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Header: Jess Anderson in Madison Wisconsin
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Bigotry
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Background
Late in 1996, in a Usenet newsgroup concerned with bodybuilding, a person I consider to be intellectually dishonest and a homophobe published libel and other distortions about me, claiming my failure to denounce immediately on anti-Fundamentalist sentiment expressed by one of the other posters was prima facie evidence of tolerance on my part for anti-Christian bigotry.

My purpose is not to recapitulate the foolishness of one Robert Ames of Toronto, his total lack of logic to one side. Rather, since the subject is off-topic for misc.fitness.weights, I will try to develop here a clear position on these complex issues. Anyone who cares to look here can discover some of what I think about prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry. I hope the opinions will stand on their own merits, rather than being considered merely an answer to the ravings of an obsessed detractor.

Introduction
It's necessarily a drawn-out task. These are not abstract or academic matters. Real human beings are being killed, beaten, tortured, raped, terrorized, intimidated, denied basic rights, and many other awful and unlawful things, all as a result of prejudice based on culture, nationality, ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality, spiritual belief systems, and many other categories, real or imagined, in the human mind.

It seems to me there are few greater evils loose on the planet than these, unless they be poverty, hunger, illness, and homelessness, even as those tragedies are often inextricably connected to prejudice. We shall see where the effort leads, but as it leads to many places, some of them very real thickets of contradiction and conflict, I'm not really sure how much I'll be able to develop that is clear, consistent, and (worst threat of all) not res ipse loquitur.

Basic principles
I don't propose to elaborate at all on what I happen to feel in the way of spiritual beliefs. I see that as a private, personal matter and no one's business but my own. I think the world would be better if more people did likewise about their religions.

In part to stake out a major section of the terrain, I will assert now that I condemn any and all forms of racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia and spiritual or religious intolerance, among other social evils. Even this simple statement immediately plunges us into deep issues, for none of those categories is a simple thing. People of undisputable good will can differ on any of them in a big way. But because Ames made his libelous claims on the question of religious bigotry, I'll start with that, specifically with the issue of contempt for so-called Fundamentalist Christians in the US.

Christian bigotry
Bigotry toward Christians certainly exists. I deplore it. But to talk about it clearly, we have to have some common understanding about what is Christian and what isn't, for much evil has been and continues to be done by people and institutions that claim to be Christian.

I'm not especially well-versed in the Bible, and I know even less about theology or the history of religions. But I cannot imagine anyone or anything that openly or covertly advocates a policy of hatred and intolerance toward others as having any right to call itself Christian. Very clearly there are "Christians" who preach hatred; they themselves are bigots, and I deplore them too.

So while I condemn prejudice against sincere Christians or against Christian institutions that genuinely espouse universal love and respect for all peoples, I can hardly condone those persons or institutions that seek in any way to disenfranchise women, sexual minorities, believers in other faiths, or nonbelievers. Still less can I countenance the intrusion of organized religion into civil affairs, notably in matters of blurring or eliminating the distinction between church and state political influence.

Fundamentalism, whether Christian, Islamic, or Jewish (the major religions in the US) tends to be authoritarian, doctrinaire, and even tyrannical. The same could be said of the more extreme forms of atheism. As long as these beliefs are accepted by the adherents for themselves personally, that's no public affair of mine, whatever I may think of it privately.

But when such beliefs are proselytized as "good" for society more generally, serious problems arise at once. Those who seek to regulate others in such matters as, say, public funding for education, school curriculums, textbook choices, and the like are doing what I see as an unacceptable thing, policies that I would certainly resist in every legal way.

Somewhat as a case in point, in 1997 I received email from a person whose identity I will keep private, but whose letter to me exemplifies just about everything awful I'm referring to above. If it interests you (it made me feel very sorry for the writer's lack of simple humanity and fearful lest his benighted attitude might be commonplace), you can check out a letter from a "Christian" bigot for yourself. At least a little more subtle, but equally illogical is this exchange with a local crackpot from 1998.

Hate-mailer spinelessness
There is an amazingly consistent tenor to homophobic hate mail. The senders invariably make themselves anonymous. They always discredit themselves more then the target by what they say. Here's a recent feedback from my web site, including the identifying headers serving to mask a person too immature to take responsibility for their own ideas.

[to be continued: there is so much!]

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