their claims with an alarming amount of conviction. They are effectively accusing the "others," the non-practicers and those at odds with religion, as monstrous.
    This made me think though - who are the monsters in this situation. In my biased opinion, accusing innocent people of monstrosity can make you monstrous. But that's a question for another day: can the accusers, can those painting others as monstrous, be the real monsters?
    In my opinion, after watching the videos, the answer is clear.


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