religious intolerance

I’m not sure if this is just a perception thing. When I was a child in Melbourne, during the 1970’s, there was a lot of religious intolerance in the suburb where I lived. We lived in a predominantly Catholic suburb while my mother was Anglican and my father can probably be best described as Confucian, though I suspect that no non-asian would understand what I mean by Confucian. It seemed to me at the time that there was not much hostility between the groups, apart from what was inspired by the priests. For instance there was great intolerance to inter church marriages. I was told that the priests said that could not get married in a Catholic Church unless you converted.

Since I have come to Sydney I have become much more aware of endless levels of religious intolerance. Here are some examples.

I was never aware that there was a difference between a high and a low anglican church. But it turns out that there is one. It turns out that what I know of as the Anglican church, was low church Anglican. Apparently there is as much intolerance between these two groups, if not more, than between the low church anglicans and the catholics. This is so extreme that the people are afraid to even enter the other groups church, and sometimes to even walk past the other church. I was just astounded and dismayed that such foolish attitudes existed. Nowadays the ones in the media are the Muslims. Though I often think of this as just a degree of scale of separation. It is basically the same religious group, just a bit further separated saying basically the same things and using the same arguments. They only change the trappings. I’ll have to ramble about this topic one day.

The unwillingness to go past a church extends past this to other holy sites. For example, I have met people who, when in a cemetery, will check to see what part they are in. They will not go into the part that belongs to another religion.

Here in Sydney, people still are much more likely to use religion as a form of elitism. I meet many more people who say or imply that, I am better than you because of my religious beliefs. They are much more likely to be nasty to people based on religious differences. They are often openly hostile to opposing views and beliefs. I am even suspicious that I have seen a purge based on religious belief. Though I am not sure if it was a policy or an individual and I have a suspicion without evidence. I find people in this city find it much more important to state or show their religious affiliations than in other Australian cities where I have lived.

I think that this kind of behavior is segregationist and hence despicable. If we live in a free, plural and tolerant society that the pundits claim, such behaviors would not exist. But instead the church groups are allowed to instill such beliefs to keep the flock on their side. There should be a code of conduct system for religions and it should be backed up by the law. Yesterday at work, I went on some training about equal opportunity type laws. I think that these should also cover the workings of religious groups. I was surprised that the person who gave the training, while extolling people to be tolerant of differences and not to be a bully, things I completely agree with, didn’t get the vilification issue at all. This shows that there is sill a long way to go in this regard.

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