It’s clear there’s a lot I need to learn about how people feel about religion — especially other people’s religions.
Personally, other people’s religious beliefs don’t threaten me except for the ones that incite people to violence or to unconstitutional legislation. (And, please, let’s not get into historical debates about precisely which religious sects that might be…). Thus, for example, I got myself into a little trouble last week by suggesting that during the stike UM classes might meet in near-by local religious establishments, including a local Catholic church. It seems that, contrary to my expectations, a small but appreciable minority of our students would be troubled by this, although I don’t know if it’s because, being church goers, they object to the profanation of the church’s common room (it’s not the main sanctuary, but I don’t know if that was clear at the time), or if they belong to a different tradition and would find entering a Catholic church in some way uncomfortable. Incidentally, since this same space is our local precinct’s polling station, and I and everyone in this neighborhood have been voting there for years, if it’s true that there’s something off-putting about the space we have a bigger problem than where to hold classes…
Which brings me to my complete mystification about this post at TalkLeft: Jerry Falwell: Jews and Muslims Can’t Go to Heaven:
Jerry Falwell gets further and further out there. His latest knucklehead theory is that Jews and Muslims can’t go to heaven.
While I am a strong supporter of the State of Israel and dearly love the Jewish people and believe them to be the chosen people of God, I continue to stand on the foundational biblical principle that all people — Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Jews, Muslims, etc. — must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to enter heaven. -Jerry Falwell
Eh? “Knucklehead theory”? “Apologize”?
First off, this is hardly some new theory of Falwell’s: as I understand it, it’s pretty much routine, main-stream, evangelical Protestantism. And it’s not limited to Jews and Moslems: many evangelicals, including I’d suspect Jerry Falwell, believe that because only those ‘born again’ can go to Heaven, it follows that Catholics, not being ‘true Christians’, are excluded too (or damned, if you prefer). And many undoubtedly would say the same about members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Scientologists.
Second, Falwell is surely entitled to believe whatever he wants about what it takes to get to Heaven. And to preach it. So long as he isn’t threatening anyone with violence in this life, nor asking the state to impose any disabilities on them, nor seeking for special government cash or legal status for his own church and faithful, why on earth should he have to apologize for professing his faith, even if might offend Jews, Moslems, Catholics, Mormons, Quakers, Buddhists and many others?
And anyway, why should people of other faiths be offended? Or even care? If some people believe something about an afterlife which happens to differ from my beliefs, what difference is it to me — so long as they neither try to speed me towards the afterlife nor try to limit me in the enjoyment (or even propagation) of my own views in this one? Not being part of his flock, Falwell’s views on the afterlife simply have no relevance to me. Isn’t letting him preach them the essence of the First Amendment bargain?
But evidently this is not as widely shared a view as I would have expected and hoped.