Posts Tagged ‘tolerance’
Been gone awhile. Watched a documentary about joint venture – whereby a gang member that is there when another kills someone is found equally guilty as if they committed the murder.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the legal position, human life in this world is in many ways a joint venture. We may be by standers but our culpability in human affairs are not immune from examination.
Some gang members had an issue with getting to crips with the concept. Made me wonder how I would explain tolerance, liberalism, science, secularism to them. I decided the word shit may have to be involved. Hence what follows:
Life is too short to shit on other people’s dreams; accept perhaps when their dreams involve shitting on you in which case pointing out that a waking reality on that front means the shit has hit the fan and they will have a bloody mess to clean up.
I don’t have the answers. That does not grant liscense to people with fantasies about an unpalable reality to fill the void. It may grant a warm fuzzy feeling that feels great. It may well be better for you to have positive thoughts in terms of stress and attitude to life.
You don’t need religion to have a false sense of reality; a distorted sense of events and happenings are part of being human. We all have are an approximation of life, the universe and everything to get by. The shit rule above is just to make sure intrusions into my reality do not add to a grosser distortion then I already have beyond my inability to comprhend the atom or the universe.
So I will not go out of my way to poke you in the eye, or shit on you. Yet allow me to dissent, to say it stinks and why the world may be a better place if we did not pile shit sky high as a modern tower of babel. You need more then that if you want to have peace and harmony – it may involve accepting other people’s shit within reason.
The only thing that may improve is respecting other people’s shit, not forcing your shit on other people or shitting on people’s door step. Because covering the world in each other’s shit is not going to bring a brave new world.
Dealing with shit may.
If what I now write has atheists and devout belivers criticising this blog then I will have achieved what I set out to do. Which is to take both viewpoints outside the comfort zones of the holders.
That how right you believe your view to be is not a reason to hold others to your belief.
Even though atheism is not based on fantasy, or at least on super natural power, this does not mean that we can enforce those views on others.
What we can do is assess the actions that are a consequence of the thought. We need more than a correlation – we need causation, that the belief leads to the act.
As much as we may not wish to phrase it otherwise, atheism is a belief. We may argue that we have better data leading to the conclusion. However we cannot claim it as a fact – otherwise we do exactly what creationists do when they say evolution is only a theory. We cannot debase language by our emotion or force of conviction.
The belief that Jesus was born on 25 December does not hurt me. That it may be celebrated with a tree and tacky decorations is none of my business. The consequence of the belief does not cause harm.
Howver, when I ask you to look at the evidence that the early Christians focused on Jesus’ death not birth. Save for Matthew whose writings appealed to the Greek epic of omens fortelling deity. That the date chosen for commeration is more about pagan significance and convience than historical accuracy.
Faith is not a free ride. You may tell me that your partner is beautiful and your children smart. You are entitled to that view, however I shall choose the opinion that is independent of yours. Do not hold me to your view publicly – it may get ugly.
The above analogy is appropiate because people may feel comforted in their belief of their family as they do about their faith. I suspect though that we all know a family whose belief in their virtues is liable to loose it’s gloss with the disinfectant of scrutiny.
Maybe hands off would be polite. Certainly well mannered if we do not want an argument. Thing is that in the world of competiting faiths is like drunken husbands fighting over whose wife is most virtuous, while the wives prepare their children to dominate the future.
We cannot argue that if Dawkins and co would only shut up then an uneasy ceasefire may exist. Such is the power of thought and to silence is to deny who we are. Thinking animals moved to action based on thought. Not necessarily rationally based but the pack should be allowed to rip the bad ones to pieces for the survival of the best ideas.
So trump card – tolerance of thought. The limits are where the actions of those thoughts lead to consequences against the thoughts of others. Censorship being one, styfling debate another.
The more I see Hitchens debate Rabbis and others makes me think of Douglas Adams and the philosophers arguing about the computer giving answers to philosohical debates. Deep Thought responds that the wait for such answers can set them on the gravy train for life as long as they could vemenently disagree with each other.
The truth is the undiscovered country, but while some become rich on the journey we all benefit from the experience. The sparring, and the friction may lead to ugly moments.
Freedom of thought, the plurality of ideas is important if we want to discover answers. You have to accept that, as in Deep Thoughts words, you are not going to like it. Always.
Richard Dawkins was a guest on the BBC show, which Mat, Hyrax and myself watched in Oxford shortly after watching Paul Nurse’s lecture (on Mat’s barge). One thing it shows is that if you are going to describe anyone as militant that adjective does not fit Dawkins at all. Maybe we could actually try and discuss things in a rational way, rather than used hurt feeling and supernatural belief as trump cards in the discussion.
It seems when people use the term atheist or humanist people are emphasising something about themselves. Atheist that put simply there is no evidence of a god. A humanist that there are values and ethical choices which we can make without resort to the supernatural or superstition. To that end they are both sides of the same coin – it really does depend on what you are emphasising.
So when someone says their ethical system is superior or their belief system self evident because it is sanctioned by divine writ, that it comes from god almighty and is not up for discussion, debate, reason or evaluation of consequences of ancient belief in the modern age then the passion in me rises. Because what they are saying is that even if it could be demonstrated that the belief when practised adds to human misery, causes untold suffering, has no benefit within this life time and the cost outweighs any, that no one is harmed on earth when someone breaks that belief – it still matters because god is offended, and faith matters over impact in the here and now.
People are entitled to have a religion. I would hope that people would put the inquiry that people do when shopping – scrutinize the alternatives on offer; or when listening to a used car salesman – examine the evidence that this car is not a lemon. If you want to believe that your life is worthless save for the agonising torture of a man 2,000 years ago that through the economy of salvation one man saved billions – good luck to you. I can tolerate that you may have this belief, meet up with people that have that belief and break bread, drink wine. You can even tell me about that belief with a view to saving my immortal soul.
However, in public discourse I will challenge your belief system. This may well hurt you. When saying I am an atheist this is nothing compared to when I phrase it I am not a christian in terms of shock on believers. Semantics no doubt, but I do not believe Jesus was the son of god, maybe he did not exist at all, and as for miracles I sincerely doubt it. Despite radical christianity (not the same as fundamentalist christianity) trying to move away from super naturalism (no god hears your pray etc) but use it as fable and allegory for leading an ethical life and jettisoning that which does not the question to ask is – can there be something better?
For me there is – and thank goodness for most religious people being able to cherry pick from their texts so that love, peace and harmony as goals are not affected by calls for slavery, inferiority of women, and death to the non believer. Yet the idea that ethics may be based not on a god or religious text is called into question. The only excuse I can think of is that people are unaware of the long history of moral philosophical thought, and the developments of law, which demonstrate the evidence that this does not need to be the case. Reason through the ages has been the major factor, religion often the style that the discourse has played its part in the historical narrative.
The thing is that the law is in many ways designed to protect citizens – from each other, even from the state. By this measure do we talk about the freedom that exists within a state. The secular state is seen, by some in the USA, as a threat to religion because when laws are framed, public policy is discussed, what god wants and their beliefs are not automatically given precedence.
But they should not be. Religious views have no more precedence than other political views or economic doctrines. Your religious belief should not hold any other citizen to ransom in their choices and behaviour – because the criteria is not that your sensibilities are harmed, or a god we cannot have a two way conversation with is made angry and his wrath is terrible, but whether the individual concerned is actually causing real harm that threatens the public good and needs to be held accountable for their actions.
It is with that view that humanism tries to work out what is the answer to ethical questions. It does not hold truth to be self evident. It does not accept that thinking is tied down, but through discourse and reason we can discover common values which have helped us live together, and that as a community writ large or small the human condition can be improved, and that change can be a good thing.
Do I wish religion would disappear? I just want people to examine, without prejudice, the world and universe in which we live. We only have a short time on this planet, and we hopefully can do more than just survive – we want to have meaning in our lives. Yet religion is not for me the best way – it certainly is not the only way. It should not be an issue to discuss and evaluate the moral claims we make, your life though is your own.