Robert Kirby: You can bash someone’s religion, but don’t expect that person to be, or stay, your friend

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Kirby

A Scottish member of Parliament recently was called out because of his religious beliefs. Stephen Kerr, a Tory from Stirling, is also a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In other word(s), Mormon.

A pro-Scottish independence columnist satirically seized on Kerr’s religious beliefs, writing about Kerr’s claim that Scotland could not afford to be an independent state while he simultaneously held a belief in angels. As if one had everything to do with the other.

Kerr was understandably upset. There isn’t much he can do about it, though. The columnist is entitled to express her opinion about certain beliefs.

It brings up an interesting question here in one of the most religious states in America, a place where religious belief indeed has an impact on the political landscape.

We all know (whether or not we agree) that it’s illegal to assault people, vandalize their places of worship, or discriminate against them professionally based on their religious beliefs.

We can, however, say whatever we want about the beliefs themselves.

For example, the belief that God so loved the world that he drowned nearly everyone in it is both a perfect example of irony but also utterly idiotic.

What? Yes, as well as never having happened.

There will be repercussions for me saying that, primarily from people who believe that Noah had a couple of T. rexes on the ark. But I expected the outrage before I made the observation in the first place.

The question really is how much respect you should show people whose religious beliefs are nowhere near your own. A good answer is a quote from U.S. essayist and satirist H.L. Mencken:

“We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.”

Suppose you’re speaking with someone who won’t shut up about how beautiful his spouse is and how their children will no doubt get full-ride scholarships to Harvard.

Now, the truth might be closer to the fact that the guy’s wife is a bridge troll, and their kids are in high school but still need help getting their shoes on the correct feet. Should you bring all that up?

Well, it depends on what kind of relationship you expect to have with the guy in the future. If you don’t care, then there’s no loss in giving him both barrels of truth.

But if you want to keep the lines of communication open and the relationship on a civil level, politeness suggests that you let him have his cherished belief so long as it doesn’t negatively affect your freedoms.

Most of my closest friends have different religious beliefs than my own. For some reason, it doesn’t matter. I think it’s because the subject rarely comes up. We aren’t friends because of religion.

In the years of doing crazy stuff with Sonny, not once has religious belief ever posed a problem in our friendship.

Wait. I take that back. We made a bet once about the power of a particular cannon. A month of coming to church with me against a tattoo if a projectile failed to accomplish a certain amount of destruction. I ended up with a tattoo.

Even my wife and I have different beliefs. But regardless of what I might think, her feelings matter most to me. If it comes to that, I 100% believe that I’d rather be married.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.