Archive for the ‘tolerance’ Tag

Why Religious Liberty Is Important to Me?   5 comments

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If I had to name THE most important principle in my life after my salvation and my family, it would be my religious liberty. Anyone who has read my blog should know by now that I take Christ with me in EVERYTHING I do. I don’t just worship Him in church, I worship Him with my life. It colors how I treat people, how I conduct my business, how I vote, what I do with my leisure time, even what I choose to spend my money on.

I don’t segregate God into a little corner of my life labeled “church worship” because I can’t. My relationship with Jesus informs every aspect of my life.

Not everyone knows that about me. If you’re a casual acquaintance you won’t see a Bible on my desk, hear endless Scripture quotes from me, or see a cross around my neck (though I do have some pretty jade earrings I wear occasionally). I don’t immediately lead a conversation with my faith insights. You can probably figure out that I go to church if you’re around me for a while, but I don’t hang my faith around my neck like a signboard.

My closest friends are Christians, but I have many friends who are not. Alaska is more unchurched that the New England states, so it’s impossible not to have friends (and family) who are not Christians. To be “in the world but not of it” when you’re surrounded by non Christians requires that Christians exercise a high degree of toleration for the non-Christian behaviors of their neighbors, but that word “toleration” has been hijacked by the postmodernists. This radical breed of skeptics rejects any idea of truth and often follows up their rallying cry with an appeal for “tolerance.”

The “tolerant” person allegedly occupies neutral ground, a place of complete impartiality where each individual is permitted to decide for him or herself. No judgments allowed. All views are equally valid.

Of course, if you’re a Christian living in 21st century America, you know that this definition of tolerance is s a myth! While relativist is freely encouraged to assert:

  • All views have equal merit and none should be considered better than another.

The Christian will be labeled “intolerant” if she asserts:

  • Jesus Christ is the Messiah and the only way to heaven.

Postmoderns view the first statement as truth and the second statement as violating the first statement, but anyone trained in logic knows that the second statement is itself a view, so ought to fall under the first statement, but it is deemed “intolerant” because it is telling someone who believes differently that they are wrong, which is disrepectful and now gives society authority to treat Christians with disdain for holding wrong views.

Yes, the serpent can eat its own tail.

It really comes down to a failure to understand that while all people have value and should be afforded respect and dignity in their interactions, not all ideas are equal. You’re welcome to reject what I believe as I may reject what you believe. But that doesn’t make either of us of less value than the other person and it should not be an excuse for society to marginalize those who believe differently or to coerce them into violating their beliefs.

In the classic view of tolerance, people were egalitarian regarding persons, but elitist regarding ideas. We treat others as having equal standing in value or worth, but we recognize that not all ideas have the same merit.

When we do that, we recognize the right of people to hold their own ideas and to share them with anyone who is willing to listen. We may not agree with those ideas, but we acknowledge the right of other human beings to agree with them. As well that door swings both ways. There can be no tolerance if we don’t allow others to hold ideas that differ from our own.

But allowing them to hold divergent ideas does not obligate us to accept or approve those ideas, nor participate in behaviors stemming from those ideas, because the person being forced to accept, approve or participate is then subjugated to the will of the one doing the forcing. One becomes the slave while the other becomes the master. People become unequal.

Of course, we’re talking hypotheticals if we don’t take the conversation down to the brass tacks. I’ve got examples. In the marketplace of ideas, there are some ideas that are patently ridiculous. If someone came to us and said they could fly without an airplane, we would usually suggest they need mental health treatment. There are economic theories that have shown themselves to be utter failures, collapsing the economies the countries that have tried them. There are all manner of “snake oil” medicine that reasonable people realize is just so much placebo. Yet, the mentally ill person, the foolish economist and the medical con artist all deserve to be treated with dignity as human beings. They should not be treated as “less than” just because we disagree with their ideas. It’s their ideas that require opposition. And, while it is not fun to have your ideas opposed by others, it is far preferrable than being forced to surrender your will to the will of others.

The free exercise of religion presents some complications. We can’t all be right. There is no way the atheist and the devout Christian are ever going to agree. Despite what atheists want to believe, there is no scientific evidence they are any more right than Muslims. A lack of evidence is not an argument for non-belief any more than it is an argument for belief. Everyone has a right to the free exercise of religion to the degree that that exercise is not harming anyone else. What does not break my leg or pick my pocket is none of my concern. Ah, but … the right of conscience is self-evidently inadequate if believers are prevented from acting upon their beliefs.

Examples, religious liberty would be inadequate were Jews free to believe that sons must be circumcised on the eighth day after birth if American law concurrently prohibited circumcision. That was actually a proposed initiative in San Francisco that was struck from the ballot. But such initiatives have a habit of returning. Efforts to ban circumcision and the kosher slaughter of meat are having some success in Europe. If measures such as that pass, then observant Jews become slaves to the consciences of those who consider themselves better than observant Jews. Freedom of religion becomes a mockery … a meaningless sentence on a parchment barrier that means about as much as the wind sighing through trees.

Why? Let’s look at it closely. The logic goes something like this. Jews have their beliefs, but it is wrong to mutilate the body of an infant who cannot consent. Similarly, the argument goes, animal-rights laws are broadly and equally applicable. There is no reason to give special exemption from the law to anyone. After all, the law applies equally to all citizens. Pierson versus Smith is a US Supreme Court case that ruled that.

Should a Muslim restaurant be forced to prepare pork dishes or serve alcohol because their customers demand it? What if a law were floated to demand them to do so?

In years past, I had a pastor who would not conduct weddings unless both parties were professing, church-going Christians. This was a very firmly held belief of his that is not universally embraced among Christian churches, but does have support in the Bible. Should he be forced to violate that belief because some non-Christians or marginally churched folks want to get married?

It really comes down to a fundamental question of “Can Americans be free to pursue happiness if the government makes it impossible to work peacefully at one’s business, to conduct that business according to one’s conscientious beliefs, to raise one’s children according to those same beliefs?” The answer is clearly “No!” If the government can tell you what you are allowed to believe and how you may worship your god, then there is no freedom of conscience and religious freedom is a hoax.

Tolerance (in the classical sense of the word) makes it possible for us to truly be free, but only if we take a PAUSE and realize that just because we believe something is a net good that everybody ought to get on board with does not mean that people have to agree with us. Tolerance is minding your own business and allowing the other guy to mind his.

My fellow blog hoppers are also discussing this same topic. Check it out.

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Tyranny of Relativism   Leave a comment

Have you ever wondered why words such as “conversion”, “proselytize” or “born again” are now swear and smear words? At their base, they are words used by members…

Source: Tyranny of Relativism

Pluralism, Relativism & Tolerance   Leave a comment

Dip into any semi-serious conversation about Christianity today and you will hear some “buzz” words that unnecessarily intimidate Christians in public discussions as those who dismiss historical Ch…

Source: Pluralism, Relativism & Tolerance

Historical Honesty   2 comments

Christian history has some sad chapters. We might take comfort in the knowledge that all other world religions and secular ideologies have also screwed up in their own course through history, but the fact is … God would not and did not approve of some of Christiandom’s blunders.

Christians started out being persecuted, but when the church hierarchy got sufficient political power, they quickly became persecutors of others and intolerant of dissidents in their own relgion. Christians have sometimes been cruel and arrogant to those who did not agree with them, and have at times corrupted the integrity of their own faith by their misuse of the coercive powers of the state when they had access to them.

The problem with Christianity is that Christians are people and people are bent.

Followers of Christ are called to live with faith and patience, love their enemies, seek the welfare of those who would do them evil, and be salt and light in the world. Jesus and the whole the New Testament encourages the very kind of tolerance that I been discussing recently.

Tolerance does not require that we treat the status quo as sacred, as if we were morally obliged to refrain from trying to change ourselves, others or society. Tolerance does not demand that we never try to persuade someone of the truth of an important idea. It demands that we hold that person in respect in spite of areas of disagreement, and perhaps especially if we would try to persuade them to change. This distinction doesn’t just exist in matters of personal faith, but also ethics or social justice. If freedom of conscience is a substantial reality, each person can best make up his or her mind without unnecessary extrinsic or coercive pressures confusing an already difficult process. The more important one believes the religious differences to be, the more one ought to be committed to safe-guarding freedom of conscience for all in questions of belief.

Pluralism is a permanent part of the human condition. Relativism – especially when it is confused with pluralism and tolerance, is an inherently misleading and unstable doctrine and is ultimately itself intolerant. We must strive for tolerance because it is rooted in a respect for each human being and the significance of others’ choices.

Christians, we stand at an extraordinary time in history. The modern church universal is weak and has lost the position of leadership it once enjoyed. The Christian faith itself is anything but weak. Only the Christian faith has the metaphysical and moral vision to make the world safe for pluralism at its best.

If Christians will but learn that He who is for us is greater than the world that is against us, but that we are only the messengers. We speak God’s words in humility and respect and let the Holy Spirit do the persuading.

Tyranny of Relativism   1 comment

Have you ever wondered why words such as “conversion”, “proselytize” or “born again” are now swear and smear words?

At their base, they are words used by members of various religions to describe their religious experience. In that sense, they are no different than the terms I use to describe any other activity I might engage in. You may not use firewood to heat your home, but I think you probably don’t see red when I mention “splitting”, “stacking” and “storing” it.

So why are words like “conversion”, “proselytize” and “born again” so offensive to some people?

One answer would be that they have been so trivialized by those who use them most that they now have a bad smell! I recall scoffing at the word “born again” when I first heard it in the 1970s. I scoffed because my friends scoffed and because the man talking about being born again was ridiculous — a hypocrite in bold neon colors who button-holed me at the State Fair and generally made me feel like I would not want to be part of his “club”. Fortunately, God had other plans and a few years later, I got an opportunity to tell the hypocrite what I thought of him, as a sister in the Lord, rather than as an outsider who didn’t understand the terms he was using. I don’t generally use the term “born again” unless I’m among other “born agains” because I don’t like being trivialized.

So, the charge that these terms are overused and trite, even largely content-less, is definitely partially true, but there is a deeper reason for the enmity toward these words, and it is not because of our society’s profound commitment to pluralism.In fact, it is just the opposite.

People are afraid to deal with pluralism’s implications, which makes the idea of conversion a threat. Honest recognition of pluralism admits that there are religious differences and that they run deep. Belief in serious differences between religions provides a logic to the idea of conversion, and drops hard choices into our laps. Jesus told His disciples that the truth of who He is (God incarnate) would either be a rock for them to stand on or it would fall on them and crush them.

Ouch! It is far more comforting to believe the relativist who assures us that all roads lead to the same place.This means that there is no need to be anxious about real commitment to any one God or ultimate truth.

C.S. Lewis described his relief at abandoning the Christian faith in his early years:

“I was soon (in the famous words) altering ‘I believe’ to ‘one does feel’. And oh the relief of Pluralism, Relativism and Tolerance! … From the tyrannous noon of revelation I passed into the cool evening twilight of Higher Thought, where there was nothing to be obeyed, and nothing to be believed except what was either comforting or exciting.”

There is a certain comfort in believing that the highest authority to which we might ever be answerable is our own subjective moral consciousness. Relativism is the real opiate of the people. It discourages serious discussion of the most important issues, and dampens the challenges of pluralism, enabling people to sleepwalk through the most important choices of their lives. The questions having to do with God’s existence and character are no longer urgent, since they are matters not of truth, but only of private opinion and preference, and have no final consequence.

If, however, pluralism really does exist at the level of ultimate truth, then honesty demands we take that plurality seriously. In fact, there are differences in ultimate outlook that are difficult to deny. There is a difference between a God who is personal, a god that is impersonal and the absence of god altogether. There is a difference between a final judgement after death, a series of many reincarnations, and simple cessation of consciousness. Mutual understanding is not served by pretending that these are superficial or negligible differences.

If there are real and important differences between religious positions, then why should talk of “conversion” and associated words be such contemporary heresy? In fact, if religious pluralism is real, why is the idea of conversion or even proselytizing strange at all? It makes sense in a world in which religious differences are real and important. Why wouldn’t they be important enough for me to change basic commitments in my life? The differences might even be important enough for me to try to persuade someone else of the truth that I believe in.

If we really believe in pluralism, why should this be considered barbaric or even odd? If we believe that there is a genuine plurality of religious beliefs, it opens up all sorts of hard discussions.

  • Which one is true?
  • Are there elements of several that are true?
  • How do we know?
  • Does being wrong make any difference?

Because these questions are difficult, can be divisive, and do force us to reflect on the scope and consequence of our lives, we tend to hide from them. The alternative to engaging in them is to ban the categories of truth and falsehood from religious discussion altogether which seems arbitrary, high-handed and dishonest. Relativism is more a source of confusion than a necessary platform for honest dialogue. If we truly respect honest pluralism we should strive to build an atmosphere of civility as we openly, courageously and humbly speak about our deepest differences.

Whoa, Tolerance!

Tolerance is living side by side with others who have real and deep differences with us, coexisting with respect and civility in our personal attitude, and as much as is possible, in public policy (public policy for murderers and thieves will show limited tolerance). Tolerance is not relativism and has no necessary relationship to relativism. Popular opinion today is that if you question relativism, you must be intolerant and anti-democratic, but relativism itself is less inclusive than it claims. We will find both tolerant and intolerant people holding to all religious and philosophical persuasions. It’s not the philosophy or faith that is at fault. It’s the people!


Shouting Across the Divide   2 comments

While checking up on one of my favorite voluntaryists, I can across an article about how conservatives and liberals no longer want to be neighbors. I was tempted to disbelieve the study. I have liberal neighbors and friends, so it’s not my experience, but then I read the comments. Ninety percent were from liberals who absolutely hate conservatives.

Okay, I don’t want to live next to bigoted ideologues who think I’m an idiot, crazy or scum of the earth. Who would want to expose themselves to that sort of abuse while at home?

And right there is exactly why this country is probably doomed. We can’t even listen to the alternative arguments. Why? Well, it might require that we look at facts rather than feelings. It could be we might have to admit we were wrong on some things. It could mean we might have to do something to fix the mess we’ve made of the country. And its could be we might need to learn the art of civility, agreeing to disagree, and exercise true tolerance, which means we accept the right of individuals to hold alternative viewpoints without attempting to silence those we disagree with.

Liberty — what a curious notion!

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