Monday, September 19, 2011

Intolerance of "Tolerance"

Lately, I've been hearing a lot of people speaking out against religious tolerance. Almost as many more have started championing religious tolerance. It occurs to me that neither of these groups really realizes what those words mean.

Pro-tolerance shouters want every religion to be "right." They want every religion to be seen as the right path "for you." They're religious individualists, believing that whatever you choose to believe is accurate and correct, that all religions share the truth, and that everyone will go to their faith's afterlife when they die. This is not tolerance. This is pluralism.

Anti-tolerance loudmouths say that none but their religion (or no religion, as the case may be) is "right." They want every other religion to be seen as the wrong path, publicly, for everyone. They're religious fundamentalists (or atheists) that insist that all views but theirs are rooted in superstition and lies, and that everyone but them (or no one) will go to an afterlife at all when they die, and therefore, only their way should be taught. This is not tolerance. This is ignorance.

Both of these camps believe that "tolerance" means "acceptance of truth" when religion is involved; that to have "religious tolerance" is to agree that all religions are true in their own ways. Tolerance is not acceptance of truth.

Tolerance, according to Google, means "the ability or willingness to tolerate (Allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference) something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with."

For those of you following along at home, that means "religious tolerance" doesn't mean "all religions are right", it just means "a right to all religions." You don't have to believe the words of Moses, Christ, or Mohammed to tolerate Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. You don't have to believe Ganesh exists to tolerate Hinduism. Your answer to the famous Lovin' Spoonful song does not make you a Wiccan by default. Believing God is nonexistent is not a prerequisite for tolerating atheism. And believing in creationism doesn't mean you don't "tolerate" science.

Whatever your worldviews, whatever your faith (or lack thereof) teaches, religious tolerance is not "everyone is right." It just means "your faith is not my faith, but you have a right to have it."

Religious tolerance of this sort, the true sort, the sort where you keep your own beliefs in the absolute nature of your own faith, while acknowledging that others exist, is the sort that will start to bring about real conversations between faiths.

You don't have to like what they believe. Just know they have a right to believe it, even if you think it's wrong.

=Further Listening=

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