When Intolerance Stalks Faith

Discussion in 'Religion and Ethics' started by Adam's Apple, Jun 27, 2005.

  1. Adam's Apple

    Adam's Apple Senior Member

    Apr 25, 2004
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    June 27, 2005
    When Intolerance Stalks Faith
    By Suzanne Fields

    Anti-religious innuendo from politicians descends in deleterious ways to the larger society, shaping public attitudes and encouraging religious bigotry

    The debate over freedom of religion has turned into a debate over freedom from religion. Religious men and women founded America, and for centuries, religious faith was considered by nearly everyone to be a key to good citizenship. The Founding Fathers would not allow religion to govern the state, but they appreciated the way religion governed the private lives of good citizens.

    I didn't grow up with religious rituals, but my parents, who were proud of being Jewish, taught me to respect those who did. When a mischievous redheaded neighborhood boy went into the priesthood, my mother told him that he was "too good-looking" to be a priest. She felt sorry for the pretty young girls he would never court. But she taught us by example to respect his choice of a "higher calling," even though it wasn't our calling.

    We were particularly taught not to express anti-religious sentiments about others. (Jewish humor, after all, mostly makes fun of Jews.) Christianity was the dominant religion in America, and it got a pass from public criticism. Protestants and Catholics occasionally feuded with one another in public. Not until John F. Kennedy convinced voters that he would govern as an American without consulting the Vatican did that begin to diminish.

    In the 1960s, American identity was conspicuously tied up with religious faith, but as an impulse to do good rather than propagate dogma. The civil rights movement, midwifed by the black church, was borne on the wings of the religious rhetoric of Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist preacher. Rabbis and priests united behind his message. The idea prevailed that politics was separated from religion, but religion and politics nevertheless shaped American social values together, challenging licentiousness dangerous to the state and appealing to a higher ideal to make the country a better place for everyone.


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