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Religious freedom?

The big debate is currently around people having the rights to exercise their religious beliefs – freedom of speech basically. But the real issue isn’t our rights to exercise our faith so much as questioning the veracity of those beliefs in the first place.

Let’s face it, if I was a Satanist wanting to introduce religious education into schools and petitioning government to make live animal sacrifices legal…. well we all know how well that would go. “But it’s not the same thing!!” we cry “everyone knows Satanism is wrong and evil”. Really? Technically, it’s a religion, and has the same legal rights as any other religion. So why shouldn’t they be free to exercise their “firmly held religious convictions” and be free to openly discriminate against Christians?

The questions we should all be asking are around the belief systems themselves. We should be looking at why any religion discriminates against another human for any reason. We need to dig deep into religious culture and question the veracity of every belief and how they affect our society. We have to have the guts to challenge beliefs that damage and divide – beliefs that create pain, suffering and abuse. To ignore these questions and blithely grant the status of “religious freedom” to Christianity (or any other religion) is to be complicit in the damage caused!

So lets have the guts to be honest and upfront. Let’s challenge those beliefs and expose them for what they are instead of wasting time around people’s rights to express them.

In saying that, I’m not calling for some Christian hate campaign. On the contrary – we’ll never get anywhere by simply fighting and discriminating against religious beliefs. The key – as always and in all things – is love, patience and empathy. That’s not the same as tolerating a destructive belief – it’s standing up to them with facts, reason and patience. If we mock and belittle those beliefs we create bigger barriers and lose any hope of speaking truth.

It’s a narrow road we walk when trying to simultaneously bring truth and love to humanity. We must be strong enough to say no, but also compassionate enough to bring understanding and break the walls instead of making them bigger. Our common humanity, love and compassion for ALL must come before, and/or be the basis of, any religious beliefs. If not, those beliefs should not get any freedom of expression to the rest of the world. Believe them of you want, just don’t expect to have any rights to inflict them on others.

We can do it – if we are prepared to cut to the real issues with bravery and compassion.

Live loved!

 

Division in the ranks

The term “LGBT community” is an immensely broad brush stroke that tries to define all the variations of sexuality and gender humans experience. We are often obliged to add more subgroups into the term to embrace everyone) LGBTQIA etc. The list keeps growing as we all desire our own label to communicate exactly who we are to others.

This is a normal human reaction to life. We love labels!

But there’s a problem with labelling in regards to sexuality and gender. We are all, every single human on the planet, somewhere on the sliding scales of sexual identity/expression and gender identity/expression as well as physical gender attributes. There simply aren’t two people who experience exactly the same identifications and expression. The following chart explains the basic spectrum for all humans. While not perfect, it does give us the basic idea.

The significance of all this is obvious – labels are almost redundant and quite often, counterproductive, creating misunderstanding, rejection and division – despite our best intentions to find our own unique niche.

Ideally (and yes, I’m an idealist), we should all have the freedom to simply be who we are, whatever that looks like. Don’t get me wrong, we do need some way of identifying ourselves so that we can find friends and communities we can relate to. But there is a lot of bigotry and judgement that goes on, even (or especially?) by others who identify as being on the spectrum.

Drag queens, cross dressers and trans women often don’t see eye to eye. Butch lesbians and trans men get into spats. Asexuals feel left out. And of course, the attitudes towards the flamboyant feminine gays by masculine gay men can be disgusting. I even found a group that call themselves G0ys (that’s gay with a zero instead of an a). These guys identify with the idea that we are all on a spectrum of sexual attraction, but they actively denounce anyone who doesn’t fit their “look and behave like a straight male” paradigm and have extreme opinions about the evils of anal sex. Sadly, just another bunch of people who, while trying to create a broader acceptance for the male sexual continuum, have created deeper bigotry instead.

My dream is to slowly lose the LGBTIQwhatever label as we learn to accept our uniqueness. Let’s stop denigrating others because we don’t understand or they “aren’t like us”. There’s enough of this in all areas of life without it affecting those of us who have to battle for the right to simply be who we are.

I’m “gay”, I’m only attracted to men, I express myself as reasonably masculine but have some aspects of the feminine psyche that “soften” me (damn those jazz hands). But that doesn’t mean I want to be pinholed as a bear or whatever silly sub-label you want to dump on me.

I’m Jim.

I love and respect every human equally, and I accept that no two people are at exactly the same point on the spectrum of gender and sexuality. We are bigger than the stereotypes!

 

 

Popper’s Paradox

Free speech,

Tolerance,

Unconditional love…


How do these things work in reality?


In 1945 the philosopher Karl Popper proposed the paradox of tolerance.

In a nutshell he said “if a society is tolerant without limit, their ability to be tolerant will eventually be seized or destroyed by the intolerant”, or to paraphrase that: we can only survive by being intolerant about intolerance.

As we all know, white supremacy and all it’s ugly variants are making headlines and empowering those who secretly embrace those views to speak out. There’s also the current political mess in Australia over gay marriage, where conservative christians are doing all they can to stop it.

So where do we draw the line on free speech and religious freedom?

We have to draw it somewhere, or our society will become victim to it and we will loose those very freedoms!

The balance is in how we confront them. If we use “violence” (physical, vocal or in any form) we are playing the same game, and when confronted in this way, the intolerant simply dig their heels in and use the opposition to fuel more intolerance.

Respect for their humanity is key. To recognise that we could be the same if we’d been raised in a different environment is a sobering thought. It’s a learned trait, something we aren’t just born with. So compassion and empathy is the key to any communication, bypassing the rhetoric and reactionary thought processes and focussing on understanding why people are like this.

At the risk of being overly simplistic, it comes down to a lack of love. They never experienced the type of unconditional love themselves that breeds self worth and empathy for others. They are broken and angry, but instead of looking within, they are lashing out at the rest of us.

But they still have to be stopped from spreading this disease, and that’s where we have to draw lines. Although love is the only “cure” for these people, we still have to deal with the affects they are having on our society.

The alt right issue is pretty obvious, but the christian right style of bigotry, especially towards LGBT people is more complex because of the religious freedom problems. And that opens a very large can of worms because it will eventually confront all religions on issues of bigotry and tolerance.

Perhaps it’s time we stop being afraid of challenging people’s belief systems?

We can do this with love and patience without compromising our stand. They believe they are doing the right thing, so we have to talk to their hearts, bypass the religious rhetoric and present compassion and empathy for the broken as our motivation.

We also have to remember that for most christians it’s a case of “the bible says so”, and that’s a tough nut to crack. But with the same level of compassion we can help them to understand that their views are in error, as have been so many christian opinions over the centuries, that had to be adjusted and morality, ethics and science outgrew the ignorance of ancient culture.

We must be strong but loving – compassionate but without compromise – draw the lines but help them gently step over them. It’s hard work, but if we can step back from our own reactionary thought processes we will be able to exercise the love they need to see in action.

 

 

(Originally published 24/8/17 on Jim’s Awesome Blog)