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Religious Tolerance


I felt compelled to write this post because frankly I’m appalled by the declining health of religious tolerance in Canada.  Biases, generalizations, and ignorance are  insidiously penetrating the oft-lauded integrity of Canada as a nation of tolerance and acceptance.  Islamophobia is on the rise across the nation, and this is indeed troubling.  While headlines detailing the intolerance toward Muslims largely originates from down south, make no mistake, it is slowly infiltrating Canadian society – and in my opinion, we need to put a stop to it.  Adopting a misguided view of a particular religious group (and one of the fastest growing religious populations) will threaten the very essence of our Canadian values.

I believe the best solution to intolerance is education.  The fact is that many, many people barely know much about ‘other’ religions.  Most of the information we come by is garnered from sensational media headlines.  If you’re educating yourself about various religions through the media, then you’re doing yourself a huge disservice.  I’m not suggesting that the media doesn’t hold some value in bringing issues to light; however, the media is rarely ever objective.  There’s always an angle, and usually that’s to increase readership/viewership and ultimately revenue.

So, where can one start to learn more about various religions and in particular religious tolerance?  There’s a wonderful site that I’ve been visiting for several years now that provides a wide range of information on almost any religion imaginable.  The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance tries “… to explain accurately the full diversity of religious beliefs, world views, and systems of morality, ethics, and values.”  There are over 6,000 essays available to read and the site covers religions ranging from Buddhism to Zoroastrianism.  Practically any religion you might have questions about can be found on this site.  In addition, the site tries to present all viewpoints on controversial religious topics.

As a final note, while I am huge proponent of religious tolerance – I also want to stress that this doesn’t mean that I think you should accept other people’s beliefs as valid or that you have to practice a belief different than your own.  It also doesn’t mean that you have to believe your religion is equal to that of another’s (it’s fine if you want to believe that your religion is superior to others).  What religious tolerance means is that you respect the right of other religions to exist and that their practitioners should be free from discrimination.  Oh, and this also includes people who are generally considered NOT religious.  Atheists, agnostics and humanists have the right to religious freedom too – including the option to not participate.

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  1. Gregg
    May 31st, 2012 at 17:12 | #1

    That could be of a chicken and egg scenario… intolerance could be the cause of warfare too. i.e. The Crusades.

  2. mae
    May 31st, 2012 at 13:20 | #2

    @Brian Great assessment! I completely agree that warfare is one of the root causes of intolerance. I also believe that it stems from a fear of the unknown. That’s one reason why I am such an advocate for people to educate themselves about various religious groups. Thanks for your feedback!

  3. Brian
    May 31st, 2012 at 13:00 | #3

    I agree with the above assessment that intolerance is on the rise. I think that this fact can be attributed one root cause: Warfare. It’s no co-incidence that Canada and NATO are currently at war with a (several?) Muslim countries.
    With the advent of any war, there is a need to dehumanize the enemy and to focus on their Otherness. The current fashion of using “humanitarian” justifications for intervention lends itself to excuses of the “we have to save them from themselves” variety. Thus you have manufactured outrage over religious, cultural, and legal systems that have likely been in place for millennia prior to our arrival.
    End the war and you will end the root cause of the intolerance.

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