Should democracy tolerate religious intolerance?If I am prejudiced against a certain group, then I am a bigot. If my religion is prejudiced against a certain group, then I am a traditionally-minded...

Should democracy tolerate religious intolerance?

If I am prejudiced against a certain group, then I am a bigot.

If my religion is prejudiced against a certain group, then I am a traditionally-minded conservative.

Is religious prejudice acceptable? Are religious people allowed to refer to their ancient scripture to justify prejudice? Does religion have special exemptions?

9 Answers

literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I agree most with litteacher. I believe in the right for people to have religious freedoms. As litteacher points out, freedoms are only acceptable if they do not infringe on the freedoms of others. Religious intolerance should not be accepted ever, but we know that this is an impossibility. Regardless of that, a democracy should be "supportive" of individual religious intolerance. But, if a group comes together, this group can be considered a hate group. Hate groups should not be tolerated if they infringe upon the freedoms of others.

enotechris's profile pic

enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

One of the brilliant aspects of the Founding of the United States was its secular nature.  Having known enough history to understand what happens in theocracies where government is based upon religion and not reason, they wisely separated Church and State.

One is free to believe and act as one wishes, but we have laws forbidding actions that would violate Rights.  I may believe I should kill all the members of some group; but to act upon that would bring the full weight of law to curtail that action. The members of a group are free to believe, and practice, whatever they want. The only restriction is if such practices violate the Rights of others. Yes, religious "intolerance" must be tolerated.

Curiously, the term originates from those outside of the group labeling their own displeasure regarding the members of that group; no one within a group would consider their beliefs and actions intolerant.

Just because polygamy is illegal does not mean it is not practiced in Utah, where the state more or less turns a blind eye. Although the rest of the nation may balk, so what?  Unless an individual's Rights are being violated, those who believe in it should be allowed to practice in peace.  Although others may be "morally outraged," they who don't believe in it are not compelled to practice.


vangoghfan's profile pic

vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

If I am prejudiced against a certain group, then I am a bigot.

Yes, and your bigoted opinions are legally protected unless you actually try to act upon them (say, in hiring). Opinions are not illegal, but some actions resulting from opinions may be. People are free to condemn you for your bigoted opinions, but they are not free to take any legal action against you unless you yourself act illegally.

If my religion is prejudiced against a certain group, then I am a traditionally-minded conservative.

Everything said above about prejudice applies here, although religious institutions are free to dictate that only members of their religion can work at their institutions. This is partly because a person can change his or her religion but cannot change his or her race or ethnicity. Our country was founded by people who took religion very seriously and who wanted to make sure that religions were not persecuted by the state.

Is religious prejudice acceptable? Are religious people allowed to refer to their ancient scripture to justify prejudice? Does religion have special exemptions?

Religious prejudice is not legally acceptable except when it is practiced by religious institutions.  It is wholly illegal and unacceptable when practiced by non-religious institutions. If I want to teach at a Church of Christ college, but the Church of Christ college will not hire anyone who is not a member of the Church of Christ, I am always free to become a member of the Church of Christ. Religious institutions can cite any source of belief they like to justify not hiring or admitting people who do not share their beliefs.  Religion in this country does indeed have some special exemptions, partly because the founders of the nation wanted to protect freedom of religion.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

On the other hand, presumably none of us is willing to argue that polygamy ought to be legal in the United States.  Most of us probably aren't that into allowing smoking marijuana for religious reasons.   So aren't we then being intolerant based on our own moral beliefs?  There is no way to have a democracy without imposing the beliefs of some on others.  We just have to find some way to avoid imposing "too many" (whatever that is) of our moral beliefs on others.

lorrainecaplan's profile pic

Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

What people seem to forget is that our religious freedom, like our freedom of speech, is meant to protect the least popular, not the mainstream.  Religious intolerance is something we must tolerate, but we must never allow it to form the basis of our governance.  That is one reason elections, from state legislatures to the upcoming presidential election, are terribly important.  Should I be forced to without birth control or bear a child that is the consequence of rape or incest because of the religious beliefs of the majority of people who elect someone if these are not my religious beliefs?

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I think there is a fine line here.  While a democracy should be open to different views, none of those views should infringe on the rights of others.  In a "free country" you can believe what you want to believe, but so can everyone else.

rrteacher's profile pic

rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Not simply religious tolerance, but outright religious freedom is one of the cornerstones of western democracy. Whether it is compatible in other contexts is an open question.  However, in democracies, this only extends to legal discrimination and outright persecution. You are not in any way required to accept the tenets of any other faith, and you are entitled to practice your own.

bhawanipur's profile pic

bhawanipur | College Teacher | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

This is a good topic to discuss and come to a conclusion. There are so many religions in the world. But those are called the true paths to attain peace of mind only by a few of us. Scriptures are the out come of their realized knowledge. They have tried to put them in scriptures with the help of stories they took from the contemporary society. Later on these scriptures were considered to be useful for men and society to attain peace and live and die in peace. People began to have stern believe in those teaching.

In the passes of time, these religions and teachings have been put to questions. Many philosophical theories have come up in different parts of the world. Most of them the religions came into being in the past. Democracy existed then also. And therefore the saints could teach and spread the teaching among people. People found it befitting to solve their earthly cares and accepted them. If we see, the scriptures are full of moral lessons. Some of them thought like us. Socrates said that there were so many works to do and achieve than to worship Athenee. Christianity talked of charity and Islam of sacrifice. Buddha taught of acquiring knoledge and some taught to submit to God with firm belief.

At present only we see some people trying to proselitize those and make people Islam or christian or so on. If I don't accept them, in a democratic country, nothing will happen like in India. But where there still exist fundemental laws, people suffer from mental agony.