The Inconsistency of “Tolerance”

Here on WordPress, the main page of the site produces several blog posts that are published on that particular day, and it’s great to skim what others write and even find some really fun blogs and/or interesting discussions.  The latter was the case last Friday when I read a post that was a call for society to practice tolerance across the board; that we should recognize, as people, we are all different and will have different likes, preferences, beliefs, desires, etc., and we should respect and accept the fact that those differences do and will exist, and accepting this is important above all else (and of course, it is most important in the areas of sexuality, religion, and culture).  You can read the whole thing here.

Now I, like many Christians, have an immediate clash with this kind of approach.  However, while many who share my uneasiness tended to take the “if you tolerate everything, you have to tolerate intolerance, which contradicts the purpose of tolerance in the first place” angle (some did so eloquently, others no so much), I opted for more of the “such a call to action is as much a ‘do things my way’ demand as anything else” angle.  Yet I’m not writing this to reiterate my comment.  The author did reply, clarified (I assume) her own meaning a little more, and thanked me for adding to the discussion.  On such a forum I could not ask for a more mature response.

Instead, what I’m writing about today is about many of the other comments that were left by the hundreds of readers of this post.  The following is a very clear example of what happens when you get a bunch of people into the same place that have all opened up their hearts and turned off their brains.  Sometimes they claim to agree with the author but add their own two cents, thus contradicting the original post, then the author would thank them for reading and say that she agreed–neither one of them noticing that their ideas are incompatible.  Other times they contradict themselves in the same sentence.  Even the author is so bent on mushy feelings that it seems she won’t even stand up for what she has said.  As I said before, I think she’s mature in the way she’s handled the comments, and I have no intention of belittling her, but that doesn’t mean I think she knows what she’s talking about.

Here are some excerpts from some comments and my responses to them.  (All comments are copied and pasted, so . . . you know . . . [sic]).

(the Author, in response to my comment) I respect you opinion and that you disagree with my approach, but I am not trying to say that it is the way I think it should be, therefore it is the gospel truth. All I tried to do is put into words what i feel, which is what most people tried to, is what you tried to do with your comments. . . .

Except that she DID say that it was the way she thought it should be.  That was the very nature of her post.  It’s right there in the title: “The World Would be a Better Place If . . .”  Maybe she’s new to the “game” when it comes to expressing these kinds of opinions, but honestly if you aren’t prepared to commit to what you say you shouldn’t get in the ring.

If people give up identifying themselves as separate to each other, then and only then, we will witness a shift in the consciousness of the world.

How about some Sociology 101?  There are essentially two different, overarching, cultural structures:  collectivism and individualism.  Collectivism is a society like China or North Korea where the individual’s desires are irrelevant, and the desires and expectations of family and society trump all.  Individualism is the opposite, meaning each individual person is allowed and expected to define themselves.  “Tolerance” is an individualist point of view in that each person is expected and encouraged to find their own truths and respect those that others make for themselves.  This comment, though presented as being in line with the post (and even agreed upon by the author), is a collectivistic idea, in that our lives are all intertwined and we need to understand that the things we decide for ourselves effect others.  The two are contradictory, but neither the author nor the commenter noticed.

It’s true that a lot of us struggle to take in ideas and concepts which are different from ours, once we grasp the idea of respecting another individual for who he/she is, the world would definitely be a better place.  I think we do not need to harness hatred for others, but it is not necessary to preach the love for all humans. Acceptance will do It is very neutral.

I find this one fascinating because this person is insisting that “loving one another” is unnecessary–just accepting is fine.  Well, I could argue all day about how demanding the minimal “acceptance” is not nearly enough to make any place better, but instead let me ask a different question, since this is the perfect opportunity to pull out an old debate:  isn’t “hatred” an idea or concept that is different from your own, and therefore should be taken in or respected?  If that strikes you as a silly or tired argument, then let me ask who draws the line, and where?

(In response to another comment that stated such things as “rapists should rape other rapists,” etc., seemingly facetiously) If a person kills another, that is clearly wrong and the LAW should deal with them. If a man loves another man, who has been harmed? I think you are confusing ‘harming people’ (which is wrong) with ‘offending people’s sensibilities’, which is due to their own beliefs.  Lifestyle choices should not even come into the realm of law and punishment, unless that lifestyle choice ends in somebody being harmed. . . .

There is an assumption made here that this commenter thinks is basic, human understanding, but is actually based out of beliefs: harming someone, anyone, ever, is wrong.  Not every society ever (and currently) has agreed that harming anyone is inherently wrong.  In fact, the “do what you want as long as you don’t hurt anybody” philosophy is not only one point of view among thousands, but is also fairly recent.  This also flies in the face of the relativism of “tolerance” because that is an absolute statement.  There is this ignorance among the “tolerant” in that they don’t always realize that many of the truths to which they cling are dependent upon a system of absolute truth.  More of this on its way . . .

Thank you for this post and your thoughts. It’s disappointing how some people go to that slippery slope when thinking of acceptance of difference.  Certain things are true: abuse of power, or acceptance of what happens within the context of any power imbalance is wrong: that means certain things should never be accepted: acceptance; hate, hypocrisy and abuse.

On what is this person basing their belief that “certain things are true?”  Who determines this imbalance of power?  Based on my own beliefs, demanding that every religion be accepted as equally valid is an imbalance, because those other religions are not truth.  Giving equal precedence to (what I believe are) lies and deceptions is not balanced, so you can begin to see how the phrase “power imbalance” is cripplingly ambiguous.  More coming still . . .

We all just want to be accepted as we are. Who knows why God made some people Gay? Who knows why God made my eyes blue? But they are and that cannot be changed Being Gay is not a choice and being Gay is NOT A SIN. Best response is simply to give thanks and accept yourself first.

I have gotten into discussions before where I suggested that homosexuality is not genetic but could be a result of genetic predisposition and certain environmental factors that would vary from person to person.  I’ve made the “mistake” of suggesting this to be similar to how someone could be predisposed to be an aloholic or have a violent personality, and the person on the other side of the argument almost always hits back with, “are you suggesting that being gay is like being an alcoholic or abusive?”  The hole in the logic of that rebuttal is a mile wide, but  there’s no strong way to respond without saying, “Yes, I do.”  In a nutshell: I hate that rebuttal.  So I want to say that if I can’t use that comparisson to support my view, you cannot compare homosexuality to being born with blue eyes.  But alas, back to the other issues in this comment.  Note the lack of reference here.  ” . . . being Gay is NOT A SIN.”  Why isn’t it?  And why is accepting  yourself first the best response?  I believe the opposite of those things and my reference is the Bible.  Agree or disagree, I have a reference; this person’s reference appears to be how they feel.

What’s with people taking tolerance into the deep end?? Is racism tolerant of people with different cultures or ethnicities? Is murder tolerant of the desire for someone to live a full life? Tolerance is a slipperly slope apparently! One day we accept homosexuals as normal, next we’ll accepting the pedofile down the street to watch the kids! A loving, tolerant community wouldn’t allow sex trafficing, pedofilia, rape, or anything that harms the community. (and no, having homosexuals around doesn’t harm the community.) It’s not intolerance, it’s just true human nature.

This person obviously finds the (admittedly tired) argument of “if you accept everything, you must accept pedophilia” to be invalid.  I feel the need to remind them that as recently as 30 years ago, and certainly 50-60 years ago, the idea of government-recognized gay marriage was laughable, so don’t underestimate the power of some confused person’s sympathy to a misguided person’s ploy over time.

. . . No God of mine would support such lack of compassion.

Interpreted:  “My ‘God’ agrees with me.”  One of the more serious problems I see in all of this is those who aren’t atheists or agnostics seem to think that their self- and culturally-determined beliefs are also what God deems good or bad.  That’s rather egocentric, don’t you think?  I certainly believe God loves us and that God is infinitely more compassionate than we could imagine, but I’m not basing that idea off of my list of preferences.

. . . It seems that some people are really caught up in believing their thoughts. If everyone paid a little less attention to their thoughts and a little bit more to the present moment, we’d be on our way to a happier place.

What’s so funny to me about this last one is that I completely agree with the first sentence, albeit with an entirely different focus.  But the rest of the comment, not so much.  What dictates that “the present moment” is superior to other moments?  I should just give up my beliefs and opinions and go the way that society is going?  Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure that the direction of the present moment is a direct result of someone’s thoughts.  I think what this person means is “people need to pay less attention to the thoughts they have that don’t agree with what I think is right.”

There’s a lot more comments in there, but I think I’m done.  It does frustrate me to hold to my point of view on these things because people assume that playing “devil’s advocate” with their philosophies means that one supports hatred.  Well of course I don’t.  Yet I don’t think, either, that hatred is our world’s number one problem. . . . that’s a post for another time, though.

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One response to “The Inconsistency of “Tolerance”

  1. Pingback: The Correlation of A and B | I hope you know what you're doing . . .

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