02/20/2013 05:24 EST | Updated 04/22/2013 05:12 EDT

Who Knew We'd Need an Office of Religious Freedom Here?

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A Chinese Catholic (back L) arrives to attend a church service at the East Cathedral in Beijing on February 19, 2013. Beijing on February 18 called for Pope Benedict XVI's successor not to interfere in China's internal affairs, highlighting enduring tensions with the Vatican after the pontiff's surprise resignation. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

I never thought I would feel the need to write in favour of the Office of Religious Freedom. I took my religious freedom for granted. I took my right to express my beliefs on particular subjects as inalienable as the right of others to express their opinions.

Over the years I have noticed a certain lack of research, data, citations, and facts underpinning many opinions expressed. There seems to be a great deal of emotion, and personal feeling behind the plethora of comments, especially those made about religion, on social media, many anonymously.

I recently wrote about assisted-suicide. I am against it. I received more than 300 comments many of them wishing me a terrible, slow death, full of pain and suffering. Comments filled with CAPITAL LETTERS and EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!

I am a Chaplain. It seems that the readers know all about me from that title. They released their ad hominem venom with delight. I was told that I believe in an unforgiving God who wants everyone to suffer. I was tried and found guilty of being hateful. I was told that basing morality on religion is wrong because it is phoney morality, without reason.

At no time did I mention my religious affiliation, nor did I mention God, but the comments show a real deep-seated animosity for Christians. No punches pulled.

It is said that dentists have a high incidence of suicide because of the hate people have toward them (fear of pain) but after what I read, dentists can move over and make room for the hatred shown to those who say they believe in God, especially Christians.

The culture is changing. We are losing civility. And tolerance is bandied about, but it only goes so far. It is no longer extended to Christians. There is an attitude, today, amongst too many, that it is not only acceptable but de rigeur to write demeaning, denigrating, disrespectful comments about those of us who believe in God. There is an air of entitlement toward anonymous vicious vitriol online without so much as a moment of thought regarding our beliefs, our right to those beliefs and our right to express those beliefs in the public square.

It is assumed that if one believes in God, there is a lack of intelligence, that one cannot believe and have a background in science, philosophy, economics, medicine, the arts. We have "Stone Age mental processes that force 10-year-old girls to carry babies born of rape." I wonder if these people ever heard of Hillel, St. Augustine, Maimonides, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Marc Chagall and Elie Wiesel.

Too many today have no understanding of the connection between ethical monotheism and Western culture; the concepts of equality, freedom, free-will, intrinsic value, social justice. That is sad. But that lack of knowledge does not give them pause when it comes to writing about those of us who do believe, with phrases like "Religion poisons everything; Religion ruins everything, even death; Your 2,000-year-old superstition has no place in medical decisions (Chaplains are frequently consulted by the medical staff); Pastors are judgemental. That's what they do."

There is a thread running through their missives that if you believe in God you must be crazy. And that is what I was told: "You were clearly suffering from mental illness and continue to do so as evidenced by your belief in the supernatural." The salient point here is that I do live with a mental illness and have written a great deal about that. Double whammy of insensitivity. A two for one insult, sent into the blogosphere. Never let facts get in the way of opinion.

Lionel Tiger, author of God's Brain, 2010, wrote that religion can satisfy the most basic yearnings of human beings; which might explain why 80 per cent of the world's adults are part of some religious system. As Dr. Tiger said, "You can't have a viable society in which 80% of adults are morons." The brain recognizes a problem and religion tells someone what to do about it. The two systems work in harmony. Religion, the sacredness of its traditions and rituals and symbols can create what Dr. Tiger refers to as "brainsoothing." Participating in a religious service, people "are in a place and involved in a moment they respect and trust, one from which they leave wiser and better human beings."

The comments articulated would never have passed muster by the Politically Correct had they been aimed at gays, lesbians, visible minorities, the mentally and physically challenged. I wonder what the comments would have been if I had been a gay activist or a feminist expressing the same views. Thank God Canada has as an ambassador of religious freedom. He might want to start his mission, here, in Canada, to protect the rights of Christians.

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