Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How to Justify Intolerance towards People with Different Viewpoints

I recently wrote about the rising tide of intolerance against Christians. One atheist associate responded:

  • The tolerant are intolerant of the intolerant. That's an unresolvable paradox. Forcing you to stop discriminating against other people, forcing you to stop judging the divorced, or other religions, forcing you to uphold freedom from religion in classrooms. That might seem like a form of persecution, because it's only pointed at the religious. But it's just a result of wanting a tolerant society. Nobody wants Christians dead or gone, or even to stop talking. We just want you to stop pressing your religious convictions on others.

Here is my response:

You justify intolerance towards the intolerant – and you identify Christians as the intolerant – as an “unresolvable paradox.” I’d rather call it an unjust double-standard. You discriminate against Christian intolerance while giving your own intolerance a free-ride. This is both illogical and unjust.

Instead, we are all intolerant of certain things, and we should be. We – and society - shouldn’t tolerate murder, kidnapping, libel, unjust standards, and pedophilia. These will cause the unraveling of society.

Therefore, if we are all “intolerant,” we need to dialogue more precisely about what behaviors merit intolerance and what behaviors can be tolerated without horribly destructive consequences.

The claim to be “intolerant of intolerance” is therefore unworkable and counter-productive. We shouldn’t be intolerant of a law that is intolerant of murder or extortion. Instead, such “intolerance” should be welcomed and supported.

But should society be intolerant of certain viewpoints? Should socialists refuse to tolerate the expression of capitalist ideas? Or should Republicans forbid the progressive reasoning for higher taxes for the wealthy? Such intolerance would stifle free thought, learning and becomes the tool of repression of any ideas that go against the interests of the State? Do you see where your reasoning leads?

For some reason, you feel justified in silencing the expression of our religious convictions. Some argue that religion has no place in the public. However, such reasoning would silence everyone! All law is an expression of values, and values are an expression of religion, whether formal, nameless, theistic or not.

Values cannot be derived from science. Science can only tell us what is and not what ought-to-be. This instead is the provenance of religion. Besides, when we express our ideas and vote, we are no more “pressing [our] religious convictions on others” than you atheists are doing.

If we are all going to live peacefully together, we must be willing to grant each other the same rights as we possess, without trying to justify our unwarranted intolerance as “an unresolvable paradox.”

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