Religious Intolerance?

tolerance

If you ask religious people why religion is good, the first thing they tell you is that religion teaches tolerance.

What a shame! The reality is quite opposite.

Religious people think that it is their birthright to be offended. If Salman Rushdie writes a novel, they get offended.  When MF Hussain makes paintings or some newspaper publishes cartoons, they get hurt. Kamal Haasan makes a movie in which a terrorist is reading a holy book and people get hurt without even watching it. Did any of those protesting people really read the book or try and understanding Hussain’s art or made sense of the cartoons or Haasan’s movie with tolerance? The answer is a resounding No. Then where does the hurt come from? Is it genuine or assumed?

To come back to the point of tolerance, I am convinced that religion does not teach any tolerance at all. At least, we do not see any real examples of tolerance being practiced by any religious groups. What it really teaches is to burn, ban, threaten, torture, and exterminate anything and anyone they do not like. If their feelings are really hurt by some book, they can simply choose to not read it. For instance, what is written in some portions of some scriptures really offends my intelligence and feeling of secularism, and some of the things the religious leaders say and do really bothers me a lot and I do not agree with most of what they say. Most of the movies make fun of non-believers and none of them touches the possibility of atheism being one more point of view. But I and other non-believers (or liberals as some might call us) do not get offended and threaten religious people in return. We do not burn scriptures or threaten godmen to be silent. We do not desecrate temples and mosques or call for the beheading of secularists who convert to some religion. We simply choose to ignore such texts and people and mind our own business.

We never force others away from following whatever books or people they want to. Why? Because we acknowledge that everybody has the choice. That is the most logical and tolerant view. But for the religious fraternity, even if someone else reads a book by someone they dislike, it offends them. How unbelievable! My reading a novel somehow magically hurts someone else? Incredible!

Tolerance means giving others the space and the right to say, read or write whatever they want to regardless of one’s own opinion on the matter. One doesn’t have to accept or even respect the beliefs of others in order to be tolerant. One just has to accept that everybody has rights and we should agree to disagree.

Upon being offended, the first thing believers do is threaten havoc and violent clashes if what they demand is not fulfilled. Is that tolerance or intolerance? I think the believer’s version of tolerance ultimately means this: We will do the nice thing of tolerating you and your freedom of expression only as long as you say what we approve of, but the moment you say something we do not like, we would be forced to get appallingly violent.

So, as long as someone is saying and doing what only the religious fraternity likes, where is the question of tolerance in that?

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My last 3 reads of 2012

This week, I have been reading a quite a lot and the reason is that each of these books is supposed to be excellent. Let’s find out.

1. The Satanic Verses (by Salman Rushdie):

satanicverses

This book has been at the heart of a huge controversy ever since it was written by Salman Rushdie more than 2 decades back and that is the reason I felt so attracted towards reading it. Banned in India, I obtained a copy from abroad over 6 months back, but only got down to reading it this week. I have just crossed a hundred pages (the book is over 540 pages) and it is turning out to be a difficult and incredibly slow read. The reason for this difficulty is the toughness of language and also the way in which the author has been jumping the plot from present day to flashback and the sequences of events are also slightly difficult to follow, even for a seasoned reader like myself. Though, I will not talk about the plot here because I have myself not uncovered it yet, but I will certainly say that I am impressed by Rushdie’s writing skills. They way he has described his characters and their lives is excellent and the plot seems to be developing still.

2. Into the Wild (by Jon Krakauer):

intothewildI took a short break from Satanic Verses and started reading “Into the Wild”. This is a gem of a book and I was so incredibly hooked to it that I finished it within a couple of days. It recreates, with incredible emotion and detail, the sad but true story of a young man, Chris McCandless, who decided to give up everything he had and break all links with civilization to spend a few months alone in the Alaskan wild. A few months after he goes into the wild, his dead body is found and it turns out he has died of starvation. The news is made public and then different people respond to this in different ways. Some call him careless, reckless and immature to have undertaken such a journey without preparation, while others have a more humane view of the psychology of McCandless. the author recreates the entire adventure using the photographs McCandless has taken and notes he has maintained in his diary. The book is really excellent and a must-read for everyone. If you haven’t read this, you have missed something.

3. The Motorcycle Diaries (by Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara):

motorcyclediariesA very popular book, it is the diary of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara in which he recounts his exploration of South America along with his friend Alberto, on Alberto’s motorcycle named ‘La Poderosa’, the Mighty One: a 500cc Norton. Guevara describes the days they spend on the exploration and the kind of places they visited, the people they met and the troubles they got into throughout the journey. I have not know much about Guevara before reading this book, but I understand he has been an icon for many and this book is an incredible read that will appeal to all exploration and motorcycle enthusiasts alike. I am halfway through the book and I think it is a very pleasant read.

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