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RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE

WITHIN CHRISTIANITY AND THE MEDIA

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Topics covered in this essay:

Religious Intolerance:
bulletAmong conservative Christians
bulletAmong liberal Christians
bulletIn the media

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Religious intolerance among conservative Christians:

A few conservative Christians have made statements that categorize other religious groups as evil, degenerate, sub-human and/or hated by God. Some examples are:

bulletA former Southern Baptist president told two large meetings recently that God does not listen to the prayers of a Jew.
bulletA Baptist minister in Texas has allegedly called for the mass murder of  Wiccans by napalm.
bulletAn Evangelical minister explained that there are two groups in the world: the children of God (those who are saved), and the children of the devil (everyone else).
bulletAnother stated that New Age beliefs are another attempt by Satan to pollute Christianity, promote immorality and foster unethical attitudes.
bulletStill another stated that non-Christians hate God, love sin, and don't care whether anyone is struggling with sin or not.
bulletA prominent televangelist called for the round up and extermination of all Wiccans by the U.S. Federal government.
bulletBuddhism, Hinduism and other Eastern religions have frequently been described as variations of Satanism.

We have not been able to find any comparable statements by mainline or liberal Christians.

It is important to realize that many of these statements do not come from any mean spiritedness or hatred on the part of conservative Christians. They follow logically from their very specific theological view, and are a natural result of the way in which they interpret the Bible.

2 Timothy 3:16 states:

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, [and] for instruction in righteousness." (KJV)

Some conservative Christians who believe in the inerrancy of scripture cannot ignore the very plain and unambiguous messages in the Bible concerning the followers of other religions. They conclude that non-Christian religions are of Satan, and that the Gods of those faiths are in fact demonic spirits.

Most Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Christians believe that the only way to be saved is to repent of past sins and trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Many see non-Christians traveling down non-Christian spiritual paths that lead to an eternity of torture in Hell without any hope of mercy or relief. This includes two thirds of the human race, some four billion people. It is unreasonable to expect these Christians to be tolerant of religions that they believe generate so much evil, and which guide their followers to destruction.

We have been able to find only one large Evangelical Christian group which has a policy of promoting religious tolerance. That is Promise Keepers, a organization for men which encourages males of all faiths and races to join their rallies. "PK" has received a great deal of flak from other conservative Christian groups for those policies.

In summary, belief in the inerrancy of the Bible leads believers to reject the validity of other faiths.

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Religious tolerance among liberal Christians:

Many liberal Christians have beliefs about other faiths that are quite different from the above. They regard non-Christian religions as valid, alternative paths to God. They often deviate from literal interpretations of Biblical passages. Many view the religiously intolerant sections of the Bible as no longer being meaningful in a today's religiously diverse world. They give little weight to the concept of a Hell where unsaved people are punished for all eternity. By viewing all of the major religions of the world in a positive light, they find it much easier to be religiously tolerant. Thus, we find that groups which promote religious tolerance tend to come from mainline and liberal faith groups.

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Religious intolerance in the media:

Most "faith bashing" in newspapers, radio and TV can be divided into four types:

  1. Criticism of activities by people who are motivated by their religion to change society; for example, a Christian group might:
    bulletpress for a revision to the "sex-ed" classes in the local school to remove references to contraception and STD prevention and substitute a chastity program.
    bulletagitate to close an abortion clinic.
    bullettake political action to restrict some family benefits to married couples.

    Here the media usually criticizes the actions of Christians but not their beliefs. Once any group attempts to change society lays itself open to criticism. The media's responsibility is to describe the group's actions in a balanced manner, giving all views equal and respectful treatment.

  2. Ridicule or unbalanced treatment of religious leaders. A TV program might:
    bulletCriticize a religious leader for financial misconduct
    bulletRidicule a televangelist for extra-marital sexual activity
    bulletSeek to embarrass a minister for using manipulative techniques to increase donations
    bulletPresent a member of the clergy in a drama or situation comedy as a bumbling idiot, or incompetent professional, or person of low moral standards

    It seems that the media often treats clergy and other religious leaders differently from other people. Various surveys show that between 40% and 65% of men commit adultery. This is hardly news. However, when a religious leader does it, his/her moral lapse is given great exposure - even to being reviewed on international TV. This is unfair and unbalanced treatment.

  3. Raw hatred and misinformation, typically directed by one religious leader against one or more religions such as:
    bulletAsking the federal government to round up all members of a particular religion and exterminate them because of their religious beliefs
    bulletStating, without proof, that a minority religion is planning to exterminate all US Christian leaders
    bulletAccusing, without hard evidence, minority religions of kidnapping, torturing and ritually killing tens of thousands of children per year in the U.S.

    This type of faith bashing is in a class by itself:

    bulletIt is typically based on misinformation knowingly spread by a religious leader against a small religion.
    bulletIt often seeks to build up public hatred against a benign faith group. It can contribute to public hysteria that has led to lynching, attempted murder, firebombing etc.
    bulletThe charges made are very serious, often involving criminal activity - even murder.
    bulletProof of wrongdoing by the targeted religion is either totally absent, or typically consists of lurid headlines unsupported by hard evidence.

    This form of faith bashing is a serious concern. It was a continuation into the 1990's of the types of hatred which fueled the Witch burnings of the Renaissance, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Nazi Holocaust. Fortunately, by the end of the 1990s it fizzled out, due to the lack of evidence that any such crimes had been committed.

  4. Ridicule and criticism, by secular groups, typically directed at one or all religions such as:
    bulletImplying that all religions are led by unethical leaders whose main goals are to dominate, manipulate and control their followers
    bulletRidiculing religious groups for their beliefs

    Many such anti-religious groups exist on the Internet.

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Copyright © 1997 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2006-SEP-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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