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Part 1 of four parts:

Root Causes of Religious-Secular
Conflicts, that Involve Abortion
or LGBT Equality.

(LGBT refers to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender persons)

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Religious-secular conflicts:

Conflicts involving beliefs among and within established religions like Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, etc. are common. There are also conflicts within and among individual denominations, faith groups, and sects in each of these religions. Within Christianity, for example, there are estimated to be up to 40,000 such groups in the world; each with differing beliefs and practices derived from different interpretations of Bible passages and their group's history.

A surprising percentage of individual members believe that:

  • Their particular faith group has the fullness of truth;

  • All other faith groups within their religion are in error; and
  • Other religions are in even greater error.

This makes no sense statistically. However, it is responsible for much of the religiously-based terrorism and mass murder being experienced today. Estimates of the number of Christians killed each year as martyrs range from 7,000 to 100,000. 1 Followers of other religions are also martyred.

Secularists also differ among themselves in their beliefs and often conflict with many -- perhaps most -- of the tens of thousands of religious groups worldwide, particularly on topics related to gender and human sexually.

Fortunately, the major organized religions, along with Agnostics, Atheists, Satanists, Secular Humanists, Unitarian-Universalists, etc. generally promote a version of the Ethic of Reciprocity, a.k.a. the Golden Rule: This is the principle of treating others as one would wish to be treated by others. Respect and consideration for others makes civilized life possible, in spite of differences in beliefs.

Typically, established religions are based upon ancient writings composed during a pre-scientific era. For example, portions of the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament) were written circa 1450 BCE, about three and a half millennia ago. As various fields of scientific research progress, more ancient beliefs are found to be in error and new scientific, medical, and other facts are uncovered. Liberal religious groups tend to quickly integrate new scientific findings into their belief systems. Conservative religious groups tend to initially reject many new findings and resist abandoning ancient beliefs.

A surprising number of revisions to old beliefs are related to genetics and/or human sexuality:

  • The book of Genesis in the Bible taught that because of a non-specified sexual activity between Noah and his son Ham, the father laid: the "Curse of Ham." It was not directed to Ham; rather it attacked Canaan. the son of Ham, along with Ham's children, grandchildren and further descendents of Ham down through thousands of years to modern times. Many decades ago, for no obvious reason, much of the Christian church identified these relatives of Canaan as Africans of color and interpreted the Bible as authorizing the enslavement of all Blacks in the country. It is worth noting that a person's skin color is determined by a small handful out of the estimated 20,000 genes in each human's genome. The U.S. civil war was fought in the 1860's which ended the practice of slavery. However racial discrimination against persons of color continues today.

  • Many ancient religious text teach that women are to be treated differently from men, and given fewer privileges. They were not allowed to become priests in Judaism until recently. They are still not allowed to become priests in the Roman Catholic Church and some evangelical Christian denominations. This eventually led to agitation in the early 20th century to give women the vote, and to the feminist revolution of the late 20th century and to the present time. Sex is also a genetic factor because a Y sex chromosome is present in the DNA of male humans and it is absent in females.

  • On the topic of pregnancy, there is general agreement that when an ovum is fertilized by a spermatozoon during the conception process, that the product -- called a zygote -- is a form of human life. There is also agreement that a newborn human is a human person. But there is no consensus on when human life becomes a human person. Pro-lifers generally believe it happens at conception. Jews have traditionally taught that it happens when the fetus is half-emerged from the woman's birth canal. There are many other strongly held beliefs. Examples are: at implantation in the uterus, when the embryo's heart can be detected, at quickening when the woman first feels movement of the fetus, when the higher brain functions first turn on in the fetal brain and the fetus first becomes conscious and able to sense her or his environment, feel pain, etc.

  • On the topic of homosexual orientation, many religious conservatives believe that a youth chooses to be gay or bisexual in their teen years. Recent research shows that sexual orientation is determined before birth by an epigenetic layer on the person's DNA that turns various genes on and off. Most religious liberals, humanists, secularists, and some others accept this belief. Gradually the research finding is being more widely accepted. As a result, prejudice against lesbians, gays, and bisexuals is fading -- particularly since the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriages in mid-2015.

  • On the topic of transgender individuals, many religious follow what they believe is biblical teaching: that a person's gender is determined at birth by the appearance of their external genital organs. However, research has shown that human brains have gender-specific structures in which the male brain structures are larger and have a higher neuron density that female structures. Transgender persons who are identified as female at birth and now identifies as male are found to have male brain structures, and vice-versa. Discrimination against transgender persons is the latest area of conflict that is caused by genetics. It is currently nowhere near resolution. However, based on past causes of discrimination, we expect it to fade with time, as it has against women, Blacks, homosexuals, and bisexuals.

If public and high schools were to enhance their teaching of statistics and both genetics and epigenetics, then these forms of discrimination would probably decrease at a faster rate.

It is not at all obvious which group will next experience a new wave of religiously/genetically-based discrimination. There aren't many minorities left to oppress.

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Further, more detailed information on past and current conflicts:

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Ruth Alexander, "Are there really 100,000 new Christian martyrs every year?," British Broadcasting Corporation, 2013-NOV-12, at: https://www.bbc.com/

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Copyright 2016 to 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2016-MAY-07
Latest update : 2019-FEB-08
Author: B.A. Robinson

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