How do we respect another person’s religious beliefs when our beliefs run contrary to those held by the person?
First, we give the benefit of the doubt that a person is indeed sincere in his or her beliefs and is worthy of respect. When this is disproven by behavior or statement, respect is no longer required.
Second, we accept that there may be aspects of the belief system that are not adequately clear to us as outsiders and non-believers. If we are interested, we can examine the doctrines in greater detail and with an open mind and find where that system converges or complements our own. Then we have a basis for discussion and mutual enlightenment. Or we may simply decide that we are not interested and leave the person and the religion alone for the most part.
Religious freedom means that we do not require any person to join a state religion or demand that all acquiesce to and accept a certain set of religious beliefs. Back in the days when Catholics did not eat meat on Fridays, it would have been acceptable to offer a Catholic friend tuna or peanut butter for lunch rather than a hamburger. It would have been still more respectful on a personal basis to refrain from eating meat ourselves in their presence. Yet respect also means that, in the political and public arenas, the majority will not dictate to the minority nor should the minority dictate behavior and beliefs to the majority.
It means I will respect the religious beliefs of others at the same time that I demand they respect my beliefs. This seems to me the point that is failing to be understood.
Since September 11, 2001, when the United States was successfully attacked by Muslims in the name of Islam, the West has been on the defensive. We have been concerned about the “backlash” against Muslims. We started a “war on terror”. We should have started a war on Islamic radicals. We should have been concerned about making Islam safe for those Muslims who respect other religions, who want to assimilate and live at peace with western civilization, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, atheists, etc.
Instead of demanding that Muslims in the West respect our beliefs or leave, we have allowed the fundamentalists to intimidate us. We have given in to their demands for accommodation while failing to make them meet the requirements of living in civilized and diverse society.
Not far from where I live, there are a number of Amish families. A little further on, there are some more Amish farms that have been there for fifty years or so. Near where I grew up, several families of Amish have moved in and bought up a few old farms. We don’t ask that they drive cars or watch Jimmy Kimmel, but we do require them to have slow-moving vehicle triangles, reflectors and lights on their buggies. We let them milk their cows by hand, but we expect them to use electricity to run the refrigeration unit on their community bulk tank because that milk is sold to the public.
The Amish may or may not be offended by our motor vehicles, cell towers, fast food restaurants, and Fakebook pages. They don’t say much about it – not to non-Amish. I see them, and, in the summer, occasionally, smell them, at the local Dollar Store. I have never seen one grope a woman because she is wearing make-up and is immodestly dressed. I have seen them in the halls and emergency rooms at the hospital where they seem pleased to have access to modern medical equipment and the knowledge of skilled, modern physicians. They certainly pay their own way, and I respect that. They ask that we let them live as they choose, and they give us that same consideration.
Islam needs to learn this lesson. Or stay out of the West.