14 November 2008

Minority Religions in a Democracy

But what has upset many gay-rights advocates is the extent of the Mormon church's support for Proposition 8, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and overrides a ruling that a ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional.

Top church leaders urged members in California to do all they could to support the proposition, and members gave millions. [story here]

A South Carolina Roman Catholic priest has told his parishioners that they should refrain from receiving Holy Communion if they voted for Barack Obama because the Democratic president-elect supports abortion, and supporting him "constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil."

The Rev. Jay Scott Newman said in a letter distributed Sunday to parishioners at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenville that they are putting their souls at risk if they take Holy Communion before doing penance for their vote.[story here]

I have an idea for people who think that their religious beliefs should be imposed on everyone: let them live under a theocracy (Iran or Saudi Arabia perhaps?) for a few years and see how that works out.

The really odd thing about this support? Mormons and Catholics were initially - and reluctantly - tolerated in this country because of their minority position. In part because of their tendency to insist on making reproduction actually productive, their numbers as a percentage of the American population have grown. Now that they are not just tolerated but have been made a part of the American landscape, they are going to impose their religious beliefs on the rest of us? Could anything be more absurd?

We tolerated their odd religious beliefs and have come to accept them. Perhaps they could be gracious enough - and wise enough - to tolerate the rest of America and perhaps even accept them.

(And lest my Mormon and Catholic readers think that I'm unnecessarily picking on their churches, let me say that many members of my own faith are even more absurd. At least Catholics and Mormons are a sizable minority. We have no name and don't even make up one-tenth of one percent of the population and yet I've heard a number of folks from my faith talk as intolerantly as any Catholic or Mormon. I can only attribute it to a lack of awareness. There is no majority religion in this country. No state religion. We all ought to have the common sense to tolerate beliefs that are unlike our own. Christ taught that believers would be forgiven only as much as they were willing to forgive. Maybe we should have a secular law that a religion will be tolerated only as much as it is willing to tolerate.)


Anonymous said...

I was really bummed when Prop 8 passed, but the more I think about it, the less concerned I am.

Gays and their friends are going to refer to their civil unions as "Marriage." They will refer to their partners as "husbands" and "wives."

And eventually this twenty-first century equivalent to "separate but equal" will erode into meaninglessness.

Ron Davison said...

in truth, gay marriage is not a hot issue for me. I'm fairly agnostic on the topic. My beef is with religious groups imposing their beliefs on the broader community.

Anonymous said...

I guess the secret is to convince people to use religion as a means to purify their own souls, not those of other people.

That's going to be tough to do in a country where so many faiths put so much emphasis on winning conversions, and where both major political parties are fighting to be the torch bearer in the "culture wars."

In a country as diverse as ours has become, tolerance has become imperative. I would hate to see this country disintigrate into a string of ghettos, all fighting for dominance.

Life Hiker said...

My feeling is that those who are pushing these exclusive ideas have not been exposed to "those others" in any meaningful way.

Unfortunately, they've not had relationships that I've found to be constructive.

The truth is that people of every stripe have something wonderful to teach us. We just have to let them be who they are as long as they don't intend to hurt us.

Petri Fam said...

As a member of the "absurd", (Hey ... maybe we can call ourselves The Absurd's. If the hallowed worship of our God doesn't work out ... it has a nice ring to it for a band), I want to be offended for being called such.

However, if I truly am a member of the "absurd", then I can't.

Ahh the irony of faith.

P.S. the "absurd" are now accepting applications from any forgotten Mormons, Catholics, Protestants, Baptists, Calvinists, Adventists, or any other creed. That 1/10th percent is now a written goal. :o)

A dish called Petri

Ron Davison said...

religion is odd - it seems hard to be convinced of something still be willing to let someone else hold to his convictions.

I suppose that if we were to talk in depth we might be surprised at how much we held in common. Or shocked at how much we differed. I suppose, tho', that the similarities and differences would be more randomly correlated with labels like Catholic and "absurds" (really, David, is that we have to call ourselves now? all these years without a name and we're going to get tagged with that? sigh.) and Buddhists would probably do less to predict personal views than any of us might think.

I suppose that one-tenth of one percent is over-stating things by some multiple. In which case I feel it's probably worth it to be even more tolerant of the many, many groups to whom we'd be a rounding error.