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Being “sensitive” enough to hide our intolerance February 10, 2010

Posted by laïcité in Religion, Singapore.
Tags: , , , , , ,

It was all over today’s newspapers: Pastor Rony Tan of the Lighthouse Evangelism independent church was called up by the Internal Security Department for his insensitive comments about Buddhists and Taoists in videos posted on his church’s website.

Let’s not pretend that this is shocking news. I even wrote about it a couple of posts ago: religious texts, especially those of monotheistic faiths, do not lack in their praise and justification for the intolerance of other beliefs. So why would it be surprising if the religious leaders themselves expressed such opinions? Having attended some Christian services myself (Don’t ask why. Long story), where palmistry, astrology, atheism, Islam and “mystical” religions like Buddhism and Hinduism, were described as being the “worship of false idols”, “black arts of the devil”, or “sure ways to damnation”, all in the span of a single sermon, I can say that the only thing unique about Pastor Tan’s case was the fact that it was recorded and exposed to the public eye.

All this brings me to an important question: does this mean that such “insensitive” comments should be censored out of sermons? In his apology, Pastor Tan himself stated that he would not make such comments again. The ISD’s position is also one which requires being sensitive to other religions.

But what good would this do, except merely to maintain a thin veneer of religious tolerance over a festering sentiment of continued disrespect and intolerance that is never addressed? What is the point of trying to shield ugly beliefs from the scrutiny of the multi-religious public sphere, when those beliefs are still held in the individual and collective minds of the faithful? Is that really a better option than allowing those ugly beliefs to be expressed, and condemned, out loud? We will never reach true religious harmony (a fragile equilibrium state of peace, maybe, but not harmony) if we continue to mistakenly equate “the hiding of intolerance” with “tolerance”.

Racism, intolerance, sexism and homophobia have been protected and defended by the untouchability of religion for too long. It’s time we question the morality and validity of religious beliefs and texts, instead of just sweeping these jarring examples of intolerance under the rug of false harmony. Censoring intolerance would not make it disappear, especially when such intolerance and disdain for those who are not “like us” continues to be glorified in holy texts.

In this way, I’m glad that Pastor Tan said what he did, and all of us Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists and nonbelievers came to know about it. If anything, it serves as an excellent opportunity for religious leaders and followers to re-examine their beliefs, and to open their eyes to see the fuels for intolerance not so subtly hidden in their religious texts and teachings.



1. deathstar44 - February 10, 2010

Excellent post! Well said.

2. AF - February 10, 2010

I suppose that the best we can hope is that it is at least a tiny beginning of some understanding that there is more than one way of looking at the same subject.

One day, perhaps, I suspect a very, very long time into the future, we’ll all just accept that each of us believes what we believe and there’s an end to it.

Good post…

3. Lee Chee Wai - February 10, 2010

It is the big elephant in the room nobody wants to acknowledge, just like racial prejudices. As if somehow, “status quo” and sticking a “Harmony” label onto these two elephants will make them go away.

4. The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Daily SG: 10 Feb 2010 - February 10, 2010

[…] Kwang Sheng – Random Thoughts Of A Free Thinker: Now that he has apologised.. – Laïcité: Being “sensitive” enough to hide our intolerance – Singapore Kopi Tok: Pastor Rony Tan – Simply Gab: Being sensitive to our over-sensitivity – […]

5. sloo - February 10, 2010

True True so true! Now if only our authorities and leaders had the guts to deal with this issue ernestly and deeply, perhaps we can achieve a real harmony based on a genuine desire for peace

6. The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Weekly Roundup: Week 07 - February 13, 2010

[…] Kwang Sheng – Random Thoughts Of A Free Thinker: Now that he has apologised.. – Laïcité: Being “sensitive” enough to hide our intolerance – Singapore Kopi Tok: Pastor Rony Tan – Simply Gab: Being sensitive to our over-sensitivity – […]

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