March 13, 2011 by Bill
In a newspaper interview in another state, the reporter said this to me: “the fundamentalists say that you are intolerant. Do you think that you are?” I said to her, “you bet…I am totally intolerant of intolerance. People that use God and the bible as a big 2X4 plank to hit all the rest of us over the head are beneath contempt and need to be resisted.”
In a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Salman Rushdie presented one of the great truths of our time. He said this: “Special interest groups, claiming the moral high ground, now demand the protection of the censor. The fundamentalist Christian Right say we must “respect” their beliefs and agenda.
Criticism, they say, is off limits as being disrespectful. Citizens of free societies, democracies, do not preserve their freedom by pussyfooting around their fellow citizens’ opinions. Skepticism and freedom are indissolubly linked. And it is the skepticism of journalists, their unwillingness to be impressed, that is their most important contribution to the freedom of the free world. It is the disrespect of journalists for power, for orthodoxy, for party lines, for ideologies, for vanity, for arrogance, for folly, for pretension, for corruption and for stupidity that I would like to celebrate, and that I urge you all, in the name of freedom, to preserve.”
I have never read a finer, cleaner estimate of the price of freedom. It is the latitude and longitude of a treasure, a treasure more valuable than all of the religious dogmas of this age. The treasure is human freedom.
The Christian right wants “respect” while telling everyone else “since we don’t like abortions, NOBODY can have an abortion. Since we don’t like gays and lesbians, NOBODY is going to like them or help them. Since we don’t like books in school libraries that are not on our agenda, NOBODY is going to read anything we do not approve of. Since we do not like evolution taught in schools, NOBODY is going to hear about evolution if we have our way. If we want prayer in school and public places, EVERYONE is going to have to pray”. And on and on into the dark night of superstition, ignorance and illiteracy…as their lives are saturated with an intolerance of all other opposing views. It pours forth from their fundamentalist pulpits in an avalanche of bigotry and intolerance for gays and lesbians, pro choice decisions, separation of church and state and on and on into a return of the dark ages.
And, as I told the reporter, when I write, as a journalist, about this intolerance they give it a clever and perverted twist by accusing me of being “intolerant.” So, I said to her, “you bet I am intolerant…intolerant of such sick intolerance.”
They want “respect” while loudly proclaiming with every word and every act that they do not give a damn for “respecting” other views.
It is comforting to know that I am not alone in this perspective. Former President Jimmy Carter broke his long relationship with the Southern Baptists over their bigotry about women in marriage and the church, as well as gays and lesbians. Remember, they went into holy war against Disney for giving health benefits to same sex partners, while at the same time, in the ultimate comedy, insisted in doctrine that wives should always “submit” to husbands.
Am I intolerant of intolerance in my columns? You bet. When Harrison Salisbury won the Pulitzer Prize for his columns, he said this: “I believe in writers as a force for change in the world. They expose evil, corruption and bigotry. They give us hope and encouragement. The first act of a dictator is always to suppress writers and poets. The truth is an uncomfortable thing. If a writer lacks the courage to go against the grain, he/she is in the wrong profession. He should take up book-keeping.” Well said…so they should.