My family recently received an invitation to a wedding reception. The sister of one of my brother's childhood friends is getting married, and though the ceremony is occurring in Washington, they made the gesture of sending us an invitation. Nice enough, by most standards I suppose, and yet I have it in me to be offended. For you see, there's a reason why the invitation is to the reception alone.
The people in question are Mormons, and the unelect are not permitted to sully the actual sacrament with their presence. As if that weren't offensive enough, they then expect others to happily attend a celebration of a union inaugurated in, if not quite defined by, the exclusion of otherwise valued friends and associates on the basis of religion. For my own part, I think it represents a particular lack of shame to slap people in the face and then invite them in for booze and a buffet so they can toast to your good health.
Although I am ever aware of my good fortune to have reached such a state, these occurrences make me feel even better about my atheism. I should not like to turn this post into a polemic against Mormonism or religion in general (topics for another time), and I deny nobody their right to choose their own associations along such lines as they may feel prudent.
Even so, I can't help but feel at every turn the vindication of compassionate reason. The test should rely on the humanity of a person's beliefs, not their form. A test the high-minded monothiesms seem to fail in proportion to their ability to influence social policy.
When someone's religion or politics offend me, they do so not because they use unleavened bread in the Eucharist or because they think Ann Coulter actually represents someone with the semblance of intelligence and respectability. The manner in which people choose to believe, although it often expresses itself in ways I personally find curious or amusing, is in the end irrelevant. It's what you do with those beliefs.
If you use them to abuse or degrade others, that's when I object. When, as is so often the case, they allow the expression of vile and hateful sentiments cloaked within the auspice of true revelation, it is not merely proper but right and even necessary that they are challenged. In a just world, they will not stand such scrutiny. In ours, it remains to be seen.