I recently came across an email address that announced its owner's religious rigidity and intolerance. Of course the person has the right to have such an email address, but they are active in the world of interfaith community building and use it to conduct intellectual business--even with people who do not share their beliefs.
Imagine getting a message from someone who claims to respect intellectual inquiry, verifiable evidence, academic freedom and scientific consensus, but has the email address firstname.lastname@example.org? Or someone who claims to care about gender and sexual equality but has the email address email@example.com? Or someone who worked for understanding between races but had the email address firstname.lastname@example.org?
OK, it's possible if not probable that any such address is a joke, designed to express not how the bearer sees him/herself but how s/he is seen by others. But would that make it a funny joke? Or one that's likely to help the person's cause of building bridges across different belief systems and intellectual approaches?
It's one thing to write a blog entry or comment joking about the worst way you might be seen by others. But to use it as a way of introducing and identifying yourself in the world at large? When there are so many other choices out there, like email@example.com? Or firstname.lastname@example.org?
I have to say I think this person is being either delusional or disingenuous with regards to this email address. Either they're so blind to what religious bigotry really looks that they don't think anyone will judge them for joking that they're guilty of it, or they want a way to say to others, "Hey, I really am a religious jerk and I want to announce that, but I'm going to make it sound like a joke so I can deny my real meaning."
Because ultimately, it's very hard to get around the fact that intolerance is built into orthodoxy--especially religious orthodoxy. If you really believe that in order to achieve salvation, you have to act and believe a particular way--which is the way you act and believe--it's really, really difficult to respect those who do not act or believe as you do. I'm not saying it's impossible--there might have been a half a dozen people in the history of the world who have managed to achieve it--but it's HARD. I know this from my own religious training, from the way I was taught to pity and/or fear those who did things I didn't, like drink coffee, or have sex before they got married, or vote Democrat.
What makes me crazy about this all is that the orthodox try to wriggle out of their position. "I may be a religious bigot and think you're going to hell," they shout, 'but hey, I'm still a really nice person! And you have to respect ME!"
Uh, no I don't. I don't respect you. And the difference between you and me is that I don't really care if you don't respect me--probably because I already know from all those decades of being Mormon that you don't. So why try to earn your respect, or mourn the fact that I can't?
Or they try to say, "I am not a religious bigot and I don't think you're going to hell for your beliefs. I just think that you can't achieve salvation is you aren't baptized in the Mormon church and married for time and all eternity in a Mormon temple. But that's not the same as thinking that others will be damned for their non-belief in Mormonism. So I'm a MUCH nicer person than you are."
No, you're not. You're just either too stupid to realize that you claim to hold two completely incompatible beliefs, or too hypocritical to admit it.
Here's my position: You can believe what you want. I don't think your beliefs in a personal god will harm you for all eternity--though I do think they might limit your ability in this life to recognize and employ sound logic. I reserve the right to have nothing but admiration for the way you conduct your business affairs or treat your family and nothing but disappointment--or even downright contempt--for your approach to intellectual questions, because unlike love, respect is not unconditional; respect must be earned.
And as Bill Maher says, I'm not shy about saying that I'm not the crazy one in this scenario.