Social convention dictates that three topics are better off avoided in conversations: money, politics and religion. Interestingly, avoiding conversations about these three so-called “charged” topics for the sake of not offending people often has the counter-intuitive effect of offending and even endangering members of minority groups when the leaders of the world use the enormous platform that they have to spew an agenda that is hate-mongering and divisive.

This rhetoric is not just restricted to political leaders. Inflammatory comments made by religious leaders, and the influence that these comments have on their congregations and on society at large don’t receive nearly enough criticism from people within particular religious communities.

Atheists, we aren’t talking to you here – it goes without saying that people who consider themselves non-religious are particularly critical of religion and religious leaders in general. However, if you do consider yourself a religious person, this is why you should be critical of the leaders within your religious community.

Hateful comments go against the very fibre of most religions

Even if there are significant differences in the doctrines preached by different religious traditions, compassion is a central component of all of the major religions in the world.

To make comments that encourage discrimination goes against some of the most basic religious teachings and beliefs of all the biggest religions.

Being critical of religious leaders that promote an agenda of hate is also a defence of one’s own inherent basic religious beliefs.

Religious beliefs are often used as a cloak for legitimising discrimination

Stories of bakers that refuse to bake wedding cakes for gay couples or of guesthouse owners refusing accommodation to LGBTI patrons make headlines on a regular basis, but when religious beliefs are used to legitimise discrimination in these ways, religious people, more than anyone else, should make their voices heard. These are the things that give religions a bad name, and if you care about the way your beliefs are perceived by the public at large, you’ll raise your voice about any instance of discrimination.

In the same way that Section 9 the South African Constitution protects religious people against discrimination based on their beliefs, discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is also prohibited.

Criticism is communication

Criticism is not necessarily negative – it is also a from of giving feedback and communicating with religious leaders. Continuous communication with religious leaders is something that keeps them in the loop about the opinions and beliefs that their community hold.

If religious movements are to have a future in the world, they will regard the feedback they receive as an important factor in the survival of their doctrines – but not receiving feedback from within their own ranks means that religious leaders will remain unaware of sentiments that contradict the statements they make.

After all, it boils down to this: religious leaders, just like political leaders, are not beyond criticism, and should always be taken to task when the things they say contradict the fundamental principles of the movements they represent.