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Teens today are bombarded with multiple types of external and internal conflicts. AIDS and other STD’s impact the way they live externally; depression and suicide can govern their internal lives. However, religious tolerance grabs at both their internal and external lives. The biased media always attempts to push teens’ beliefs one way or another, yet it is the choice of the individual to which counts in the end. ApologeticsIndex.org defines religious tolerance as “Acknowledging and supporting that individuals have the right and freedom to their own beliefs and related legitimate practices, without necessarily validating those beliefs or practices.” It also defines religious intolerance as “a) Refusing to acknowledge and support the right of individuals to have their own beliefs and related legitimate practices. b) Also, the unwillingness to have one’s own beliefs and related practices critically evaluated.”
Religious intolerance can have drastic effects on the person the teen grows to be. In the Columbine massacre (1999), two young boys went around their school shooting multiple people (fatally wounding twelve), one of the boys asked a girl if she believed in God and shot her dead for her affirmative response. This is a problem specifically for the teen population because at this point in a person’s life, his or her core values are established as evidenced in the previous example. ReligiousTolerance.org, largely the most objective and fair site about religious intolerance on the Internet, says, “It seems that the media often treats clergy and other religious leaders differently from other people. Some surveys show that perhaps 40% of men commit adultery.
However, when a religious leader does it, his/her moral lapse is given great exposure – even to being reviewed on international TV. This is unfair and unbalanced treatment.” Teen’s views are being molded by false ideas thrown from the media. Teens that grow up into highly opinionated adults from their experiences of religious intolerance may become intolerant themselves because of their bad experiences.
It is difficult for someone to put his or her finger definitively on when religious intolerance became a problem. The answer will vary for different people. For some, it began after the Watergate incident when the media found it could score points with the public by changing things up a little. There had been a majority of Republican Presidents up to this point and the media thought that if they were to stop being neutral, and begin to have a liberal bias, then things would be totally different and the public would approve. For others, the question should be reworded to, when was religious tolerance not a problem? The days of intolerance go back as far as humans have controlled the world. Countries in Southeast Asia have always battled as to which religion is superior. The Greek city-state officials simply declared that the state religion would be followed, no questions asked. In the book of Genesis, that is, the book of the beginning, the Tower of Babel was raised and then brought down by the God of Christians, Jews, and Muslims.
This God would then destroy their universal language and create new cultures and peoples which is said to have lead to religious diversity (which would obviously lead to religious intolerance). Every place on the world must deal with religious intolerance. In the Middle East and in Africa nearly every country is ruled by a harsh Muslim theocracy. Many missionaries have been killed by these harsh totalitarian regimes. In Europe and America, secular ideologies have overrun any ideas of religion. These governments, or at least the people that speak for their ideas (e.g. Freud, Darwin), declare, “God is dead” and get away with it. Russia is slowly working its way back to its atheistic roots; in 1997, the government passed a law to ban activity by missionaries from foreign religious groups, unless they seek permission. In other, very uncivilized parts of the world, only tribal religions are in place, and anyone that challenges the system is murdered.
The problem has come about in two distinctly different ways. The first is where there is an extreme reluctance to change (e.g. Islam in the Middle East). The other comes in a form where change has happened all too rapidly. For example, secular countries like America and others in Europe have gone from origins in religion, to actually putting down religion (mainly through the media; Bernard Goldberg, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News). Saying that religious intolerance is a problem is a massive understatement and the numbers certainly do not lie.
In a study by the University of North Carolina, a poll was taken of seniors in high school about organized religion. An astonishing one third of seniors felt alienated by organized religion. Of these numbers, half the students felt hostile towards organized religion and another half felt no emotions towards it. One third is not a majority, but a whole third of the adult population is an alarming number. In this trend, it is to be expected that nearly 50% of youth will feel threatened by organized religion in little more than a decade (The Empty Church : Does Organized Religion Matter Anymore by Thomas C. Reeves). In a Youth Gallup Poll (ages 13-17), 40% of youth who are identified as “non-churchgoers” agree that “most Muslims around the world are accepting of other religions.” This number compares to only 27% of “churchgoers” who believe Muslims are religiously tolerant.
This is a stark contrast. Are churches spreading intolerance, or are “churchgoers” just more educated on Islam? This is a question that can only be answered by some future pollsters. When questioned, Yale University students describe other students on campus as being very tolerant; however, the students complain that many professors openly attack religion. A recent (2002) Gallup Poll has shown that “While those who are not members of faith communities are just as likely to be tolerant of other faiths as those who are members (tolerance levels for both groups are at 46%), members are more likely than non-members to be integrated (40% vs. 30%) and also less likely to be isolated (14% vs. 24%).” These differences suggest that most faith communities are doing a good job in promoting respect for other faiths. Religious intolerance is a problem that is not getting any better. There are those who are fighting for tolerance, but the majority of the population is either inactive or fighting against tolerance.
Religious tolerance is not a simple conflict like AIDS, which everyone would like to see resolved. Some are too unwilling to change and others are too willing to change (to change to a society that excludes religion). Few are actually willing to put apart their own opinions and decide to help the cause. ReligiousTolerance.org is a prime example of a website with a mission and an attitude of determination to get something done. However, no matter how hard anyone tries, it is impossible to come across completely objective. All people develop their own paradigm to live in, which has been shaped by life happenings. There are numerous Wicca organizations on the web that scream that they want religious diversity yet are unable to receive any because of media portrayal of their religion. Most research on the topic of religious tolerance will only yield opinions on the here and now of the conflict. No one is willing to guess what may be next for the global community. Governments are the only authorities that will decide where each nation will be headed on religious tolerance.
Religious intolerance is a plague unto the world. It spreads hate and fuels ignorant protests. Religious intolerance is fueled in a dual realm of extreme tolerance that leads to the decimation of religion (and ends up existing as intolerance rather than tolerance) and an extreme intolerance (which taints the face of religion as a face which is borne of intolerance). Many sites on the Internet publish information to counterbalance intolerance, yet no one is standing up in the public (political leaders included, although they should be the most active) to fight for the right of religion. Unfortunately, no one is worrying about today’s youth. Today’s youth is being brought up in this dual realm of confusion. Everywhere young people look intolerance looms. There is no rectification in sight for this problem, so for now teens must simply depend on the help and guidance of their parents. Anything that harms today’s teenager must be shunned. Be intolerant of religious intolerance. As paradoxical as that statement must sound, it is the only way to repair this broken global society.