If you really do chose your religion, then how do you explain that so many people born in North America are Christian, and so many people born in the Middle East and Muslim? If it was up to us, and all the religions were equally appealing to someone, wouldn’t you expect a general distribution of religious preference within any given population?
I happen to have been born in in a Middle-Eastern country in which apostates (those who leave Islam, like my family) are brutally executed, The Islamic Republic of Iran. I also happen to have gone to elementary school there for three years, where I was made to shout, “Death to America! Death to Israel!” over and over and over again at the beginning of each school day for three years without the slightest clue as to what I was really saying. So, if you want to talk about being born into a regime which forces its religion on you by fear of death and brainwashes you as a child into adopting its politics, I feel I have some authority in the matter.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t criticize the political opinions of others; we must do it, within reason and decency. And we should stay away from rigid parties which become very aggressive when their ideology is questioned.
This is precisely the problem. The only reason a society like Iran’s exists on the face of the earth is because it’s being allowed to exist. People who don’t have the slightest clue as to what’s going on in Iran (the mental molestation of children in schools; the brutal stoning of 9 year old girls who are buried waist deep in soil and have stones thrown at them until the teeth break into their mouths and eventually enough of their organs fail for them to die slowly, all because they wore pants or held hands with a neighborhood boy; the nearly 400 people who are executed yearly by being hung in clusters of dozens from a single street light, carefully so as to not break their necks, and left to writhe around in that cluster desperately, being suffocated for the agonizing 40 minutes it takes for them to die) like to paint Iran as some sort of victim of western colonialism that needs to be left alone. On the other hand, people who do know what’s going in Iran are either too selfish and concerned with their own government to care, or they let themselves be bullied by the cretins in charge of the Iranian government and scared out of saying anything that might be considered hostile. It’s not terribly different from how the civilized world allows entire states to be openly gay-bashing without challenging them and openly ridiculing them for their savage beliefs. People should be ashamed to be homophobic in the 21st century.
But people believe what they believe because of their life experience which taught them that believing in X was good and believing in Y was not; they may be wrong, but are they really to blame for believing in something more than they are to blame for being of a certain color?
The role of reason and logic is to allow for beliefs that are not based on personal experience. If your beliefs have the potential to harm others, even the slightest bit, you have absolutely no excuse for them, even if you were one of the kids standing next to me on that school yard every morning who wasn’t quite as lucky and didn’t manage to leave before the rape of his psyche became permanent. If you’re capable of logic and reason, I’m going to challenge you when I disagree. Whatever excuse you have for coming to that belief is invalidated once you’re faced with the better alternative, understand it, and choose not to adhere to it. I’ll gladly criticize and ridicule you for that.
Those who are unable or unwilling to have these conversations aren’t to be tolerated or surrendered to. I understand, more lucidly than most people, that the words that come out of people’s mouths can be placed there by others and not at all be that person’s fault, but by excusing such people you allow them to create more like themselves. The teachers that led us in chanting, “Death to America! Death Israel!” at 6 years-old were no less brainwashed than many of the students they no doubt affected. That’s not going to stop me from trying to put an end to it.
If you’re willing to have a reasonable discussion about your beliefs, then be ready to be criticized. I welcome your efforts to do the same. If you’re not willing to have a reasonable discussion then stand the fuck back, because I for one don’t have any intention to respect any culture of brainwashing murderers and am sure as hell not scared of them. No belief is sacred. No belief should be allowed to go unchallenged for any reason. The murder and mutilation of children isn’t a matter of “cultural tolerance.”