Tolerance will most likely be the defining theme of our century. Never before has there been so much energy and enthusiasm devoted to interpersonal relationships within a multi-cultural environment. How can we get along better in order to be peaceful and productive? How do we make fair laws that are both universal and effective? How do we safeguard personal freedoms without excusing social injustice or crimes against humanity? Where do we draw the line between freedom of speech and defamation, tirade or terrorism? How do we ensure we do not become overly sanitized, censured, sensitive and as a result intellectually impotent?
Political correctness gone too far: Mark Twain is probably turning in his grave as politically correct educators in the US seek to erase the word, “nigger” from the classic novel Huckelberry Finn even though it was used in a context by the author to demonstrate the inhumanity of racism. If we are so overly sensitive we cannot even look honestly at our dark past, how do we move forward in the light?
Trust Vs. Truth- Putting Religious Belief In Its Rightful Place
I am a strong advocate of every person being free to practice, switch and share their religious beliefs in forums where worship, expressed interest, mutual exchange and debate are relevant and appropriate. After all, I do it on my blog.
However, in our dealings with each other we must all come to the table with the universal understanding that our spiritual beliefs are well…beliefs. They require faith. This faith is more of a gut thing, not a cerebral thing; about 60% heart, 40% head and highly emotionally subjective. That does not make it inferior (and we will discuss more on why heart knowledge is valid in its own right) but it does make it highly personal and therefore inappropriate to mandate for another or for a country.
In a word, religious faith is basically- TRUST.
When you say, “I have faith that Ronaldo will come through for the football team,” what you are really saying is, “I TRUST Ronaldo enough to pin my hopes on him,”
The same is true for a holy book, a deity or belief system.
When you say, “I have faith Jesus died for my sins,” or “I have faith Gabriel spoke to the prophet Mohammed”, you are basically saying, “I trust that it is true enough for me to pin my hopes on and even risk my life defending.”
Of course, we already know you cannot prove the origin, translation, interpretation of ancient writings is absolutely true. It has never been done and those who still engage in such protracted apologetic discussions are not just wasting their time but often missing the deeper point which does not depend on their myths being literally true. These are often the first to become atheist at the first emotional or intellectual crossroads and the more zealous the believer, the more zealous their atheist alter-ego because fanaticism begets more fanaticism.
Okay, so you may not be able to prove miracles are true to anyone but yourself. However you TRUST that it is true and you really want it to be so. This is why you get so passionate and easily provoked about anything or anyone that seeks to rob you of that trust. It’s the same reason you would respond with hostility if anyone told you your spouse or beloved parent was an untrustworthy person. A great deal hinges on you trusting your Divine parent and whatever philosophy you believe came from that deity. For many that trust is the only thing preventing them from giving up on life. Now, just be honest about this!
Stop trying to argue that your belief is absolute truth and admit you cannot prove it is and your reasons for believing are based almost entirely on trust/faith for deeply personal reasons and rewards. If you are brave enough to be honest like this, then have just opened the door to tolerance.
If you are truly an honest, empathetic spiritual person you can understand how all deity doctrines; Elephant Gods and Gods that impregnate virgins to sacrifice themselves, are fantastic and difficult for someone to simply take a chance and trust without compelling proof or personal motivation.
For when you look at faith that way, as trust, you begin to understand how cruel it is to expect everyone to trust exactly what you trust when in fact, the factors that inspired your trust may not be at play in their life. Trusting a belief system where the proofs are largely intangible and emotionally experienced is basically like, “taking a chance,” on something. In most cases the trust is won by familiarity. We were born into a belief, raised in it and it becomes so much of a foundation in our lives, we grow entirely dependent on it and are unable to work up the courage to trust anything else, especially if there is fear of Divine punishment, civil punishment (like in Islamic countries) community or family exclusion.
It is the worst form of hubris and insecurity to cast aspersions on someone for rejecting your belief system when you also reject the beliefs systems of others FOR THE SAME REASONS they reject yours! Reasonable lack of trust because of (1) unfamiliarity- it just sounds weird (like how certain foods from other cultures seem weird or even disgusting) because of your upbringing and accepted knowledge (2) not enough evidence or valid argument to convince you it is actually true and the more educated you are, the more substantive the evidence you will require and the more stringently you will judge the validity of the arguments presented (3) absolutely no emotional need to take a chance on it despite (1) and (2) because you already have positive ways of filling any gaps in your life and they work for you.
The moment you tell someone, “God says…” and then have to pull out a book written by men to show them what, you are asking a mammoth amount of trust from them. We all know the physical laws that govern planet earth today are as relevant now as they were millions of years ago. They are what shaped our present existence. So when we start dealing with virgin births, talking snakes, flying chariots and a mob of men wanting to gang-rape two angels, you are asking a mammoth amount of trust as well. The moment a religious person steps outside the domain of,
“This is my faith-based belief from my understanding of this holy book, which I also believe to be holy and true based on trust,”
“This is absolute fact and all must abide by it and be bound by its statements or they will not only face damnation after death but it is totally justifiable to pursue their defamation and disenfranchisement in this life!”...
then the proper thing for any responsible truth seeker, journalist or policy maker to do is demand proofs by the same standards we use to determine all truths, test all theories, approve all insurable medical treatments.
If human society is to advance to the next stage of civilization- living harmoniously in multi-cultural societies; capable of making intelligent decisions to positively impact our ever fragile eco-systems and maximize our scant natural resources while ensuring that freedom does not mean freedom to infringe on anyone's fundamental human rights, we must restrict religion to its rightful place.
The overturning of Proposition 8 shows that real debate on claims made by religious folk can happen. In this case, when held against evidence from years of study from respected, peer reviewed medical and sociological bodies who regularly submit to scrutiny, the anti-gay religious and traditionalist arguments all fell flat. They had no scientific, sociological, historic or even medical proof valid enough to substantiate their claims.
A person of his or her own, adult, free-will should be free to decide to hold himself to any religious standard that impacts his own life, health, freedom, education, family, peace and security. However, if they want to decide the rights decisions and lives of others, whether one person or multitudes they must establish an objective and scientifically true basis for doing so. If they cannot, their statements must come with a disclaimer.
Here is mine:
What I share is my opinion based on my life experiences and my spiritual path. I share it without condition or expectation that anyone reading it must adopt it. I believe we each must walk our own path. Scientific truth can help us walk with knowledge of where we came and project where we can safely thread next. Spiritual truths can help us better appreciate the scenery on the way and feel less fatigued by the journey. The former is as absolute as the air you need to power your lungs while you walk. The latter is as personal as your individual stride and pace. We all need air to walk but we don’t all have to walk the exact same way, in fact some are unable to walk and use wheelchairs. It does not make them less deserving of basic human rights. It is with that attitude I approach science and spirituality.
Now that I have made my position clear and I believe fair to all, I think I am ready to get into the thick of it with Lack, the first of the three major setbacks of human progress.