Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Religious Intolerance

Very few Marines have that classically blunt demeanor which causes others to wince at every other sentence they speak. Most only allow this type of abrasive behavior to happen occasionally, as needed or sometimes accidentally, with a likely increase in frequency during that time when one returns from a war zone.

I try not to be, but am regrettably guilty of a few of those episodes, the first of which happened just a couple days after my return from Iraq.

I went to eat dinner at an Irish restaurant about a half hour outside Camp Pendleton, eager for something other than MRE’s, chicken and rice, or one of the multiple versions of turkey yakisoba I’d been exposed to during the previous 7 months.

Toward the end of dinner, two couples seated at the table next to me asked if I was a Marine and if I’d just returned from Iraq. The haircut and raccoon suntan after months of wearing ballistic sunglasses in the desert gave me away.

I told them I was and had. They asked what it was like and I gave them a short version of my experiences. The four of them were surprised to hear something other than the doom of the evening news. Unfortunately the conversation then turned to current political matters. Probably not the best subject considering my level of intensity.

That’s when it happened. As the conversation unfolded, one of the ladies, in a statement of religious intolerance, said that she didn’t appreciate the President “shoving his religion down her throat.”

I quickly and bluntly replied that “at least you don’t have to worry about him having your head cut off for disagreeing with his religion.”

The conversation kind of fizzled from there.

Her comments may have been personal and sincere, but I took them as I know them to be, typical phraseology of those on the left for expressing their intolerance of religion. That phrase, as well as “establishment of a theocracy here in America” are two of the preferred verbal attacks by those on the left against religion.

Their intolerance tries to deny those of faith, any faith, their freedom of religion because they themselves have either chosen not to be religious, are uncomfortable around religious people, or are incapable of tolerating any view other than their own.

Both groups, believers and unbelievers, have the right to express themselves accordingly. But the intolerant and unbelievers on the left pursue a path which denies religious individuals their freedom of religion.

They often argue they are guarding against governmental establishment of religion. If they weren’t so intolerant of religion, there might be some credibility to that argument. If there were a little perspective in their argument, it might have some credibility. But they fall short in both areas.

Our Constitution guarantees that no law “respecting an establishment of religion” can be made, which the militant left is adamant about defending. But at the same time they eagerly work against the Constitution’s mandate against “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion by others.

Ever notice that the far left’s arguments for “separation of church and state” in defense of our freedom of religion always end up with someone being denied their ability to exercise and express that freedom?

A little perspective on their part would reveal that the act of one person, even one with as much power as the President, openly admitting to being religious, is far from shoving religion down the throat of anyone else. Any one person expressing faith or gathering around others who share that same faith is far from an attempt to establish a theocracy.

A little perspective comes from actually fighting against Al Qaeda’s attempts to establish a theocracy and their use of violence against all who stand in the way, including their own Muslim brothers who don’t believe exactly as they do. A little perspective comes from being in a country where having the wrong religion is grounds for having your head physically separated from your body.

A little perspective comes from looking at the theocratic states of the world, knowing how different from them we are, and knowing that the steps which led them to being theocratic states are not being taken or considered here.

Maybe I was too blunt, too tough on the lady. I regret that it wasn’t the best public relations move for the Marines, but I don’t regret being intolerant of her intolerance.

I had just undergone the frustration of friendships dismantled because religiously intolerant terrorists had threatened my Iraqi friends with being “slaughtered” simply for talking to an unbeliever. I felt sorrow for one whom I was informed by others, had disappeared at the hands of terrorists intent on establishing a true theocracy in Iraq simply because he didn’t hold the same religious convictions as they.

I had just experienced religion truly being “shoved down someone’s throat” in a country where intolerant religious zealots were attempting to deny others their freedom of religion and was still more than willing to jump into a fight against anyone with a similar, albeit non-violent, mentality of intolerance. The same fight each of us should be willing to take up against all who threaten that right or any other.

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