Why have religious tolerance?

I’m finishing up The End of Faith by Sam Harris, and while I am very impressed with what he has written, his book has prompted a question in my mind.

Why should non-religious people be tolerant and respectful to religions?

If a Christian or Muslim is disrespectful and intolerant of non-religious people, especially atheists, why then should that disrespect and intolerance not be returned?

Also… in purely philosophical terms, how is tolerance the enemy of religion and intolerance its ally?

Intolerance is the seed of hostility. Hostily eventually leads to violence. I think a more direct question would be: How do you handle violence that is fueled by intolerance when we live in such a politically correct sociey? Sam Harris loves to talk about the fact that faith is a conversation stopper. If faith stops the conversation, how does someone reason with faith inspired intolerance?

“Science as a substitute for religion, and reason as a substitute for faith, have always fallen to pieces.” - Miguel de Unamuno

The non-religious should be tolerant of the religious as long as the religious are not threatening to do the non-religious harm.

And, vice versa.

That’s simply the respectful thing to do.

The issue stems from the reality that religion is based on the fantasy of “souls” and before/after life.

If the religious try to make the non-religious treat real life situations as if they are based on the religious premise, in other words practice self-delusion that fantasy is reality, that is a threat on the sanity of the non-religious who are able to discern that there is no such real thing as the fantasy of “souls” and before/after life.

So as long as the religious keep to themselves and don’t threaten such neuropsychological harm to the non-religious via, let’s say, political maneuvering, the non-religious should tolerate the religious, just like those with normal functioning mental capabilities should tolerate the mentally retarded.

As to tolerance being the enemy of religion and intolerance its ally, whether it is or isn’t may be a matter of perspective.

Many (but, of course, not all) religious defend their fantasies on the equally fantastic grounds that “the Devil” oppopses us and “God” supports us.

The religious consider God to be status quo and thus no action is required.

However, they consider the Devil to be a call to arms.

When one tolerates religion, the religious consider that to be of God.

When one does not tolerate religion, the religious consider that to be an act of the Devil.

Religion gains momentum when it is active, in times of a call to arms. Out come the preachers and the cultists and the political activists, all which strengthens the religion in their lives. Such strengthening is an ally to religion.

But when everything is just peachy with respect to the religion, no one’s giving them “hell”, they relax in their religion, and so they don’t focus on it as much … and the religion dwindles from lack of “use”.

Indeed, one of the theories on the demise of religion is that continued improvements in psychological health will subtly eventually spill into the religious realm, without any need to bash them over the head with it.

When that happens, they will eventually lose their fantasy-is-reality delusions typical of psychological illness.

No intolerance is necessary.

Simply by making psychological health a priority, indeed, health in general a priority, unhealthiness everywhere will dwindle, and no paradigm of thought will likely stand against bodily and psychological improvements, as such removes the lingering pain … the lingering pain that drives people to addict to religion.

But that’s just one perspective.

There are, I’m sure, others that may be applicable.

All Religions are Lie by default, and as Long you know the way to talk to people, you can manage to massacre Lie ( Harris style )and not to
offend Believers Personality.
I am In Christ, but can’t stand any religion, and I know that by
long shot toughest religious Leaders that I managed to have
debates with, are Eastern Orthodox Priests. It Is oldest Christian
religion and with them you really need to thread softly, to get some
points across.
Why would atheists pay attention to any religion if they are not bothered.
Like Gay’s or Pro-Abortion activists.
I mean If I don’t know God, I wouldn’t call myself atheist, to begin with.

I seriously laughed out loud when I read this statement. It’s great!

To be a moderate in this issue is to stake out a position somewhere between fanatical religion and anti-religion. Tolerance should be extended to both sides of the argument. Aggressive proselytizing and obtrusive propaganda that do not respect an individual’s choices are unacceptable to the moderate even when it is within the limits of “free speech.” Civility can be rewarding for those who practice it in public discourse.

Still, I doubt that many on the extremes of this debate will want to subscribe to tolerance or civility. The right wing evangelists in their zeal to win converts and gain political power have set a mean precedent. They have tasted success using these tactics and are not likely to give them up voluntarily. Now the anti-religion movement is enjoying new ascendance and creative modes of attack via the Internet. In the rough and tumble arena of public opinion freedom of expression trumps all other priorities. The ruthless and the rudest have all but drowned out the moderate voices.

Thankfully there are places like this forum where we can express our ideas and learn from others. Of course, ideas here are passionately expressed and disputes do become rancorous at times. Let’s talk about it. :slight_smile:

But human intolerance leads to human war.

And now you see why people want to try to be tolerant.

(By the way, I took both the red pill and the blue pill, I needed them both, cuz we’re in more than one matrix/paradigm.) :wink:

I’d like to thank you all for your thoughts regarding this topic. Yet, no one really touched up on the last question: How is tolerance the enemy of religion and intolerance its ally?

…but Dan, religious intolerance leads to war, or at the very least, conflict as well! Of course, there are non-religious reasons to fight, but I’m not talking about merely human intolerance… I’m talking specifically about religious intolerance.

Consider, tolerance is the enemy of religion and intolerance its ally. How? The exclusivity of monotheisms provide an aire of seclusion and intolerance for anything other than for what it represents. When you have tolerance, you’re going against religious dogma that insists upon maintaining a closed exclusive world view. “There is only one truth… all others are false,” is the credo of religious thought. Explain how that provides a foundation for tolerance, and I will be more than happy to read it carefully.

Consider that in order for world peace to even have a chance of one day coming into existence, we must first eliminate all religious belief systems, or at the very least, eliminate the ones that teach its believers to be intolerant of others. Perhaps I should have named this thread: Why Religion Impedes the Possibility of World Peace.

In this world, people belonging to any religion think that their religion only is the true religion. They think that the God of their religion can alone give the salvation and the worship of that God should be according to their religion only. They also condemn other religions and invite people to convert people into their religion. They do lot of work to establish their religion only in the entire world which shows their ambition. It is just like Alexander’s ambition to make the entire world his kingdom. Alexander wanted to extend his kingdom. But, even he returned back after fighting with Porus (Purushotama) on seeing the loss of life in the battle. But, the ambition of religious fanatics is not subsided on seeing any amount of loss of life. Religion is considered to be backed with spiritual knowledge and the religious people are expected to be free from ambition. We can excuse ambition of any ignorant person like Alexander.

The heart of a religious fanatic will not change by any amount of kindness or love expressed in the appeals. Such appeals can change only the heart and the change in the heart is always temporary. Change in the intelligence brought by knowledge based on logic is always real and permanent. Intelligence (Buddhi) is considered to be the driver of this body, which is like a chariot running by the senses, which are like the horses. If the driver is convinced, the entire chariot along with the horses is in the correct path. The terrorist will not change by love or kindness shown to him. He becomes the terrorist due to the wrong knowledge that enters his brain. He was convinced by that knowledge. That knowledge can be changed only by the right knowledge. A diamond can only be cut by another diamond. Similarly, one type of knowledge can only be replaced by another type of knowledge. Then only, he will be convinced and changed forever.

So far, the trials made to change the terrorist were beating around the bush and therefore, they did not have much effect. Today, SRI GURU DATTA is giving the right knowledge to remove the religious conservatism.

Tolerance isn’t about entertaining the validity of some belief, it’s about how one treats people. There are lots of reasons for respecting another person’s right to believe whatever he or she wants, not the least of which is that it helps assure my right to do so, as well. So we tolerate people, not their ideas or beliefs. As long as they don’t try to force them on me, it’s no big deal and, who knows, I might learn something new once in a while.

Tolerance is the path of peace… I agree. Yet, this thread is about how religion is intolerant; even in the smallest degree.

So… to re-phrase the question. If you’re a non-religious person, and a religious person learns that you don’t believe what they believe; then upon that moment if they treat you in a manner that indicates you are lesser of a person than they are, what should you do?

Prove them wrong. Become the example of your ideal.

Oh no, hang on, it was Ghandi who said that, so you’ll reject it as religious dogma…

I’ll comment on this in a moment.

Sagesound, great post, and it’s something I’ve considered for a long, long time. (I too am almost finished with end of faith).

For a moment, I was captured by Dawkins and Harris. I realized that compared to religion, they spoke truth. I also came to the unfortunate conclusion that they reveal truth through logic and reason, which have no place in a religious person’s mind.

In order to even begin to discuss why Harris and Dawkins are correct with those who are religious, one would first have to educate the religious as to what logic and reason are, and why all ideas are NOT equally valid. This is no easy task, and seeing as how in society, being a man of “faith” is a virtue, I’m not even certain it’s a possibility.

So you see, you cannot “prove” many a religious thinker wrong. Not when in the mind of many of the religious, they have two reason/logic blocking beliefs:

A) The beliefs of others should be respected, whether or not you disagree (which more often means we shouldn’t converse about the subjects, even if we strongly disagree and hate they believe it, which doesn’t really equate to respect in my books.)

B) All beliefs are equally valid (which is true of all faith based beliefs).

I used to think intolerance was the path to take of religious beliefs, but I don’t trust that our entire population would be able to separate their intolerance of beliefs with their intolerance of people, as has been shown historically time and again.

The only other option we have is to simply fill ourselves with love and understanding. One cannot convince anybody that a certain lifestyle is better if that lifestyle if filled with frustration, stress, or anger about a specific set of beliefs; however, one can be convincing if one is truly made happy by their beliefs, and is willing to kindly and patiently show those who are willing to listen, and those who are intrigued by your fulfilling lifestyle will then be more open to YOUR beliefs.

The irony of our situation is overwhelming. Dr. Martin Luther King preached a message of intolerance, and yet our society only applied the message to blacks. We still rabidly fight against the tolerance of gays, atheists, etc. Our only hope is that somebody with the same charisma arises, somebody with the ability to lead a nation to the realization that intolerance has been the enemy all along. Once convinced, it will be much easier to realize for people to realize that dogmatic, faith based beliefs are conducive to intolerance, and intolerance is unacceptable.

Gandhi is a poor example. This is a man who was racist towards black people. In South Africa, when he was fighting for Indian rights, he was also inciting hate against blacks. It’s all in his writings. Aside from that, he did have quite a revolutionary method to get what he wanted.

Thanks for your comments in that post dood…
…to prove a religious person wrong is not the goal, that’s ridiculous anyway; because they’ll never listen to anything other than what they were raised on to listen to. The goal would be to inform them that their intolerance is unacceptable and that their belief does not in any way contribute to your assessment of their value as a person. In all fairness… it would in fact be best to treat all with kindness, respect, and dignity. Even when this courtesy is not returned, one should continue to be courteous when informing the person of their unacceptable actions, and then of course… sue them with all due respect.

(I’ve been finished with The End of Faith for a couple days now… good book. I might start a thread eventually.)

This is patently untrue, given the capacity of people who are raised religious to become atheists.

What is certainly true is that there’s a brand of atheist who conceives of all religious people as the same, explains away their beliefs with a wave of the hand saying ‘they just think like that because they were told to do so’, all the while holding up their secular prophets in a religious manner.

It’s quite funny to watch when, like me, you’re neither religious nor atheistic. The atheists react against the religious, copying the mindset and blind faith, but just taking out the God concept. They’re just as dogmatic, just as prone to preaching to the choir, just as prone to dressing up articles of faith as pure facts, just as prone to dismissing those who disagree with them via ad hominem attacks on the supposed psychological origins of the beliefs…

Really, I expect more of someone with your intelligence. Perhaps I’m foolishly optimistic. And getting praise from Dorkydood isn’t hard, as long as you tick certain given boxes…

You have a point there… I had in mind, initially, the kind of religious person who thrives on the existence of their religion… people with extreme investment in faith… like Pat Robertson. We know he’ll never come to reason… it’s just common sense.

An interesting observation… but then, you have people like David Mills, who pointed out that only in the philosophical context can atheism (and everything else; including political systems) is a religion. Otherwise, when comparing it with something based on faith, he argues that there is no similarity… as atheism does not conform to acknowledging the supernatural, it does not apply to the definition of a religion. Otherwise, it would be funny to call an atheist “religious” merely because he or she is upholding their belief (which is based on science and not faith).

I apologize for not allowing myself enough time on ILP to get the full breadth of my point across. When I get a chance I’ll give you a reply that I hope will merit your approval.

“Foolishly optimistic”… isn’t that “faith”?

The dood is slowly climbing “a stairway to heaven”… it never hurts to encourage.

Dear friend;

If anyone says that his/her religion is the only path to God and that other paths lead to hell, I have one humble question. The question is for every religion without any trace of partiality. The simple question is: Today I have heard your Religion and if I follow that, I reach God and if I refuse I will go to the hell for my own fault. This is very much reasonable. But before your ancestors discovered our country, the literature or even the name of your religion was not known to our ancestor and he could not reach God for no fault of him. But your ancestor reached God through your religion at that time.

Even if I assume that my ancestor will take rebirth now and will follow your religion to reach God, such possibility is ruled out because you say that there is no rebirth for the soul. Thus my ancestor suffered forever for no fault of him and the responsibility for this falls on the partiality of God. Had the God been impartial, He could have revealed your religion to all the countries at a time. Had that happened, my ancestor might have also reached God as your ancestor. Therefore your statement proves your own God partial.

The only way left over to you to make your God impartial is that you must accept that your God appeared in all the countries at a time in various forms and preached your path in various languages. The same form did not appear everywhere and the same language does not exist everywhere. The syllabus and explanation are one and the same, though the media and teachers are different. Can you give any alternative reasonable answer to my question other than this? Certainly not! Any person of any religion to any other religion can pose this question.

Moreover every religion states that their God only created this world. Unfortunately this world is one only and every God cannot create the same world. There are no many worlds to justify that each God created His own world. Therefore any human being with an iota of commonsense has to agree that there is only one impartial God who created this one world and He came in different forms to different countries and preached the same path in all the languages simultaneously at one time.

Let this logic sword of the divine knowledge cut the rigid conservatism of the religious fans in this world to establish the Universal Peace. I need not beg all these religious followers to be united and harmonious to each other for the sake of world peace. Such begging appeals are made enough in the past. The religious fans feel that there is no unity really in the religions but they have to be united since their kind hearts melted by these appeals. Thus a temporary change was only brought. At the maximum one generation of the followers got united. The next generation fights with each other because they feel that there is no real unity in them due to lack of the real unity in their religious scriptures.

A permanent solution for this does not lie in the begging appeals, which may or may not unite the followers. Even if the appeals unite such unity is not permanent. If the real unity in all the religious scriptures is exposed through the logical divine knowledge, the followers have to be united for generations together. Therefore, My attack is not on the hearts of the followers through love and kindness. My attack is on all the religious scriptures through intellectual logical analysis of divine knowledge. The unity of hearts through love can be only temporary. The unity of brains through intellectual analytical divine knowledge will be permanent. Hearts agree but brains realize. Agreement is temporary, but realization is permanent. Thus this is My first blow of My divine Conch shell for the permanent unity of all the religions aiming at eternal Universal Peace.

Good luck with that dattaswami…

Love the website. Terrific artwork. Is that your own likeness manifest in all the Gods?

We should have religious tolerance for the same reason we should have political tolerance…it’s a central tenet of a liberal democracy to allow for a diversity of views, blah-de-blah, etc, etc. Respect? We shouldn’t be compelled to respect the risible. For me this sums it up:

‘True enough, even a superstitious man has certain inalienable rights. He has a right to harbor and indulge his imbecilities as long as he pleases, provided only he does not try to inflict them upon other men by force. He has a right to argue for them as eloquently as he can, in season and out of season. He has a right to teach them to his children. But certainly he has no right to be protected against the free criticism of those who do not hold them. He has no right to demand that they be treated as sacred. He has no right to preach them without challenge.’


I don’t think you yet understand that the similarities you mention above aren’t really relevant or important.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree with you…those who believe that 1 + 1 = 2 are just as dogmatic as those who truly believe 1 - 1 = 2…both are just as prone to preaching to the choir, just a prone to being intolerant of the others’ beliefs.

There are many similarities in human behavior, but none of this is relevant to what is true…In our beliefs about reality and the world around us, 1 + 1 and 1 - 1 cannot both equal two. This isn’t about the similarities in behavior, it’s about what is true and what is not.

Most of your posts weigh on this argument. It doesn’t concern me that those who claim God doesn’t exist are just as dogmatic as those who claim he does: what concerns me is that both sides can’t be right.

While I agree that atheism should not be called a religion, this argument does not work. Not all religions acknowledge the supernatural. In fact, until relatively recent times, NO religions did, because the concept of “supernatural” did not exist.

Supernaturalism is not the belief in any particular phenomena – e.g., God, gods, spirits, reincarnation, miracles, magic, etc. – but a belief about the nature of those phenomena, namely that they are above or outside nature and not a part of nature. I myself believe in many of these (with some caveats), but do not believe in the supernatural at all.

The concept of the supernatural depends on a belief that we know, in detail and to the extent of exclusion, what nature consists of. A prerequisite to supernaturalism is the possession of a description of natural law which is believed to be complete and perfect, and that excludes phenomena which the religious person believes to be real. To tag these phenomena as “supernatural” is then useful because it innoculates them against scientific arguments, by placing them above or outside nature.

Historically, there have been only two descriptions of natural law which were thought to be complete and perfect, and only one of those excluded religious phenomena. The first was the natural philosophy of Aristotle, as amended by Christian theologians. The second was the science of Newton. Supernaturalism, then, is only possible in the context of Newtonian physics, as a reaction to Newtonian physics and the classical materialism that arose from it, and as a way of preserving religious, spiritual, or psychic phenomena in that context.

Within physics, Newton has of course been superseded, and today’s science is considerably humbler (while also being considerably more accomplished). Among scientists, or at least among physicists, the description of natural law which we possess is no longer believed to be complete and perfect. It also does not exclude religious phenomena with anything like the confidence that Newton’s did. Thus, classical materialism is no longer supported by science, and that means that supernaturalism is also no longer viable. The only reason these two metaphysical views still exist is because philosophy has not yet caught up with science among all persons who discuss it.