Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa
Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

Sat Nam Readers!

Today will be more of a vent session that you’ve seen in the past.  As some of you may be aware, I was a Buddhist until I became a Sikh.  This isn’t about being a Buddhist though and it’s not about being a Sikh, it’s about being a human being and about treating other people like human beings.

When I began my spiritual quest more than three years ago, I considered atheism as an option.  Even before that I had read quite a bit of writing by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, two very intelligent and persuasive people, both atheists.  Mr. Dawkins is a scientist and Mr. Hitchens, before his death in 2011, was a writer.  I have a great deal of respect for both of them, and for the large number of equally intelligent friends and family who are athiest, but even after reading practically everything they had to write, I was not convinced that atheism was for me.

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science has a Facebook page which I have followed for some time.  Their Mission reads:

Mission

Our mission is to support scientific education, critical thinking and evidence-based understanding of the natural world in the quest to overcome religious fundamentalism, superstition, intolerance and human suffering.

It’s a good mission.  The world needs less religious fundamentalism and more tolerance.  But here’s the thing, their posts can be incredibly intolerant, contrary to their stated mission.  Some of the information they provide in their posts (including work by others that they choose to post on their page) has become misleading and incorrect.  It is to the point where it almost seems that their quest is to overcome religion and religious people rather than fundamentalism.  As a result, I have found my respect for them waning.

Here are some examples of the intolerance I mean:

The first is from a review of the page (which I acknowledge that the page itself has little control over as to delete or edit the post would be the kind of censorship that ought to be avoided as part of intelligent dialogue):

Richard Dawkins is very much a hero of mine. He taught me that it’s okay to be intelligent. It’s okay to think for myself and to look at evidence with complete open mindedness, and to take it for what it’s worth. Until recently, I have been scared to do these things, due to fear of being looked down upon, scolded and ridiculed. The more I learned, the more confidence I had. Knowledge is power, and that power has allowed me to stand my ground when talking to the brainwashed masses of the Bible Belt. No longer do I live in fear. Why would I? I’m the one with the evidence. When I was in youth group in junior high, our “leader” told us that to believe in evolution is to believe that your great grandparents were rocks. They told us to walk out of our science classes if evolution was mentioned – and we did. Their plan to brainwash me has backfired. When I grew older, and outgrew my naivety, I began to see through their scheme. Seeing how the clergy had lied to my face when I was just an impressionable child, I now see them as evil beings. I feel as though I was psychologically abused and taken advantage of. Thanks to the knowledge and motivation I have achieved through the books and lectures of Richard Dawkins, I am now fully prepared to combat this war on science in every way I can. Thanks!

I’ve underlined the parts of the review that I say are intolerant.  Whatever Mr. Jenkins’ experience might have been with religion, he appears to be painting large numbers of people with the same brush.  Maybe he means to narrow down the intolerance to just the fundamentalists but it certainly does not read that way.  This sort of broad generalization only diminishes one’s credibility and is not an intelligent argument.  The inference in the first underlined comment is, quite obviously, that those Mr. Jenkins means to take a stand against are unintelligent.

Then there’s this post from yesterday:

“Atheists bad, Christians good. That’s my four-word summary of God’s Not Dead.

This anti-atheist movie would be more effective if it didn’t portray every atheist as smug, angry, selfish, obnoxious, and unhappy. In contrast, nearly every Christian is kind, happy, generous . . . well, you get the idea.” Read more of Herb Silverman’s review here: http://ow.ly/wyg7M

It’s a little hypocritical because more and more the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (or at least the administrators of their Facebook page) tend to paint those with religious, particularly Christian, beliefs with the same broad generalizations as they complain of in their post.  Hello Pot, Meet Kettle…  I’m not in any way supporting the movie but I don’t even have to see the movie to see the intolerance and hypocrisy in this post.

Then there’s Jaclyn Glenn, whose YouTube videos RDFRS has been posting lately.  Just today:

 Jaclyn responds to a Christian vlogger who accuses her of being a Nazi and claims Catholics aren’t Christian. Watch herehttp://ow.ly/wAdXs

I’ve watched the whole chain of videos in this exchange.  All the way back to the original video by Jews for Jesus called “That Jew Died For You.”  Ms. Glenn posted a response to that video.  VenomFangX then posted a response to her response and the video you see linked above is her response to VenomFangX.

I agree with Ms Glenn in a lot of ways in her response to “That Jew Died For You”.  Using the horrendous evil that was the Holocaust to promote a religious message is not appropriate.  It’s exploitation at its worst.  However, in her response she very clearly says that Christianity helped cause the Holocaust.  No.  Sorry Jaclyn you’re wrong and guess what?  You’re being as misleading as VenomFangX.  You also just used the Holocaust to promote your own message about religion which is … hypocritical and intolerant.

Ms. Glenn has confused a number of things in her argument and clearly misunderstands a sad part of human nature.  Christianity is a term used to describe a number of religions that each follow in their own way, the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Religion all by itself cannot “do” anything and therefore cannot “cause” anything.  Its believers can do and cause.  Powerful people can also, and have often, warp the messages of religion in order to attain greater power, cause harm to others, or do any number of other ills.  The fact that the message is warped is not the fault of the message.  If you are tanning on a beach you can’t blame the sun if you burn.  You misused the sunlight, knowing it was there.  Your misuse caused the burn.

Hitler and the Nazis were not behaving as Christians before, during or after the Holocaust.  Nowhere did Jesus suggest that Jews or others ought to be murdered for their beliefs.  In fact one of the strongest messages in Christianity is “Thou Shalt Not Kill”.  You’re blaming the sun Jaclyn and using the burn to attempt to prove your point.

Promoting this kind of message does nothing to “overcome intolerance” and again, reduces the credibility of the RDFRS.

And then this post, also from yesterday:

Photo: What are your favorite Daniel Dennett moments? Watch this video of some of this great thinker's best arguments: http://ow.ly/wtCc5

Again, the underlying message is a good one.  We should all carefully think about what we believe and not just be blindly accepting.  However, the delivery is intolerant and disrespectful, implying that people of faith have stopped thinking and instead behave blindly.  You notice it doesn’t say “gives some people” though ironically it talks of “many” and not “all” religions… If you think I’m being too picky here, that’s great but language is important.  If you are going to claim the high ground of thinking and reasoning then your language should be precise and measured rather than over generalized.

There’s more.  I could fill pages and pages with this sort of thing.  The problem as I see it is this.  I live in a country which, though imperfect, has freedom of religion entrenched into our constitution.  Also freedom of expression, freedom of association and a host of others that are essential to a democratic society of free people.  I cherish that freedom and I have respect for the people who fought hard to ensure that we have those freedoms (including the Sikhs who laid down their lives for the concept).  The freedoms in our constitution promote tolerance and respect for one another and to enable people to live peacefully with one another.

Disrespect and intolerance do exactly the opposite.  There is nothing intelligent about disrespect.  Nothing intelligent about intolerance.  There is nothing credible in either thing.

That’s not to say that there isn’t room for intellectual debate or criticism.  Criticism all by itself, without over broad generalizations and intolerance, is not disrespectful.

In my mind, too many are losing hold on our respect for one other, our appreciation for our differences.  Too many want control over what others think and too many are willing to reduce themselves to intolerance in an attempt to mock those who believe differently.  Too many are full of ego and arrogance.  Too many are willing to reduce their own credibility to become the bullies that they claim to fight against.  Stop.  Just stop.  Stop and then think.

Here’s my suggestion.  So long as I am not harming another human being, I get to believe whatever I want and you don’t get to judge.  I will promise you the same respect.  We can have a calm, respectful, intelligent debate about our different beliefs and maybe somewhere in that debate our ideas will change.  If our ideas don’t change, we still will have learned from one another and maybe, just maybe our respect for one another will grow beyond tolerance… into acceptance and even love.  Maybe, if we stop trying to demean one another, to dismiss one another, to ridicule one another, we will leave our egos at the door and find all the reasons we have ever needed to overcome the evils of the world we live in and for once, finally, live peacefully together.

Seems like it’s worth a try to me.

That’s it.  That’s my vent.

Sat Nam!

NOTE:  My apologies Readers Ji.  Some of you have asked what the reference is to the Pot and the Kettle in the title.  There is an English idiom which goes “That’s the pot calling the kettle black.”  It means roughly that the pot has accused the kettle of something while being guilty of the same thing.  The word black refers to soot on both the pot and the kettle.  Sat Nam!

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