The Dance of Opposing Rights


This is the end result of ideological wars…your brain turns into an atomic bomb

For many people, it seems that the definition of living in peace with others is “it happens when all my enemies are dead.”

The intense push for conformity disturbs me. I see diversity as a good thing, even a necessary thing for the continued survival of humankind. Of course, continued survival is not what many of these people are concerned with. Their religions or beliefs teach them that the only thing that matters is making other people believe the same as them.

The rift between Judaism/Christianity and Islam is possibly the biggest and most ancient ideological war. Lately I’ve been seeing Christians stooping to the level of radical Islam, calling for the complete destruction of their enemies.

I don’t think that will help. Dropping bombs on foreign civilians generally tends to anger them. You’re talking about either genocide or inciting more and more war, because don’t think that they’ll just give up trying to destroy America after we’ve killed hundreds of thousands of their people.

Claiming to follow Christianity and advocating war in which most deaths are innocent civilians would, I believe, be considered hypocrisy. Christianity teaches peace…not just hoping it happens but striving for it. Not only are you supposed to live in peace as much as possible, but you are supposed to put a lot of effort into it.

No, killing your enemies isn’t putting a lot of effort into it. That’s the easy and hateful way out, and it isn’t peace at all. Peace is harmonious relations. You can’t have any relations with dead people.

Well. We will just ignore necrophilia for the purposes of this argument because that’s a bit off topic.

People have such a hard time getting along due to selfishness. The problem is exacerbated when religion is involved. Everyone wants religious freedom for themselves, but how can one expect this freedom without also giving it to others?

Perfect freedom of religion cannot exist. A religion that believes in human sacrifice cannot have freedom to practice it without taking away the freedoms of their victims. A religion that believes some other religion should be exterminated cannot have the freedom to practice it without taking away the freedoms of the others.

Our question is where to draw the line. What things should we not have the freedom to do?

In other words, are you libertarian, authoritarian, or somewhere between the two? There are thousands of different answers…and plenty of justification to be found for most of them.

I believe a simple answer is that people have the right to do anything, unless it harms another person or infringes on their rights. Now, we have to carefully define what constitutes harming and what it means to infringe because they can be twisted.

First example of twisting: Many Christians deny that their actions which are based on beliefs—including speaking about those beliefs—actually harm LGBT people. If they don’t believe their actions and words drive kids to suicide, then they can continue their crusade for righteousness unhindered by their conscience.

Let’s assume for a moment that a Christian believes his religion requires him to verbally abuse gay people. He does so, with the approval of his god and his conscience (which, for all we know, may be one and the same). According to his religion, what he’s doing isn’t harming anyone. In fact he believes he is trying to help. And those gay people, they just keep committing suicide because they won’t listen to him and pray to be miraculously “fixed”.

Perhaps it is enough that the person feels harm. You may think it is spiritually beneficial to punch someone in the face, but the fact that they experience harm is what’s important. Remember, freedom isn’t just about what you are entitled to do without retribution. It’s also about respecting the rights of others.

So if someone speaks up and says they’re being hurt, listen to them. The person most qualified to determine what is hurting someone is the person who is being hurt.

What about infringing on their rights? Infringe means to go against, or to conflict with. Let’s say you’re happily working for Wal-Mart (insert sarcastic laughter here), and your manager is a Muslim.

You happen to be a Christian, for the purpose of this example.

Suppose the Muslim finds out you are a Christian, and suppose he believes it is wrong to employ a Christian and fires you. Do you feel discriminated against? Have your rights been violated?

Turns out, firing someone like that is illegal. Based on the freedom of religion, we have created laws protecting employees from being fired just for having an opinion on something. If you had been preaching instead of doing your job, that would be another matter, but discrimination based on a person’s private beliefs is illegal.

(Please forgive me for the ridiculous portrayal of an imaginary Muslim, it’s only to make a point.)

Now, put yourself in a new situation. You’re a closeted gay person, working for a Christian organization.

They find out you’re gay. They fire you. Surprisingly, despite being the exact same sort of discrimination as the previous example, this is still legal in many places.

Recently I saw a story about a girl who applied for a job, only to have the atheist reviewing her application notice that she went to a Christian college and send her an angry rant in rejection. So of course she became some sort of martyr for the Christian people, this person who was denied a right to get a job simply because she held beliefs contrary to those of the potential employer.

Reminds me of when thousands of Christians wrote angry letters to World Vision—and abandoned starving children—simply because the organization decided that it would be okay to hire gay people.

Christians, if you have the right to hurt LGBT people, then they have the right to hurt you. If you have the right to promote your belief that same-sex-marriage is evil, they have the right to promote the belief that your religion is evil. If you have the right to attempt to ban them from marrying whoever they love, they have the right to attempt to ban you from discriminating against them.

Don’t you get it? In both cases someone is trying to limit the ability of someone else to act on what they believe. Some Christians want to be able to deny gay people jobs and marriage. They say they have to follow their convictions.

Why can’t a gay couple follow their convictions? Does it hurt you for them to get married? No. Does it infringe on your rights? No. They should have as much right to live according to their beliefs as any Christian…thus, if Christians have the right to ban gay people from marrying whoever they love, gay people have the right to ban Christians from marrying whoever they love.

(Please don’t think that I’m assuming the two groups are mutually exclusive. There are many LGBT Christians. For the sake of brevity I’m speaking directly to the factions within the two groups that are at total odds with each other.)

So do radical Muslims have the right to act on their beliefs and massacre Christians? No. Does America have the right to massacre Muslims? No. If your beliefs require you to kill, hurt, or oppress someone else, your right to act on those beliefs should be limited—and for individuals, likely will. You still have the right to believe it, but as soon as you start acting on it, you affect others, and that’s where you enter the dance of opposing rights.


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