One of the recent headlines that has gotten much attention is that of the British school teacher in Sudan who allowed her class to name a teddy bear Muhammed. She was arrested and there were demonstrations calling for her death. Does religious tolerance call for us to “understand” this kind of total lunacy? The religiously skeptical among us consider many of the doctrines of ALL the religions to be awfully hard to swallow but there is no doubt that organized religion brings great comfort to many of its believers.
So I propose the following solution. I suggest that appointed representatives from all the world’s religions have a summit perhaps hosted in the United States, in which religious tolerance is a longstanding tradition. The purpose of this summit would be construction of a Theocratic Bill of Human Rights whereby all of these religious leaders would discuss in detail their individual doctrines and publicly pledge to not allow the “rules” of any religion to violate the human rights of any human being. In the case of the Sudanese elementary school teacher, common sense prevailed and she was released but wouldn’t it be a bold step for the religions of the world to come together and agree that we don’t kill people (or give them 40 lashes) for naming a teddy bear Muhammed? We don’t issue a fatwa on an author for freely expressing his views in a fictional book (i.e. Salman Rushdie). We don’t teach impressionable youngsters that if they fly planes into buildings, they will be greeted with ready and willing virgins in the hereafter.
Religious tolerance is the admirable and decent road to take for a civilized society but that tolerance must hit a limit when the religion itself calls for uncivilized behavior.