Religious arrogance

Most liberals will agree that accepting a wide variety of belief systems is a good thing. Less common is critical thinking about what exactly that means in practice. Here’s a few common behaviors you might want to nix:

*Telling someone “bless you” when you don’t know they’re okay with it (and especially if they’ve asked you not to!). Although it’s common speech in many places and people might not think of the religious implications, that’s because religion and religious (usually Christian) privilege is so entrenched in that place that people typically aren’t aware of it unless they aren’t religious themselves.

*Offering to pray for people (or worse, simply informing them you’re going to). This makes many people EXTREMELY uncomfortable, especially if they subscribe to a belief system which teaches that prayers have power. Imagine a Wiccan doing spells to convert you and your family, your children to witchcraft. Praying that someone will “see the light” and come to Jesus is no different. Even if you pray for something benign, some believe it to be an attempt to abridge their free will. When in doubt, ask, politely and without assuming an affirmative answer. And please don’t press the issue. No means no.

*Inviting strangers to church when they haven’t expressed interest in your religion. This is a common form of micro-aggression with a host of implied subtext regarding your opinion of their beliefs, the state of their soul, etc.

*Attempting to force others to behave in ways mandated by your belief system (including things that are part of religious culture but not explicitly part of your religion’s sacred texts). This one’s the worst on the list, as it includes legislative restrictions on freedom (passing laws to force people to act the way you want them to). Don’t like gay marriage? Don’t get gay married. Don’t want Satanic statues on public land? Stop erecting monuments to your own beliefs.

This all boils down to respect. Even if you think everyone agrees, even if nobody complains, I *guarantee* you’re offending people too polite or too scared to speak up. By insisting on special treatment for those who share your beliefs, you’re telling everyone else that they’re second class.

The best solution by far is a secular public sphere with protections for private beliefs. Feel free to do what you want on your own time, so long as you don’t force it on others. If you provide a public service, know that your license to do business is a privilege, and with that privilege comes an obligation to serve the public without oppressing disadvantaged groups.

If you don’t like that, well, consider the alternative. If you get to discriminate, so does everyone else. That means no service from the many people you’ve disrespected – and if the people you’ve oppressed acted with the same arrogance common to the followers of dominant religions, you wouldn’t last a week.

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