The intolerance of holiday season tolerance
November 14, 2008
Two days ago local news sources brought to light a story out of Golden concerning holiday season public displays. The question being asked by Golden city officials, “Should public holiday displays include some religious symbols, all religious symbols, or no religious symbols?”
Their answer is NO religious symbols. They are recommending the city only allow white lights and secular decorations, like icicles and snowflakes. It’s interesting that they are suggesting secular decorations. As if to say they are not promoting a worldview.
One must understand, in an effort to be non-religious (not promoting any one belief system), they are being very religious. In fact they are promoting one religion over all others, secular humanism. Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary defines secular humanism as, “Humanistic philosophy viewed as a non-theistic religion antagonistic to traditional religion.” Here it becomes clear they are promoting a religion, it just happens to be one that rejects God. So make no mistake, when communities claim to be neutral by not allowing any “religious” symbols, they’re simply eliminating competing belief systems.
Now this is all done under the guise of tolerance. There is the push to be tolerant of other people who hold different beliefs, but what exactly does that mean?
When it comes to religious tolerance it is often assumed tolerance means acceptance. We are then led to accept every religion as equally valid and equally right. Therefore people of different religions should happily coexist. And since they should happily coexist, many then try to suggest that all religions express the same basic truth, just from different perspectives.
As you can see we are on a very slippery slope. Simply observing different religious groups around the world will illustrate different people aren’t happily coexisting. And this is because of the fundamental differences in their worldviews.
We must return to a clear understanding of tolerance. I again refer to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, which defines it tolerance as, “Sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own.” For someone to tolerate they must exercise sympathy and/or indulgence for beliefs or practices that are different or conflicting with there own. There seems to be a false assumption that tolerance means acceptance. It doesn’t.
When we tolerate other people, we first have to think they are wrong. Suggesting all religions are the same by simply focusing on their similarities is like suggesting Republicans and Democrats are the same because they are both American political parties, but they are fundamentally different in their approach to government and how to solve the problems in this country.
Likewise, the only commonality among religions is they believe something about a higher power, but their beliefs about a higher power are fundamentally different. When some suggest all religions are basically promoting the same truth, it shows a naïve understanding of the world’s major religions.
Each major religion is exclusive. There are certain tenants of each belief system that if you reject, you aren’t being true to that belief system. Even pluralism (believing all religions are true and valid paths to the sacred) excludes atheists (those who believe there is no God). In understanding this we are in a much better position to actually tolerate. We can tolerate people only when we disagree with their ideas.
Returning to holiday season displays not bearing religious symbols. In all reality any symbol is going to suggest a religious truth. There is no neutral ground when it comes to worldviews because everyone has one. So it becomes a question of which worldview/s to promote
But make no mistake, attempting to completely eliminate the expression and practice of beliefs from the public square is not tolerance; it is by definition intolerance.
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