January 16 is Religious Freedom Day here in the United States, which got me to thinking: Why does religious intolerance still exist in the modern world?
Many nations have joined the United Nations in condemning religious persecution, and certainly the United States strongly upholds religious freedom. No matter what their personal religion, most people have plenty of opportunities to learn about other religions from television and the Internet. In many communities, interfaith understanding events are available. Travel opportunities are more accessible than ever, so more people can travel to different countries and learn about different religions – or at least meet travelers of different religions who visit theirs.
There’s an old cliché that says “to know me is to love me” – suggesting that knowledge fosters understanding which fosters, if not love, at least tolerance. But clearly that isn’t necessarily the case. Why not?
The U.S. Department of Justice tracks hate crimes in the United States, and according to its statistics, 14 percent of hate crimes reported to the police in this country are about religion. Shockingly, the major reason found among those who commit hate crimes of any type is “thrill seeking.”
Perhaps the missing ingredient needed for more religious tolerance is respect. What are your thoughts?