Religious intolerance – that unseemly unwillingness to grant equal freedom of expression to others – comes in varying degrees ranging from subtle to overt. But whether insidious or blatant, it warrants attention and elimination if at all possible.
It was intolerance for religion, after all, that was the catalyst spurring the Pilgrims to embark on their journey to an unknown world. And it was their burning desire to fend off such intolerance that led to the eventual guarantee of freedom of religion in our nation's Constitution.
When carried to the extreme, such intolerance can lead to tragedy, such as the murder of an innocent Sikh service station operator in Mesa several weeks ago when a deranged individual gunned him down based on the twisted assumption that the man was Muslim and that the Muslim faith was responsible for the Sept. 11 horrors. Had the victim been Muslim, of course, it would have made no difference, as there is no justification for such a hate-filled, insane act. But it happened.
Another act of terror initiated by bigots targeting the religious community involves their torching of churches and synagogues. (We're not aware of any mosque burnings, but concede the possibility, based on the decidedly weird mind-set of that tiny segment of the population that sees such acts as a valid way to express their views.)
It goes without saying that we're "preaching to the choir" in this endeavor to further a "live and let live" attitude when it comes to condemning acts of religious intolerance, which 99.9 percent of us recognize as being un-American and unconscionable.
Maybe it would be a good time to note that the followers of Islam, Judaism and Christianity are this year celebrating their religious holidays of Ramadan, Hanukkah and Christmas, respectively, within the same month – a rare occurrence and one that we hope might foment an air of cohesiveness, tolerance and compassion all the way around.
In the familiar words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: "We have a dream…"