Does religion deserve special treatment?

Sara - posted on 02/14/2011 ( 46 moms have responded )

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Ok, so a spin-off from another thread. I have to admit my curiosity is peaked. Here is an article by AC Grayling that I find quite interesting. What is your take on it? Does religion deserve special treatment just because it's religion or should it be treated like any other special interest group?




It is time to reverse the prevailing notion that religious commitment is inherently deserving of respect, and that it should be handled with kid gloves and protected by custom and in some cases law against criticism and ridicule.

It is time to refuse to tip-toe around people who claim respect, consideration, special treatment, or any other kind of immunity, on the grounds that they have a religious faith, as if having faith were a privilege-endowing virtue, as if it were noble to believe in unsupported claims and ancient superstitions. It is neither. Faith is a commitment to belief contrary to evidence and reason, as between them Kierkegaard and the tale of Doubting Thomas are at pains to show; their example should lay to rest the endeavours of some (from the Pope to the Southern Baptists) who try to argue that faith is other than at least non-rational, given that for Kierkegaard its virtue precisely lies in its irrationality.

On the contrary: to believe something in the face of evidence and against reason - to believe something by faith - is ignoble, irresponsible and ignorant, and merits the opposite of respect. It is time to say so.

It is time to demand of believers that they take their personal choices and preferences in these non-rational and too often dangerous matters into the private sphere, like their sexual proclivities. Everyone is free to believe what they want, providing they do not bother (or coerce, or kill) others; but no-one is entitled to claim privileges merely on the grounds that they are votaries of one or another of the world's many religions.

And as this last point implies, it is time to demand and apply a right for the rest of us to non-interference by religious persons and organisations - a right to be free of proselytisation and the efforts of self-selected minority groups to impose their own choice of morality and practice on those who do not share their outlook.

Doubtless the votaries of religion will claim that they have the moral (the immoral) choices of the general population thrust upon them in the form of suggestive advertising, bad language and explicit sex on television, and the like; they need to be reminded that their television sets have an off button. There are a number of religious TV channels available, one more emetic than the next, which I do not object to on the grounds of their existence; I just don't watch them.

These remarks will of course inflame people of religious faith, who take themselves to have an unquestionable right to respect for the faith they adhere to, and a right to advance, if not indeed impose (because they claim to know the truth, remember) their views on others. In the light of history and the present, matters should perhaps be to the contrary; but stating that religious commitment is not by itself a reason for respect is not to claim that it is a reason for disrespect either. Rather, as it is somewhere written, "by their fruits ye shall know them"; it is this that far too often provides grounds for disrespect of religion and its votaries.

The point to make in opposition to the predictable response of religious believers is that human individuals merit respect first and foremost as human individuals. Shared humanity is the ultimate basis of all person-to-person and group-to-group relationships, and views which premise differences between human beings as the basis of moral consideration, most especially those that involve claims to possession by one group of greater truth, holiness, or the like, start in absolutely the wrong place.

We might enhance the respect others accord us if we are kind, considerate, peace-loving, courageous, truthful, loyal to friends, affectionate to our families, aspirants to knowledge, lovers of art and nature, seekers after the good of humankind, and the like; or we might forfeit that respect by being unkind, ungenerous, greedy, selfish, wilfully stupid or ignorant, small-minded, narrowly moralistic, superstitious, violent, and the like. Neither set of characteristics has any essential connection with the presence or absence of specific belief systems, given that there are nice and nasty Christians, nice and nasty Muslims, nice and nasty atheists.

That is why the respect one should have for one's fellow humans has to be founded on their humanity, irrespective of the things they have no choice over - ethnicity, age, sexuality, natural gifts, presence or absence of disability - and conditionally (ie. not for intrinsic reasons) upon the things they choose - political affiliation, belief system, lifestyle - according to the case that can be made for the choice and the defence that can be offered of the actions that follow from it.

It is because age, ethnicity and disability are not matters of choice that people should be protected from discrimination premised upon them. By contrast, nothing that people choose in the way of politics, lifestyle or religion should be immune from criticism and (when, as so often it does, it merits it) ridicule.

Those who claim to be "hurt" or "offended" by the criticisms or ridicule of people who do not share their views, yet who seek to silence others by law or by threats of violence, are trebly in the wrong: they undermine the central and fundamental value of free speech, without which no other civil liberties are possible; they claim, on no justifiable ground, a right to special status and special treatment on the sole ground that they have chosen to believe a set of propositions; and they demand that people who do not accept their beliefs and practices should treat these latter in ways that implicitly accept their holder's evaluation of them.

A special case of the respect agenda run by religious believers concerns the public advertisement of their faith membership. When people enter the public domain wearing or sporting immediately obvious visual statements of their religious affiliation, one at least of their reasons for doing so is to be accorded the overriding identity of a votary of that religion, with the associated implied demand that they are therefore to be given some form of special treatment including respect.

But why should they be given automatic respect for that reason? That asserting a religious identity as one's primary front to the world is divisive at least and provocative at worst is fast becoming the view of many, although eccentricities of dress and belief were once of little account in our society, when personal religious commitment was more reserved to the private sphere - where it properly belongs - than its politicisation of late has made it. From this thought large morals can be drawn for our present discontents.

But one part of a solution to those discontents must surely be to tell those who clamour for a greater slice of public indulgence, public money and public respect, that their personal religious beliefs and practices matter little to the rest of us, though sometimes they are a cause of disdain or amusement; and that the rest of us are as entitled not to be annoyed by them as their holders are entitled to hold them. But no organised religion, as an institution, has a greater claim to the attention of others in society than does a trade union, political party, voluntary organisation, or any other special interest group - for "special interest groups" are exactly what churches and organised religious bodies are.

No one could dream of demanding that political parties be respected merely because they are political parties, or of protecting them from the pens of cartoonists; nor that their members should be. On the contrary. And so it should be for all interest groups and their members, without exception.

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Sara - posted on 02/16/2011

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"Athiests believe that there is no God, but they do not know beyond shadow of a doubt that there is no god, because again, if they did, they could prove it."

I have an issue with this statement for a couple of reasons. Most atheists actually do not claim to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is no God. That would be hypocritical, after all. Most atheists fall into the category de facto atheism which says "I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there". Even Richard Dawkins considers himself to be a de facto atheist. I think this is a common misconception about atheists, that they emphatically believe there is not God. It's not that they don't believe, it's just that to them there is no evidence for it.

Secondly, the burden of proof does not lay with the non-believers here. I am not claiming that there is a supernatural being that created the Universe and influences our lives indirectly. I am not claiming he sent his only son to earth to die for our sins and he rose 3 days later. So, it's not up to me to prove those things didn't happen. There's no proof that they did happen in the first place. So, the burden of proof lies with believers if you want to argue your beliefs with my non-beliefs. Conveniently, believers reply to this question that they just have "faith". To me, while I guess i can understand the concept, that's not the answer to an argument nor does it prove a point.

Mary - posted on 02/14/2011

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Well, I just operate under the belief that it is in poor taste to poke fun at anything someone else holds sacred or dear to them, so for me, that would include religion. It's not so much about thinking that religious convictions are above somehow more "special" or are necessarily more off-limits; it's just about common decency and respect.

I do think religious views are open to debate and discussion, but to poke fun at someone's beliefs in a derisive manner is not acceptable. When you do that, you are, in essence, disrespecting them as a person. It really doesn't matter if that belief is in regards to religion, veganism, politics, race, or an obsession with Mickey Mouse. The only thing it achieves is to anger those that hold those views, and make them less than receptive to pretty much anything you have to say.

Jenny - posted on 02/16/2011

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I call myself an evidence based thinking athiest. I don't feel the need to put a disclaimer on any other fact and I'm not going to do it for a god either. I say there is no god because there is no evidence of one or more. Should evidence arrive in suppport of a god I will be the very first to admit it. I say gravity holds me on the earth because that is what the evidence supports. Should new, stronger evidence be presented I will be the first to pick up the new theory. When I mention gravity I don't feel the need to say "but I don't discount it could be proven wrong in the future". Of course, everything could be. We KNEW the earth was flat at one point in time. So really, to me, athiesm and agnosticism are the same thing, one with a disclaimer and one without.

Johnny - posted on 02/15/2011

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I'm not sure there is a problem with religious organizations being eligible to receive charitable status. Heck, I used to work for a church mission (yes, as an agnostic) that did amazing work, served anyone who walked in the door and provided services for the homeless unavailable elsewhere. By all means, many many churches and other religious groups do work that should allow them to receive tax exemptions. But on the basis of simply being a religion and receiving no scrutiny, no way.

I disagree with just doling out charitable status to non-religious clubs as well. A couple years ago there was an exposé in one of our local papers about several social clubs that had tax exemptions because they basically did a couple fundraisers a year. By that token almost all businesses would also be exempt. I could just hold a garage sale once a year, give the proceeds to the local SPCA and not have to pay taxes? Yeah, probably not the best way to run things.

As for ridicule, I honestly actually struggle with this. It is hard, when you do not believe at all in God, to understand how it is that people can believe in it. I hear this often from other atheists and agnostics, the idea that we are expected to respect someone having what amounts to an imaginary friend, in our minds. To us, Krista's pink bunny in her duodenum is just as real, as are all other gods, fairies and unicorns. It's all just the same. So, like Kati said, it seems odd and a little crazy. It is next to impossible to tell someone you think that they are slightly batty without causing offense. So inevitably in religious discussions, those with faith seem to end up feeling mocked and ridiculed by those that do not share it.


I get that it's hard to have one's deepest beliefs questioned, and especially made fun of. But try to imagine for just a moment how it is to look in from the outside.

If I told you that I absolutely believed that the monster that lives under my bed plants fairy dust in my eyes to make me sleep every night, you'd think I was a bit off my rocker and perhaps needed medication. Imagine if you kindly tried to help me see that I was delusional, perhaps made a little joke about it and I simply accused you of ridiculing and mocking me. Imagine if I got angry that you were not showing me the respect I was due and that you obviously had no class because you would make fun of my deeply held beliefs in the monster under my bed. Just because you don't have a relationship with your bed monster in no way justifies you questioning and teasing me about mine. Now you would of course be absolutely justified in your concerns regarding my sanity, but I would not see it that way in the slightest, because my total faith in my under the bed monster would preclude me from ever understanding how it was that you couldn't believe in him. Makes it difficult to really have an truly open and frank discussion, doesn't it?

**the "under the bed monster" does live in my daughter's room by the way. he is her friend and she talks to him at night

** I am truly not wishing to offend anyone, although I have no doubt that I did. I find if literally impossible to explain to those who have faith why it is so hard for us to take it seriously without causing offense. Perhaps I should not have bothered...

Sara - posted on 02/15/2011

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My problem with the tax exemption thing for churches is that churches, unlike other non-profit organizations, are not required to make their financial statements public, even though they are tax-exempt. So, they are not in fact treated as other non-profit organizations in that regard.
Many churches – too many – are taking advantage of the system, using tax exemptions for selfish or even antisocial goals (e.g., Branch Davidians, the “Holy Land” terrorist front, Scientology, and multi-millionaire televangelists).

The fact is that a church is just another kind of club, but it gets special treatment because the club preaches about a mythology or religion (same thing). In order for any other club to gain tax-exempt status, they must adhere to rules and regulations, declare their income, and prove their worth to society as a whole. Religious clubs get treated differently ONLY because they talk about religion, instead of stamp collecting or today’s best-selling books. This is clearly illegal, and it’s clearly wrong.

It’s illegal because it offers benefits to religious institutions but not to their secular counterparts; it’s wrong because it assumes that every religious institution benefits society by merely existing. Churches need not perform any service at all in order to get these massive exemptions; they merely need to declare themselves religious to be tax-free.

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Becky - posted on 02/16/2011

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By your description, he would have been Muslim and most likely Middle Eastern (although I think there is a fairly large Muslim population in east Asia as well) They pray 5 times a day, total, so I doubt it was 5-6 times in a 10 hour shift. If it was, he was lying!

Jessica - posted on 02/16/2011

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so true so true! i once worked at a call centre, and when I had started there were no, as I'll put it, 'special religious groups' like the hindis and such that need to pray every so often, and blah blah. Shortly after I began working there, a young fellow about my age started working there also. I'm not too knowlegable on the different religions of the east indians and such, but he was one of those turban wearing, pray every hour kind of people. Now I have nothing wrong wth people believing in what they want to believe in, but what bothered me the most, was that because this ONE person started working there, we had to accomodate to their religious beliefs. Our floor ended up losing a coatroom, becuase the HR department decided to turn it into a shrine for this single employee. But thats not what bothered me the most; I mean it is pretty disrespectful to everyone else working there to just disregard them and their values, to allow one single person access to a room big enough for a class, just to pray for one hour. But what I found even worse is that because this was a 'religious' thing, this person was not required to sign out of their station, which the rest of us non-indians had to do anytime we left the computer because it was considered as time away/not working. No, he got to remain signed in for the whole hour, every time he went to pray, which in a 10 hour shift was probably about 5-6 times. So that means while he was praying to his god about god knows what, he's still getting paid. Still getting paid because it would be considered wrong to not allow these people to pray. I understand religions have different ways of practice, but when you leave your own country where this religion is actively practiced by the majority of the population, and immigrate to another country, where another form of religion is commonly practiced, we shouldnt have to bow down and bend over backward to accomodate your beliefs. You can still pray, but if it will interfere with you doing your job as completely as everyone else, then either get a new religion or find a new job.
Religion is nothing special, its belief. Nothing concrete, nothing proven. People get thrown in the crazy house for less....lol Believe in it all you wnt, but you sure as hell don't deserve special treatment or higher authority over those that don't succumb to bullshit easily.

Becky - posted on 02/16/2011

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I was really just trying to say, no one actually knows for certain whether God exists or not. If it could be known, then it could be proven, and to date, it has not been, either way. To those of who believe, of course we feel we have evidence. I feel that life, the universe, the way things work, and personal experience are evidence. For someone who does not believe, those things aren't evidence. I get that.
At any rate, I do believe that religion causes too many divisions. Whether or not there is a god, and whether he
is God, Yaweh, Allah, Zeus or any other God, we are all equal as humans. We should treat each other with compassion and respect based on our humanity, regardless of our respective beliefs, or lack thereof.

Mary - posted on 02/16/2011

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At any rate, I believe it is possible to disagree with someone, even to think their beliefs are slightly insane, without coming across as rude and condescending.

I agree! Just because you do not share someone's beliefs, it does not mean that you cannot discuss those beliefs without scorn or derision. It's the simple difference between saying "I find the story of creation improbable" vs saying "I find the story of creation utter foolishness". One of those statements merely conveys disagreement, the other disrespect.

If your only intent is to inflame and ridicule someone who holds a particular belief system different from your own, by all means, go ahead. But understand that they will respond in kind....and really, what does that achieve?

Jenni - posted on 02/16/2011

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I've never had a problem with religion in itself. If it helps people make sense of the world, and be aware of the importance of doing good... hell... I envy them. To beable to have an answer as to why we're here, what we're meant to do, why the world works the way it does and any other philsophical question we athesists and agnostics may struggle with or don't have a definitive answer to. I don't care if you do believe in a pink bunny if it helps you to be a better person and I certainly won't ridicule you for it or think you're crazy if it makes you happy and helps you make sense of the world.

It's when religion is perverted by men when I think it becomes up for ridicule... for the most part. Or when anyone's beliefs (and athesists are just as guilty as the religious) are pushed on anyone in an attempt to convert. It carries a certain arrogance. It to me, maybe i'm too sensitive, sounds like the person is assuming I'm simply ignorant.

I really hate this Us vs. Them mentality between athesists and the religious, its not for me. I do understand debating religion for the purpose of understanding the other's point of view. Possibly gaining a new perspective for your own views. But when people are pushed to convert, called (in so many words) stupid for what they choose to believe, or told they are going to suffer some inimaginable tortue if they don't convert... is something I cannot respect.

I wouldn't want any religious person to imply I was stupid or laugh in my face for my views any more than a religious person would want to be called stupid for their views. If you ARE going to have a religious debate I think it's fair that everyone is respected mutually. If you really think they are crazy why would you feel the need to understand "why" they believe in a pink bunny? I don't try to understand "why" my skitzophrenic brother believes he's an alien and try to convince him he's not. Or "why" my 3 year old thinks there's monster in my bedroom. (It's our neighbours truck). Or ridicule her for thinking so.

At the same time religion shouldn't have any more special treatment than any other group. As in the example of the Danish cartoonist. You may hold your beliefs sacred. But that shouldn't mean the rest of us have to in order to respect your beliefs. I don't agree with anyone being bullied for what they believe. And if one of your religious beliefs is 'bullying' I don't have to respect that.

Johnny - posted on 02/16/2011

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Well Becky, I agree with you about most atheists. Being an agnostic with atheists is actually more difficult than being an agnostic with the faithful. Atheists usually figure that I'm just not willing to "commit". The truth is, I'm just not willing to pretend that I know stuff that I don't.

Becky - posted on 02/16/2011

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Now, imagine how foolish I'd feel when it turned out that your under the bed monster was real! :)
Okay, yes, I see your point. I did tell a friend of mine once that he needed psychiatric help after he told me he'd talked to fairies. Mind you, he'd told me I was foolish to believe in God because there was no evidence for him... he used a few too many drugs. I understand that it is hard not to ridicule those who have beliefs that we find unrealistic. But the bottom line is that we do not KNOW that those beliefs are false. I believe that there is a God, but I don't know, beyond shadow of a doubt, that there is a God. If I did, I could convince everyone else of it. Athiests believe that there is no God, but they do not know beyond shadow of a doubt that there is no god, because again, if they did, they could prove it. Agnostics actually have it right - you just don't know! I am completely willing to admit that I may be wrong. However, in conversations I have had with many athiests, they are unwilling to admit they may be wrong. Which to me, comes across as arrogant. At any rate, I believe it is possible to disagree with someone, even to think their beliefs are slightly insane, without coming across as rude and condescending.
As for the tax-free thing, I was responding to Jenny's comment that no religious organization should have tax-exempt status, which is why it may have come accross as a bit defensive.

Becky - posted on 02/15/2011

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I don't typically have a problem with jokes about religion. Some of them are very funny. And I don't have a problem with people questioning why I believe what I believe. What I do have a problem with is being ridiculed or seen as less intellegent for believing the way I do. It is possible to disagree with people's beliefs without being rude and disrespectful, but many times, in religious debates, people tend to forget this. I'm not calling anyone out on that or referring to anyone or any incident, just saying in general.
As for the charitable status, my church currently supports 5 organizations working with individuals with HIV/AIDS and AIDS prevention, 4 organizations working to stop human trafficking, the local pregnancy care centre, organizations working with the homeless, and regulary provides meals to people who come in off the street, furniture, appliances, rent money etc to those in need (don't have to attend the church), and so on. So they shouldn't qualify for charitable status? Huh. I could maybe agree with making religious organizations apply for charitable status and setting some criteria they need to meet, but to deny them all charitable status, seems like discrimination to me.

[deleted account]

We'll just agree to leave it behind us at this point. Those comments are yesterday's news. =) And I hope you join in on future religious debates. I'm sorry I made you feel singled out. It wasn't my intention, but I'm sorry nontheless.

Jenni - posted on 02/15/2011

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I'm not comfortable with someone telling some else they're going to Hell just because they don't believe what they believe... I can't help that it just doesn't sit well with me. That's the only reason I said anything at all in that debate. I usually have zero interest in religious debates. But that is the one thing that irks me. I know not all Christians believe that.



I agree with Sara's side of this debate...

If I started a new religion and in that religion one of my core beliefs was "All puppies should be murdered" I'm pretty sure I'd be ridiculed for it without question and my belief wouldn't be respected. It shouldn't be just because it's my religion.

Jenni - posted on 02/15/2011

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I was feeling a bit singled out... and utterly confused. Thanks for clearing that up Sara. I was taking it as you were offended as well as others by me. So I was trying to figure out if I had been out of line.

Rosie - posted on 02/15/2011

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while i do believe that it is odd that people believe in god, and i on some level do think they are crazy (sorry :( ), i wouldn't say that to anybody, ever. here i do question their belief because it's a debating group, i will debate it. but to just go up to someone and mock them? no, not my thing.



do i feel it deserves MORE respect than any other relgion, or lack of religion? hells no!!! and that's where i feel some of the religious seem to lack scruples, and lose some of my respect. apparantly those who don't think like them are all on a one way plane straight to hell, and have no moral bone in their body. it's frustrating to say the least.

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Haha Dana...see JuLeah's thread entitled, "Calling all Christians." It's probably on page two.

[deleted account]

Okay, Jennifer are you looking for a response from me about the other thread? If not, I apologize in advance for misunderstanding.

I'll just go ahead and say that the jokes I found in bad humor on the other thread were made by Krista and Sara B. And I like them, so I hate to even bring up their names, which is why I made a general comment. I want you to know though, that tough questions and doubts are always appropriate. Even light-hearted jokes. In the case of the other thread, the OP was asking serious and valid questions...as were several of the other posteres, including you. Harsh jokes about a person's beliefs don't help in a thread of that nature. No, I don't want any "special treatment" and that is not what I meant by my post.

I am deeply sorry if it's caused you any confusion.

But as Mary said so eloquently...

"Well, I just operate under the belief that it is in poor taste to poke fun at anything someone else holds sacred or dear to them, so for me, that would include religion. It's not so much about thinking that religious convictions are above somehow more "special" or are necessarily more off-limits; it's just about common decency and respect."

That's all I meant...

Jenni - posted on 02/15/2011

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Maybe it's because when an agnostic or athesist joins a religious debate religious people are so use to being questioned, critiqued, challenged... or even ridiculed by them. it's just a knee-jerk reaction to put on their boxing gloves. Ohhhhhh yeaaaah!! It's Go Time!!! Let's get it on!



I was only trying to provide an unbiased answer to the OP question.

Jenny - posted on 02/15/2011

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Can someone explain what is charitable about the Mormons building a Billion dollar shopping center in Salt Lake City and hotel in Hawaii? Church does not equate charity.

I think only secular charities should be tax exempt. If churches are truly wishing to serve they can do so with preaching, discriminating or otherwise bringing their religion into it.

Jenni - posted on 02/15/2011

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I think applying humour shows that you do respect those people's beliefs (when not used to make fun of beliefs) because you are comfortable enough to let your guard down in that topic.
But the reaction I received certainly turned me off and away from discussing religion in the future.... or made me feel the need to put those 'kid gloves' back on.

Sara - posted on 02/15/2011

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But that's been kind of my point in this thread...people shouldn't feel offended in discussing their religion, and people shouldn't have to confront the topic with kid gloves in fear of being disrespectful. Just because something is relgious in nature to me doesn't mean that it automatically commands respect -- no more than any other idea. So, I wouldn't worry about it! :)

Jenni - posted on 02/15/2011

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awww thanks Sara that means alot... I really don't like to offend people.

Sara - posted on 02/15/2011

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I don't think any of your humor has been disrespectful or inappropriate, Jennifer...

Jenni - posted on 02/15/2011

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Ok so I'm still lost... please excuse me for being completely ignorant...

And I promise I will NEVER join another religious debate again. I usually stay away from them because of the sensitivity involved. But where was I wrong in making a joke of God being fought over by all the religions?

I seen plenty of other jokes on the forum. The OP even had sublte humour in her post. I didn't see it as a joke about another person's beliefs. What made mine stand out from others who were directly making fun of beliefs.

Maybe I'm just completely daft here... (I know everyone is concentrating more on other issues in this debate, but I geniunely want to understand.)

It not like I don't apply humour to any other situation. I mean obviously I wouldn't make jokes when someone is talking about the death of a loved one. But is it that religion needs to be taken as seriously as death? Is that where I'm failing to understand?

I would have applied the same humour to my own beliefs.

Tara - posted on 02/15/2011

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I really enjoyed this article in its entirety, thanks for posting it!
I think all organized religions should have no more status in society than any other special interest group. I see them the same way I see Green Peace or PETA or any other organization that has an agenda they want to impose on the public. They all think they are right and act accordingly in the public forum, demanding special rights and operating often below the radar when it comes to monetary donations.
I don't like the indoctrination that goes hand in hand with organized religion, I don't like the implied duty to "tithe" to the church, regardless of your income or the churches already overflowing coffers.
I hope that one day religion goes the way of the history books. And that people learn to live by the virtues of humanity, by being good people and being aware of our broader connections to each other and our shared planet.
Religion has had a history entrenched in violence, persecution, destruction, control and has always been modeled on a class system. It has been used to control and influence the masses since its inception. And its time for people to look beyond the illusion of blind faith and look within themselves for the gifts of human nature. Teach our children the virtues of a good life not the wrath of an unseen ruler. Teach the virtues of tolerance and acceptance and patience and trust etc. without all the religious dogma attached to it.
Anyhow, I'm off my soapbox need more coffee, switch laundry, thanks for the mini-break!

Jenn - posted on 02/15/2011

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Yeah, tax exemption isn't because they are a religious organization, but because they are a charitable organization. There are all kinds of charitable organizations who only "help" a certain portion of the population: sick kids, war vets, people suffering from certain diseases, starving people, etc. So if a church uses their charitable funds to only help people at their church, that's up to them. However, I'm pretty sure MOST churches do plenty to help out the community as a whole.

Barb - posted on 02/15/2011

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Either the writer or myself ran out of coffee about halfway through this.

I got to the part about wearing clothing identifying themselves as religious and it just appears to me the writer is using that as justification for no longer respecting them for their humanity but as an excuse to discriminate for their religion.

Pun intended.. the writer should practice what he preaches..

or maybe i need more coffee to get it.

Jenni - posted on 02/15/2011

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Ok so I'm gonna pull the N card on this one...

If there is a political party who's extremists believe a certain group "should" be tortured and eradicated (as well as people not belonging to their group) and in their history have acted on their beliefs. they would certainly be up for extreme scrutiny and even ridicule.

So if there is a religious group who's extremists believe any individual outside their group "will" be tortued and inevitably put to death and in their history has even acted on those beliefs. Should they not be up for the same extreme scrutiny and ridicule?

Mary - posted on 02/15/2011

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'Johnny' - you are not the first or only person to speak against the tax exempt status of religious organizations. I'll be honest, it really is something I'm not particularly knowledgeable about. For the most part, all things tax-related intimidate me. However, I did do a brief and cursory look-up of organizations that qualify for tax-exempt status, including a mind-numbing perusal of the IRS's Tax Exempt Organization Chart.



Of course, what most concisely sums up the whole tax-exempt policies is good old Wikipedia:

Many tax systems provide complete exemption from tax for recognized charitable organizations. Such organizations may include religious organizations (churches, etc.), fraternal organizations (including social clubs), public charities (e.g., organizations serving homeless persons), or any of a broad variety of organizations considered to serve public purposes.

The U.S. system exempts from Federal and many state income taxes[5] the income of organizations that have qualified for such exemption. Qualification requires that the organization be created and operated for one of a long list of tax exempt purposes,[6] which includes more than 28 types of organizations and also requires, for most types of organizations, that the organization apply for tax exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service,[7] or be a religious or apostolic organization.[8][9] Note that the U.S. system does not distinguish between various kinds of tax exempt entities (such as educational versus charitable) for purposes of granting exemption, but does make such distinctions with respect to allowing a [tax deduction] for contributions.[10]




I would agree with your objection to religious institutions being tax exempt if there were not so many other organizations that also qualified for tax exempt status. I understand and respect that you do not find any social value in organized religion, and tend to only see the negatives. However, it does not mean that there are no benefits to society as a whole by their existence. I'm guessing that there are probably a whole slew of organizations which receive tax exemption in my country, and across the globe that I may find fault with, or fail to see how they add value to society, but many others find indispensable.

Johnny - posted on 02/14/2011

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Obviously it is in poor taste to make fun of another person's beliefs to be cruel. But I am always perplexed by the over sensitivity displayed when people do not like the way in which their faith is referred to by those who do not share it. If one is so confident that they are following "the true path" why would one care what anyone else thinks or says about it?

As for the original question, which I think is about more than just humor, no, I am personally opposed to the concept that religious beliefs/acts should receive any form of special consideration. That really suggests that as an agnostic my thoughts/feelings/beliefs are less valuable because they are not based in religion or "the word of god". Screw that!

Tax exemption for religious organizations is completely wrong and discriminatory, for example. If the religious institution provides charitable services for all, regardless of faith, then they deserve charitable exemptions. But as it stands, any faith group can get exempted as long as they've got a god to back them up. Even if they are preaching bigotry & hatred. Which is yet another standard that people commonly use religion to excuse.

I probably should have just stuck to quoting Dana, "No."

Jenn - posted on 02/14/2011

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I don't think there should be special consideration made for religions, and the government agreed recently when they denied the so-called marijuana religion their "right" to smoke dope LMAO!!! Anyway, not all sects frown upon questioning things, and in fact, it is actually something that is open for discussion at www.wondercafe.ca - which is a part of my church - the United Church of Canada. Questioning things is encouraged to foster a better understanding of the how's and why's of this world. Now, as far as jokes go, I think any joke can be OK regardless of the topic, if it's used in the right place and the right time. Like in the example of a race joke - let's not sit here and pretend we haven't all laughed at Eddie Murphy or Chris Rock telling a funny race joke, and a religion joke can be equally hilarious at an appropriate time and place (such as at a stand-up comedian show). But during a serious discussion about religion (or any other topic for that matter), to poke fun at someone else's expense is NOT cool and isn't about special consideration - but about just not being an inconsiderate ass-hole.

Amanda - posted on 02/14/2011

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treated like any other special interest group. although i don't fully agree with everything in this article there were some very valid points:
"it is time to demand and apply a right for the rest of us to non-interference by religious persons and organisations - a right to be free of proselytisation and the efforts of self-selected minority groups to impose their own choice of morality and practice on those who do not share their outlook"- agreed! THIS really sums up why organised religion has such a bad name.

"human individuals merit respect first and foremost as human individuals."- ABSOLUTELY! no one group merits more respect than any other one group.

personally i think making jokes about others' religious preferences are in poor taste, however, should it be banned? no, if you don't like something you are seeing/hearing/reading turn it off/walk away/ ignore it

Jenni - posted on 02/14/2011

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Having to tip toe around religion does cause resentment in people not from that group.

There is some oversensitveness involved in questioning any aspect of it. Or joking about it.... unless you are from that group.

As with any group receiving/expecting special treatment it only breeds resentment.

Yes, but that's when people become really defensive when it comes to beliefs. So why is that?

I know when it rains and I'm standing outside I'm going to get wet. --Fact; If someone were to question it or say no you wont get wet. Well, I probably wont feel defensive because I know it's fact and can be proven.

A belief cannot be proven so questioning it has no "real" answers. Leaving me feeling defensive because I can't really prove it to myself or others but I do feel just as strongly about it as if it were fact.

Did I make sense?

A joke can be taken as questioning it or devaluing it. Beliefs are very personal so in some cases they can be taken as making fun of the person who believes in them. Even if that wasn't the intention of the joke. People can be oversensitive when it comes to their beliefs.

Sara - posted on 02/14/2011

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I think this essay is mostly talking about how religon is considered something that can't be made fun of or really even seriously questioned. I mean, look at those cartoons about Muhammad that were published in Denmark a few years ago. Offense was taken by some Muslim leaders who called for the authors of the cartoons as well as the publishers to be killed, and it sparked all kinds of violence between Muslims and non-muslims...all because of a few cartoons which really were not offensive. So, those leaders apparently thougth that their religious beliefs were beyond any kind of repraoch or questioning, since they then struck out at those who they felt were responsible. Do religions deserve respect merely because they are religions? People tend to think that Scientologists are nutjobs, but there are many that take those beliefs seriously. Should they be afforded respect and should their beliefs be sacred just because they are their beliefs...even though there is no evidence to support that they are correct?

Krissy - posted on 02/14/2011

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so, we are mostly just talking about people making jokes about a religion they don't belong to???

Well, I know how it can offend some people, so I really don't. But I'm Christian, and I don't really mind teasing. I don't want to take them personally. Does that mean I would appreciate hearing all of them??? no... I won't.

What else do you think gets preferential treatment? I feel that expecting people to do things that are against their core beliefs is wrong. I mean, if you have some one that REFUSES to fight a war, shoot a gun, etc... then you don't force them to go be a soldier. They can serve their country in other ways, though....

Jenni - posted on 02/14/2011

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Ok so even if the group is not by choice, like race, it is still socially acceptable to poke fun, make jokes, what have you if done in an unserious manner, depending on the context of course.

So then with Religion (a choice) it would certainly be acceptable to treat it with the same level of respect you would give a group that is not a choice.



edit to add: It would probably not be acceptable for a person not belonging to that race to make a joke about a particular group because it may be seen as prejudice. But if it were making fun of all the groups and no preference was made it would be acceptable, no?

Sara - posted on 02/14/2011

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Well, religion is a philosophy and an opinion not a race or ethnic group. Race and ethinicity are tangible, but religion and God something that there is no concrete evidence for and therefore is just an opinion. So, for me, it would be more akin to believing in aliens or ghosts or Krista's belief of a pink bunny that lives in her duodenum and likes Taco Bell...

Jenni - posted on 02/14/2011

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Ok so let's take the example of Race.

It's socially acceptable to make jokes about a Race if you belong to that race in most cases.

Making jokes about a race if you're not belonging to it is a grey area. Sooooooooooo.... That's what I'm trying to understand. The rules of this grey area. Can anyone shed some light on it for me?

An example would be.... making a joke about races arguing over who is the superor race. Keep in mind the joke is light hearted and not singling out any race in particular.

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