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The meaning of tolerance
Posted: 28 May 2007 04:28 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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Just about all religionists and many liberals condemn the so-called "militant atheists" for being "intolerant" and as fundamentalist as the religious persons whose beliefs the atheists refuse to respect as intellectually and morally valid. These atheists even have the temerity to call such beliefs "inherently dangerous".

But what is really meant with "intolerant" here, and how should we properly understand the concept of tolerance?

This is what I would like to discuss in this thread.

At the outset, I'd like to proffer one definition of tolerance that I hold, feel free to criticize that if you don't agree.

In any society, customs and mores will develop that a substantial fraction of the society's members will follow in various degrees (different degrees might be whole-heartedly, unthinkingly, half-willingly, out of convenience, inconsistently, unwillingly and so on).
For any particular sub-group of humans, the same process is also repeated with the evolution of sub-customs etc.

In my view, the issue of tolerance appears in two related ways:
i) How to treat a particular INDIVIDUAL who for some reason will not follow a particular custom
ii) An evaluation of what sort of customs that are most efficient in stabilizing/developing each of the members' happiness (or sense of purpose or some other admirable goal)

The TOLERANT view would then be that given ANY individual who for some reason was so compositioned that his non-destructive paths towards happiness would lead him elsewhere than that of the prevailing customs (either those in his tiny sub-society or in the societyat large), then he should not be obstructed, or hindered in any way from staking out his own path.

Anyone who disagrees with his right to do so, should be regarded as a bully, who ought to be rebuked to the extent deemed necessary to stop his bullying. The right to bully someone is wholly at odds with the principle of tolerance, since bullying directly interferes with another's quest for happiness.

Not to oppose a bully within some sub-society towards another member of that sub-society is ALSO at odds with the principle of tolerance, since you thereby allow the flourishing of an intolerant sub-culture.


As for ii), it really means that we can criticize various customs for their lack of ability to create individual happiness in their followers (for example, if a substantial amount of followers go around in fear for eternal damnation after death, then that culture is inefficient in securing its members' happiness, and therefore a culture of minor value).

Tolerance is not therefore some limp-wristed thing that says "as long as you don't hurt ME (or those family members I love), you can do whatever you like. i won't stop you".

Rather, to be tolerant should be to apply an ACID TEST upon whichever custom we might talk about:

i) If those wishing to leave the custom are prevented to do so, then it is the custom's fault, rather than the individuals'.
ii) If some culture seems to keep its members in a grip of fear or aggression or misery, then that culture is of little value, and should be changed.


Now, I have tried to keep this FORMAL in the sense that it should indicate a STRUCTURE of what it would mean to be tolerant in a wide variety of situations, rather than enlisting and debating such particular instances.

Ok, enough from me just now, any comments?

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Posted: 29 May 2007 10:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Very smart of you to live in Norway, arildno. A model of sanity according to my limited knowledge.
I wonder if you could give us an example, from Norway, of some group you see which needs to be reined in?
Here’s an example that I find very confusing in my own area. 
We have a significant number of fundamentalist Christians home-schooling their children, which I find really coercive - restricting children’s exposure to the wider, more secular culture. Many people in these forums have pointed out that much of religious teaching of young children is akin to child abuse. Home schooling strikes me as a potential example of that.
But here’s the irony - there is another group of home-schoolers whose motives I admire very much. These are people who don’t want their children trapped all day in the mediocrity and regimentation of public school, and the sort of state sponsored brainwashing that goes on.
It would be possible to outlaw home-schooling, and say that all children are required to attend accredited institutions. The kids are already required to keep up with state exams…funny thing is the home-schoolers (fundamentalist and free thinkers alike) tend to do better than the public school kids on these exams.
Is it possible to outlaw Christian home-schoolers and leave the libertarians alone? Is it possible to include religious brain-washing in our legal definiton of child abuse? It starts to sound rather too much like China during their cultural revolution, don’t you think? I’m afraid we have to tolerate quite a bit of nonsense in a democracy - which doesn’t mean we should provide tax breaks for the nonsense, as we do now!
Maybe you have some better ideas?

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Posted: 29 May 2007 08:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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As I see it, sure, we have to put up with quite a bit of nonsense in a democracy, but that does not mean we shouldn’t have an alarm bell sounding when some parents seem to be sectarian and there is a risk of brain-washing their children.

In practice, that would mean that in the more serious cases, the parents and the child would be interviewed to see if the child rearing situation lies well below a defined standard. In such cases, strong advice to the parents to let their child receive stimulus from additional milieus than their own would be a natural first step, and only if the parents refuse their child to mingle with non-sectarians would it be necessary to re-view the matter, for example that the parents are forced to let their child go to a standard school, for example. Only in the most grievous cases should the measure of taking children away from their parents be a necessary measure.

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Posted: 30 May 2007 01:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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[quote author=“arildno”]Just about all religionists and many liberals condemn the so-called “militant atheists” for being “intolerant” and as fundamentalist as the religious persons whose beliefs the atheists refuse to respect as intellectually and morally valid. These atheists even have the temerity to call such beliefs “inherently dangerous”.

But what is really meant with “intolerant” here, and how should we properly understand the concept of tolerance?

Perhaps the focus should be on the effects of beliefs rather than on the beliefs themselves, at least as far as the law is concerned. I have qualms about using societal disapproval to “regulate” beliefs, because that can and has been used to persecute non-Christians and others outside the majority belief system.

Having said that, I regard it as dangerous that fundamentalism in Christianity and Islam have evangelical components, not recognizing the idea of freedom of conscience. I’m not sure it’s possible for a fundamentalist to live his or her life regarding others as doomed to hell but refraining from any attempts to convert others. What do you think?

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Posted: 30 May 2007 03:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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[quote author=“Carstonio”][quote author=“arildno”]Just about all religionists and many liberals condemn the so-called “militant atheists” for being “intolerant” and as fundamentalist as the religious persons whose beliefs the atheists refuse to respect as intellectually and morally valid. These atheists even have the temerity to call such beliefs “inherently dangerous”.

But what is really meant with “intolerant” here, and how should we properly understand the concept of tolerance?

Perhaps the focus should be on the effects of beliefs rather than on the beliefs themselves, at least as far as the law is concerned. I have qualms about using societal disapproval to “regulate” beliefs, because that can and has been used to persecute non-Christians and others outside the majority belief system.

Having said that, I regard it as dangerous that fundamentalism in Christianity and Islam have evangelical components, not recognizing the idea of freedom of conscience. I’m not sure it’s possible for a fundamentalist to live his or her life regarding others as doomed to hell but refraining from any attempts to convert others. What do you think?

Check out the book Job, by Robert A. Heinlein.  Does a tremendous satire on a variety of ideas of God.

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Posted: 30 May 2007 10:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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[quote author=“burt”]Check out the book Job, by Robert A. Heinlein.  Does a tremendous satire on a variety of ideas of God.

One of my favorite books. I’m surprised that the televangelists in the 1980s didn’t campaign hard against Heinlein like they did against heavy metal music.

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Posted: 01 June 2007 08:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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[quote author=“Carstonio”][quote author=“burt”]Check out the book Job, by Robert A. Heinlein.  Does a tremendous satire on a variety of ideas of God.

One of my favorite books. I’m surprised that the televangelists in the 1980s didn’t campaign hard against Heinlein like they did against heavy metal music.

Snuck in under the radar.  Either that, or the televangelists listened to the radio but never read anything but the bible.  LOL

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Posted: 02 June 2007 05:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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[quote author=“Carstonio”][quote author=“arildno”]Just about all religionists and many liberals condemn the so-called “militant atheists” for being “intolerant” and as fundamentalist as the religious persons whose beliefs the atheists refuse to respect as intellectually and morally valid. These atheists even have the temerity to call such beliefs “inherently dangerous”.

But what is really meant with “intolerant” here, and how should we properly understand the concept of tolerance?

Perhaps the focus should be on the effects of beliefs rather than on the beliefs themselves, at least as far as the law is concerned. I have qualms about using societal disapproval to “regulate” beliefs, because that can and has been used to persecute non-Christians and others outside the majority belief system.

Having said that, I regard it as dangerous that fundamentalism in Christianity and Islam have evangelical components, not recognizing the idea of freedom of conscience. I’m not sure it’s possible for a fundamentalist to live his or her life regarding others as doomed to hell but refraining from any attempts to convert others. What do you think?

Well, take the case of wearing the niqab.
That is an effect of a belief, in the Muslim wearer.
The act itself, wearing a particular clothing is not harmful to anyone.
If a Western woman, of non-Muslim belief chose one day to don a niqab for the fun of it, or because it might shut the sun out, of course we would allow her to do so, because neither the act nor the motive behind it can be construed as harmful.

The Muslim motive behind wearing niqab or burka, however, IS a deeply intolerant one, a motive based on sexism, and that women somehow lose “respect” by showing their face to the world.
This is an anti-thetical attitude to the ideals of tolerance, irrespective whether the woman herself buys into the rationale of “not displaying her treasures for all to see”, and it should therefore in my opinion, be forbidden for them to wear the niqab in public. They can wear it in their private homes if they like.

By being motivationally opposed to the idea of tolerance, these people should be regarded as morally incompetent, and it is therefore permissible for morally competent persons to enforce certain conditions upon their behaviour.

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Posted: 02 June 2007 06:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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We should consider that tolerance does not mean deference. The ‘militant atheist’ who complains about religion being respected simply because it is religion has my support. I don’t know about Norway, but there’s a lot that could be done here in the United States to erase deference to religion - beginning with taking ‘In God we Trust’ off the dollar.
We’re a big and diverse country, absorbing a wide range of customs. We put our faith in equal rights - we believe that people in general are morally competent when equal rights are protected.
Let’s take this question of women’s dress - the subjugation of women has traditionally rested on property rights. When the Taliban made it impossible for a woman to earn money, the subjugation was complete. But a Muslim woman in the United States is surrounded by women with their own bank accounts.
If we focus on protecting these basic rights, customs will adjust.
The reason we have such faith in the moral competence of people in general is that we KNOW people in general love liberty - and the pursuit of happiness. People also like to subjugate others - but the way to work with that is not through further subjugation and coercion but through as much liberty as possible.
So I say, let them teach their daughters to wear veils, and then see what the daughters teach their own daughters. In the case of female genital mutilation, no, we can’t allow that.

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Posted: 02 June 2007 07:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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They should be allowed to wear the hijab, not the niqab. Period.

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Posted: 03 June 2007 06:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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OK, you’ve decided what is good and not good for these women. How will you enforce that in a way which does not take further power away from them?

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Posted: 03 June 2007 06:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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Why should I have all the answers?

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Posted: 03 June 2007 06:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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I don’t expect you to have all the answers, just to consider the implications of a rather strong statement you made.

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Posted: 03 June 2007 07:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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What “rather strong” statement would that be?

Others can pull the niqab off if she does not comply with their request that she takes it off herself.

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Posted: 11 June 2007 01:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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[quote author=“arildno”]Just about all religionists and many liberals condemn the so-called “militant atheists” for being “intolerant” and as fundamentalist as the religious persons whose beliefs the atheists refuse to respect as intellectually and morally valid. These atheists even have the temerity to call such beliefs “inherently dangerous”.

But what is really meant with “intolerant” here, and how should we properly understand the concept of tolerance?


Nearly every time I hear/see the charge of intolerance (and/or closed-mindedness) leveled at a skeptic it’s for being open-minded and applying proper standards of scrutiny to a notion the accuser is fond of rather than giving it a free pass. What really bothers them seems to be that the skeptic doesn’t close his mind to the evidence and reasoning that’s unfavorable to the given sacred cow/pet theory. This is also true of atheists though to a lesser degree (some of us really are militant, though nowhere near as many as believed by those whose worldviews we don’t give free passes—most of the time the “militant atheist” charge is pretty much the same thing as the accusations of “intolerance” and/or “closed-mindedness”).

On what seems a related note, it also often seems that humor, when aimed at a sacred cow or pet theory, is perceived by believers as anger, which I find a bit curious—seems likely it’s projection. To these believers there’s no such thing as harmless levity when it comes to their sacred cow/pet theory—makes them angry, if perhaps only slightly, and perhaps it’s a bit more fear than just anger. They perceive the anger, of course, but to acknowledge they themselves are the source is against their dogma, usually, and also gets them within a step or two of also having to acknowledge the inherent fundamental problems with faith. The anger must therefore be coming from the joker—the jokes are about “lashing out” rather than genuine (“pure”) humor.

Byron

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Posted: 11 June 2007 05:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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[quote author=“SkepticX”]
On what seems a related note, it also often seems that humor, when aimed at a sacred cow or pet theory, is perceived by believers as anger, which I find a bit curious—seems likely it’s projection. To these believers there’s no such thing as harmless levity when it comes to their sacred cow/pet theory—makes them angry, if perhaps only slightly, and perhaps it’s a bit more fear than just anger. They perceive the anger, of course, but to acknowledge they themselves are the source is against their dogma, usually, and also gets them within a step or two of also having to acknowledge the inherent fundamental problems with faith. The anger must therefore be coming from the joker—the jokes are about “lashing out” rather than genuine (“pure”) humor.
Byron

One of the ways to distinguish “faith” (in the sense I’ve been using it) from “dogmatic belief” is that people who have real faith can joke about themselves and their beliefs.

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