Fear and Loathing of Intolerance Part 1: Religion

by Tony X Stanton

I came to an astounding realization at a very young age.  The human race is a bunch of absolute screaming dicks.  We judge people based on the most spurious of reasons.  It can be the color of their skin, the religion they follow, the sex they find attractive or even just being a bit different or odd.  So this is the first in a series of articles where I want to examine why as a species we behave like a bunch of judgmental dickwads in various ways.  Intolerance is all around us and it makes us weaker as a world.  The core message in this series is the fact that you can not and should not fight intolerance with even more intolerance and hatred. So I’m going to start with religious intolerance and more specifically the demonization that I see going on all over the world.

It may seem odd that although I don’t follow any specific religion, I as a boring straight Caucasian male feel the need to write this series of articles.  In fact if my skin was any whiter I’d be fucking transparent.  But I’ve always been cursed with thinking deeply about things.  It never made sense to me to believe in something just because everyone else did or because I was told to.  As a child in my early teens I went to a Catholic school, where you were told to simply ‘believe, don’t question…’ That just didn’t add up to me, why were we not allowed to ask questions to test the veracity of the whole Bible story? Were they hiding something? Were there some dark parts we were too young to know?

So I did something very few teenagers in my home town ever did…. I read the bible to see what I thought of it.  Then it occurred to me that maybe other religions may have a better point of view or make more sense.   So I read the Torah, the Koran (an English translation of it), some Hindu texts and so it went on and on.  It was my secret,  because let’s face it… when your 16-20 years old none of your mates are going to be too impressed with the fact you’re reading ‘religion’ for fun.  Let alone other religions.

That’s why victimizing someone or generalizing a person or group of people just based on somewhat spurious reasons makes no god damned sense to me.  It’s an unfortunate fact that human beings hate anything or anyone that’s different.  Anyone who sticks out and doesn’t move with the majority or follow the crowd is always in for a tough time.  But if we judge others by the cover they come in then we risk not knowing that the book itself may be rather interesting.  So in the same way as the different kids always had a far tougher time when at school, we often single out those we deem to be different.

At the moment, the religious group getting hammered as ‘evil’ are Muslims.  So whether it’s due to sometimes dressing a little differently than the majority in the West or the fact that Middle Eastern languages sound so different to the sounds within Western ones, right now a demon is needed to blame… and tag, they’re it!  The media portrays them as barely human hot heads that seemingly have a penchant for world domination and cutting people’s heads off (with a side order of blowing shit up.)  But they aren’t the first religious group to be vilified, and they certainly won’t be the last, if history is in any way to judge the future.  They are just the most recent in a long line of isolating a group to blame for problems that we perceive cannot possibly be our fault.

But generalisation is the mother of all fuck-ups.  Would you judge Christians as a whole on the actions or beliefs of the KKK?  Would you think these pointy hat wearing motherfuckers are representative of all Christians?  How about the Westboro Baptist Church?  If that sounds too crazy how about the Salvation Army whose local arm near me has a building with the phrase  To cleanse the world with blood and fire! carved onto it in two foot tall letters above the damn door? Can you imagine if a mosque had that carved above the door? It’d be a major news story all over the western world!   So in a similar way that the aforementioned lunatics are not representative of all Christian religions (or even the West itself), all Muslims are not evil.

Sometimes if you flip the things being portrayed from one bunch of religious extremists to another you find a lot of similarities.  Catholicism has often declared throughout the centuries that there is only ‘one true god’ and waged religious wars on unbelievers. It has also, at times in its past, included a small minority of nutters who managed to create all kinds of evil in the name of religion.  Every race creed or colour has more than its own fair share of nutcases and whack jobs who are using any excuse they can to raise some hell.  I’m lucky enough to have met and talked to people from all sorts of religions, and 99% are normal people just like you and me.  Some may be religious in a sort of loose way the same many Christians only visit a church once in a blue moon but ‘try to live a good life’.  Some may be very religious and try to follow what they believe to be the word of god as best they can. So why do we feel the need to have a bogey man to blame for what sometimes is due as a direct result of actions by leaders who have acted in our name?

The west often still tries its level best to bring ‘civilzsation to the savage hordes’ in the same way it has through history.  It’s a constant within our society, the need to feel better than someone else. Part of a nationalistic need to be enlightened enough to bring our lovely warm capitalism to them and make them civilised. (But not TOO civilised or they may end up richer than us!)  I’ve actually heard normally sane and regular people use phrases such as ‘those heathens need to be wiped out, they can’t be trusted to not cause shit.’  You know that’s been tried before. It’s called genocide and as a general rule it hasn’t worked out too fucking well in the past.  Anyone who thinks wiping out an entire race or religion just because they feel threatened has bigger issues than whatever religion someone follows or god they pray to.  That’s using the same excuse as radicals and fundamentalists of all religions have done in the past.

All extremists, regardless of their flavour of religion, will warp and twist a book or text to best fit their goals.  They need a reason that will seem to make sense to some so they can do all the damn killing and violence that they like.  That way they can always say it’s in some god’s name.  It’d be far more refreshing if these types just admitted it’s all just a cover story and what they really want to do is raise some hell and kill as many people as they can.

Another common question is why don’t Muslims do more to stop these extremists?  Well let me answer that with a question: When was the last time you tried to stop the KKK or the Westboro Baptist church? (…and no… posting something on line or writing an article does not count!)  Have you ever taken direct action to stop them?  The vast majority have not.

If all religions had never existed you would still have these exact same people doing the exact same things with just another excuse used to verify to both themselves and others that they aren’t evil really… just following orders, regardless of whether they think those orders come from a god or somewhere else.  How many schizophrenics have claimed they only wiped out a family because a voice in the TV made them?  Is that any different really?  It doesn’t really matter where someone thinks the message they follow comes from, whether it be from a god, a religious book, the fucking TV, or the Teletubbies, people will always find a way to justify their evil.

So how do we stop these people?  Do we bomb the shit out of them and try to bring ‘civilization to the heathens’ again? Because that hasn’t worked out too well in history.  People of different cultures are not somehow less than you.  Believing that will only lessen the person you are.  But yes there are those such as ISIS that want to kill and use a warped version of their religion to do so.  Do we fight intolerance with even more intolerance?  Intolerance that we back up with bombs and drones and all sorts of other weapons no Western power wants to admit they use?  Against often countries that have nothing…zip…zero.  This is equivalent to a 16 year old kid stamping on a 5 year old kid’s sand castle.  No we shouldn’t fight the likes of ISIS with more intolerance backed with nasty weapons. Ironically we should fight them by showing tolerance and letting them become the Westboro Baptist church of Islam. So don’t worry, nutcases of any religion always burn themselves out once they have to do the boring things like create a working infrastructure of hospitals, roads, schools, etc.  Without these no country is sustainable and so logically ISIS will burn itself out as well. But alas, those that make the weapons would far rather we all keep fighting and shooting and bombing each other so they keep diving into huge vats of money like Scrooge McDuck.

So which god someone follows is of no consequence. They should be able to follow whatever god they like without persecution.  If someone wants to pray to Mickey Mouse they should be able to. What anyone else things is immaterial.  If someone gets something positive out of something and it isn’t harming anyone else why are we so bothered?

No one should ever have to live in fear of intolerance that forces them to live grouped up in ghettos to protect themselves.  Wherever you have intolerance towards a group, they inevitably band together for protection and support.  Would you honestly say you would do anything different if you had a gauntlet such as that to wade through every single day of your life?  Or would you one day decide it’d all be far easier and less stressful to be around others similar to yourself who are also being persecuted?

Always put yourself in the other person’s shoes and ask yourself how you would behave and react if you were in their position.  Would you go in all high and mighty and ‘raise some hell and show those nutcases who’s boss’ or would you like 99.9% of people simply roll over, try to ignore the crazies and get on with your life as best you could?  Chances are the media would be simply telling you to roll over and take it like a good little boy.

But let’s not forget many of these crazies are crazies that we have created, or at the very least our leaders have.  Back in the Gulf War we rounded up a shit load of people and stuck them in a huge camp (one of many) most without trial and many of them innocent  of any wrongdoing.  These places then became a terrorist version of Harvard or Oxford University.  The innocents, angry as all hell and locked away with a bunch of fucking violent lunatics became desensitized and learned how to ‘fight back’ from these crazy bastards.

Fast forward to Gulf War 2 (the sequel…now with even bigger explosions!), and the West hires these very same people at a rate of $300 a day to fight and do all the nasty shit we don’t want to admit to doing.  Then magically we are told ‘hey guys! Iraq is sorted now…we can all fuck off home!’  Only it wasn’t…. it really wasn’t.  We handed over control to the new government and they then stopped paying these guys their $300 a day.  Now after a good few years living like fucking kings they missed the lifestyle that money brought them.  So when what was eventually ISIS went to them and said ’hey guys we’ll hire you…but only for $200 a day’ they jumped at the chance.  Half don’t even know who they are fighting for or even that it differs from their own reasons of making us pay for shutting them in a camp with a bunch of fucking crazy bastards.  Simply put we helped to create a problem and exacerbate an existing one through a combination of bad foreign policy, corrupt politicians taking back-handers from the military industrial complex and even in some cases, just some downright evil stuff.

Can you say if you lived in Iraq and a bunch of guys broke into your house with guns, raped your wife and daughters, killed your sons then slammed you into a prison full of mad bastards who want to kill everyone that it wouldn’t leave you damaged? That one day you wouldn’t turn around and simply not be able to take any more and turn to the dark side?  There’s never been a side in any war yet that has not committed war crimes. If you think otherwise your fooling yourself.

It’s time that we realized this isn’t about religion. That’s just an excuse. Don’t blame the innocents for those psychotic fuckers who could twist any book, even Barbie goes to Toyland, into a reason to wipe people out.  We fear that which we can’t or don’t understand, so maybe the key is to try and understand others better.  Maybe then we’ll find that those we fear aren’t so very different to us after all.

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About Tony-X-Stanton 8 Articles
As an artist I've worked for the biggest Games company in the world, worked at the sharp end of visual FX for Hollywood films, as a musician composed 6 albums, wrote extensively since the age of 16 and been lucky enough to have an interesting life.