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Don’t put yourself on a pedestal because you’re not religious

It’s not “cool” to be cruel on the basis of beliefs

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It’s a nice Saturday morning: the weather’s good, you’re up to date with your coursework, and the bills are paid. Yet, there’s something nagging at the back of your mind.

A cup of coffee in hand, you sit by your laptop and open your exhibitionist social media platform of choice. That nagging feeling remains, getting stronger by the minute. You come across a post with someone expressing their beliefs on their account, and it clicks.

You haven’t mocked or insulted somebody’s religious views in over a month — a month! That’s, like, 30 or 31 days without you doing your self-imposed duty of informing people that what they believe is wrong and backward.

“This is an outrage,” you say to yourself as you type up a 300-word post (or 50-point tweet thread, because dedication), exercising your right to free speech to ridicule the way someone leads their life. Your friends and family praise you for how enlightened you are: you can rest back now, knowing that your job is done.

If you relate to this, I feel that you might have some personal issues that go past simply disagreeing with alternate beliefs, and you might want to work those out.

 

I try to avoid engaging in religious debates very often, especially with new people, mostly because they usually go nowhere. Typically, the point isn’t to reach some sort of answer or profound conclusion, but to prove to the other party that your view is the right one.

However, as a student, it’s become a regular occurrence to see people “woke” after some liberal arts lecture and berate others for following religion, without any backlash. This isn’t limited to university, though, and I just wonder when it became cool to hate on religion.

Usually, the complaints directed at religious people are that they aren’t open-minded (regarding sexual orientation, for example) or that their beliefs are responsible for wars and humanity’s most senseless acts. This disregards the existence of narrow-minded atheists, and similarly heinous acts committed in the absence of religious views.

Furthermore, these complaints repeatedly forget to factor in human agency in these acts. If all religious people acted the way these stereotypes imply, we’d mostly likely all be dead or in constant war.  

This isn’t to justify hateful expressions of one’s belief, or the existence of extremists. On the contrary, I’m condemning them. But generalizing hatred or lack of open-mindedness as qualities of a large group of people based on their religion is very problematic. Vile atheists exist in the same way vile religious people do.

However, some non-religious people put themselves on the moral high ground and often don’t realize they exist within the same narrow-minded rhetoric they’re supposedly fighting against. Do you park your “open-mindedness” just outside at the boundary of religion?

Many non-religious people tend to view religious people as judgemental; while that may be true in some instances, non-religious people can be just as judgemental, and very often are, with little reprimand. Because of the negative associations they’ve formed with religion, some already have predisposed notions of religious people, and consider their disrespectful comments about their beliefs justified because of those notions.

I’ve seen people urging religious people to commit suicide even after expressing their religious views peacefully, essentially bullying religious people into keeping their beliefs quiet. But free speech comes with a certain level of responsibility. If you can’t express your opinion or offer criticism in a respectful way, you’re part of the problem.

Your outlook on life is influenced by your identity as a non-religious person; similarly, a person’s religious beliefs affect how they see the world. When you insult or mock someone’s belief, you insult who they are. The churlish individuals on both “sides” need to step off their respective pedestals, because they’re blocking the view for everyone.

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