Today’s post was inspired by Ufuomaee, a Christian blogger I have had many online conversations with. I found one of her recent posts to be difficult to swallow, and since I felt too overwhelmed by mental arguments to respond, I simply let it go. But today I thought maybe I would write a post clarifying my frustration. I have had only positive discussions with Ufuomaee, and considering our very different views on god- that’s a rare thing.

In this particular post she addresses issues of morality and tolerance. She uses secular humanists as her specific example, but I think it is fair to say that she considers this a basic atheism/theism divide.

In the beginning Ufuomaee enlightens us on how secular humanists claim to have goals of being both tolerant and to “strive toward moral excellence.” This sounds pretty innocent to us investigative amateurs. But she breaks it down for us. She points out that the definition of tolerance is “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins, etc., differ from one’s own.” She goes on to define the word excellence as  meaning “the fact or state of superiority.”

Then our Christian asks the question that is not on anybody’s mind: Can excellence and tolerance truly co-exist, equally?

I’ll be honest here. It seems as if she is just taking two random words and comparing them. My guess is that when they say they are striving toward moral excellence? That probably means they desire to do a better than average job at sticking to their ideals. It takes a unique eye to see the word “excellence” and jump to the conclusion that their use of the word implies they are seeking to be superior over all those who are not as intelligent as they are. I almost stopped reading.

At first I read the rest of her post as ironic, since clearly there is nothing here that an atheist couldn’t accuse a Christian of ten times over. After all, Christians also reject atheism as a fundamental part of their belief. Christians even go so far as to believe that atheists deserve eternal torture for having a different belief. And agenda? Come on. No secular idea has ever had a more obvious agenda than Christianity.

But that isn’t what she is saying at all. What she is saying is that secular humanists (in this example) are claiming they can be both tolerant and morally excellent when they can be neither of those things. How can we claim to be tolerant of something we hate and want to rid the world of? And how can we achieve moral excellence without the moral guidance of god? 

She reminds us that Christians, on the other hand, are embracing their intolerance. And I would have to agree that yes, Christians should view tolerance of sin to be a sign of moral corruption. Those are the rules. God has given them morality and a book that allows them to boldly condemn that which Secular Humanists claim to tolerate and protect, such as: abortion, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, and atheism itself. Or any other religion that is not Christianity.

Christians are right to put their foot down and be intolerant.  Sound unfair? Well, I imagine it sounds perfectly reasonable when you are 100% certain that your god is real. And since I used to be in that same boat- I’m going to give her a break.

But those are not my rules.

And, I do think it is unfair to pretend as if atheism does not put its own moral foot down. Everyone does. We are talking about only a handful of “sins” we disagree on. With the exception of abortion, most moral conflict comes down to whether or not one believes all things are permissible that do not infringe upon the rights of others. The good book finds that detail to be irrelevant. But that’s another post altogether.

So what does she expect to happen? She wants atheists to admit that we are never tolerant of Christianity any more than Christianity is tolerant of our lack of religion; and to confess our obvious agenda of eliminating the concept of god from the world. Because part of our agenda apparently includes the narcissistic “abuse” of trying to make Christians believe that the persecution is all in their heads.

I don’t know where that leaves us. Put all intolerance on the table and fight to the death?

She’s right about one thing: A house divided cannot stand. But which option is more likely to actually bring us all  to some common ground? An agreement that everyone has a legal right to believe what they want to…. or a decision to force everyone into either Christianity or atheism? Or maybe Islam? Or any other possible belief. Take your pick.

She offers examples of atheists using what she calls “doublespeak” the same way I see Christians use “love the sinner, hate the sin” arguments. It’s all the same. She claims atheists are viciously attacking Christianity while simultaneously professing their devotion to preserving it. How is that tolerant? It is clear that we have two different understandings of how tolerance plays out in the real world.

I see tolerance of religion as meaning that in spite of my own beliefs and emotions, I am committed to protecting everyone’s legal right to believe as they wish. I will never support an official government-endorsed belief, even for my own beliefs. I will never support discrimination of legal rights based on religion. I will never support one group’s right to use religion in a way that infringes upon the legal rights of others…. which includes their legal right to religious freedom.

That last sentence is where all the confusion comes in. Christians count intolerance of other beliefs as something they demand protection for. And that makes things a little trickier. A group that embraces intolerance is a group that wants their religion to be the law of the land. And yes, I will fight against that.

But even if she is right about feeling abused by atheists who don’t like her opinions; as long as they are still okay with her legal right to believe, they ARE being tolerant. Especially knowing that she might not extend the same consideration if given the opportunity.

Lucky for me, I live in a country where my freedom limits her opportunity to prove me right. And every time I confront that bullshit yet remain true in my commitment to religious freedom for all, sure, I do feel a little closer to achieving moral excellence. Because that shit is hard. Although admittedly easier without having to factor in some conflicting moral code written by men who didn’t know where the sun went at night.

Christians require regular reminders about how religious freedom works. Freedom is good news for them. They just don’t know it because, at least here in America, Christians have always enjoyed the greatest popularity. But when we all have equal freedom, public opinion and the popularity of all ideas are also equally up for grabs. That’s a natural outcome of true religious freedom. There is no “right to be popular.” Criticism or loss of popularity is not loss of freedom. It is actually evidence of it.

So if you live in a place that grants you religious freedom? Congratulations, Christians. You may not always be liked or even respected. But you will always, at the very least, be tolerated.

 

10 thoughts on “The Things We Must Tolerate

  1. Hi Jenny,

    Thanks for this well though-out critique on my posts. Obviously, I don’t agree with everything you’ve written, but I appreciate that you made a good effort to respond to my own critique of your new found faith.

    By the way…. you need to correct this error:

    “She claims Christians are viciously attacking Christianity while simultaneously professing their devotion to preserving it”.

    Also, though I get that many atheists/agnostics/humanists are not currently actively trying to rid me and fellow believers of my right to religion, I think you over-looked the reference to the blogpost “Eradicating Religion” (unless it has been pulled from the Internet). The message shared was many decades old, and the statement was recording the undue respect “we still” accord to religious freedom/rights. I don’t suppose this is an unpopular view amounts secularists. For me, that’s more than an insult. That’s someone setting a fire to my house! It will definitely spread, that’s how public opinion changes, and more of you will sign up to that nothing that religious freedom should be a thing of the past. Until then, Christians are tolerating your doublespeak, the best we can, because we already know your heart is set against us.

    Also, though Christians are my focal group, I do speak (as much as I can) in support of every religious right. Christianity does believe it is the true and right religion and does want the law of the land to reflect our morality, but we are not in support of forced conversions either. The Crusades was never Christians. It was politics at work again, this time in the name of religion, and I and every Christian will always be sorry for how our faith was portrayed.

    God bless you and thanks again.

    Cheers, Ufuoma.

    1. Thanks for catching that 🙂 You will encounter those who do not believe Christians should have rights. And I will encounter those who do not believe atheists should have rights. But most of the time we will both encounter those who simply do not share our point of view. They may even dislike us and/or our ideas intensely. And they have the right to think and say whatever they want. But at the end of the day they are just people with more emotion than agenda. And it is worthwhile for everyone to strive for moral excellence whether we ever get there or not. It sure beats the alternative.

    2. Hello there Ufuoma..

      You wrote to Jenny….”your new found faith.” I thought Jenny was now an atheist. Correct me if I’m wrong Jenny. You DO realise Ufuoma that atheism isn’t a “faith” It’s a LACK of belief in God/gods. That is all!

      Then you said…”Until then, Christians are tolerating your doublespeak, the best we can, because we already know your heart is set against us.”

      When christians make these claims it sounds like they’re searching for a reason to claim persecution. I will acknowledge that some atheists simply can’t tolerate what they see as the negative aspects of your beliefs, however, the vast majority of us just want to live a life where your particular beliefs don’t impact negatively on others. THAT there is the bottom line. And so, quite understandably that leaves us feeling frustrated and sometime angry. I can see that a number of people, both Jenny and on your own blog Ufuoma, have tried to explain this to you, but you seem either unconvinced or simply not willing to acknowledge this fact.

      Now I understand you live in Africa, Jenny I think lives in the US (tho I may be wrong there), and I live in Australia. I’m not sure what it’s like for christians in your country Ufuoma, and I won’t pretend I do. But quite honestly, in western countries at least, when christians complain that they are being persecuted, it boggles my mind. I would suggest you try living as an open atheist in some parts of the US if you want to know what persecution looks like. Tho, of course that doesn’t compare with those who are killed or tortured for their beliefs or lack there of around the world.

      And for the record, I was a christian for around 30 years of my life. My parents and siblings were missionaries, and my husband was a Baptist minister. And YES, my christian faith was REAL. But I have been what I would call an agnostic atheist, or perhaps more accurately a secular humanist, for about 20 years now. So rest assured, I have been in your shoes, at least faith wise. I look forward to your response.

      1. Hi dear,

        I sent you a response that seems to have vanished! It’s very annoying 🙁

        Well, let me give it another go. Regarding my statement to Jenny about her new found faith, I have to say that I do believe it takes more faith to say there is no God than to say there is. Check out this article by an agnostic, which makes a similar and strong point for that: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mick-mooney/why-id-still-believe-in-g_b_5988582.html

        Regarding my statement that your hearts are set against Christians and God, that is straight from the Bible. It’s not my imagination or paranoia. The Bible teaches us that friendship with the world is enmity with God. So though you may not intentionally hate our guts, it is just the state of being separated from God. You will grow in hate of Him and everything that He represents, while we grow in love with Him and all that He represents.

        Regarding your point about persecution, I have to say that persecution is relative, like poverty! You can’t dismiss poverty in the West, because people are starving in Africa. You must do something to stop the starvation, while still extending a hand to your neighbour, who is perishing in the midst of abundance! Now, the saying goes: injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. Same goes with persecution. I can’t sit comfortably because I am currently free to practice my faith, when I know others are dying or suffering because of their faith. I have a right and duty to speak up, which is what I am doing.

        Cheers and have a blessed day.

        1. Hello Ufuomaee,

          Thank you for your reply. You wrote: “I have to say that I do believe it takes more faith to say there is no God than to say there is.” Yes, I’ve heard Christians make this claim before. The beauty I see in atheism is that it relies primarily on reason and not “faith”. Ex-christian Neil Carter speaks about this very issue rather well on his blog post titled “Do Atheists Have Faith?”

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godlessindixie/2013/08/22/do-atheists-have-faith/

          I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read it, as I did with the link you sent me.

          I could go on to list numerous reasons why the notion of an intelligent being, and particularly the one spoken of in the bible, is to me, highly unlikely, overall rather repulsive and I’m now certain is a concoction of vivid human imagination. But I don’t expect you’ll be swayed from your beliefs by anything you read here. However, should you ever want to understand better, WHY many atheists find the “god” explanation so untenable, I’d direct you to a great little website titled..”God is Imaginary”

          http://godisimaginary.com/index.htm

          You also wrote: “Regarding my statement that your hearts are set against Christians and God, that is straight from the Bible. It’s not my imagination or paranoia”. I do hope you understand Ufuomaee, that what is written in your bible, holds little credibility to me. So quoting or referring to these writings most certainly won’t convince me that you’re not indeed “imagining it”. As I said before, yes there ARE those who hold great distain for the Christian faith, and make this known, sometimes in their words and also in their actions. Sadly this works both ways tho doesn’t it!

          You wrote also: “You will grow in hate of Him and everything that He represents..” If only you could see how very illogical it is to claim that atheists will grow to hate a being that we do not believe exists..full stop! Seriously?!! And with regards to what your god represents, I’d be the first to admit that there are some worthy “lessons” buried in the biblical stories, tho many are hardly unique from an historical view point.

          Lastly, I would agree with you that persecution is relative. But the propensity of some “Western” Christians especially, to claim persecution because of their religious beliefs, is to me is just sad! I could however excuse some of this ignorance and paranoia as a by-product of the less travelled westerner and therefore perhaps a more narrow global perspective. I was fortunate enough to spend my early years, living in a variety of cultures, and have no doubt this has made my perspective on life, AND religion, more balanced than those who’s lives were more sheltered.

          I’m glad you can’t, as you say “sit comfortably because I am currently free to practice my faith, when I know others are dying or suffering because of their faith. I have a right and duty to speak up, which is what I am doing.” No one should have to “suffer” for their beliefs, or lack thereof, provided no harm comes to others because of them. Sadly much of humanity’s conflicts are rooted in religion. The more MY religious past fades, the greater peace and appreciation I am finding in this life. As a humanist I believe we are capable of so much good, quite independent of any mythical “higher power”. And I consider myself very lucky to have lived on this beautiful earth for over 50 years, along side so many wonderful people!

          Thank you for your time.

          1. I replied to you, but my response disappeared again. Jenny, please look into that with WordPress because it keeps happening, thanks!

            Thanks for your response. I’ll look into the links you shared. I don’t have time now to repeat my response, but I’m not sure it’s necessary.

            Cheers, Ufuoma.

          2. Hi dear,

            I read the link you sent and I have to say his argument is well made. I think the essential difference with religious faith is that we get the evidence after and not before. After we believe, then we feel, hear and come to know that God is real, and our faith is strengthened. You can call it confirmation bias, but that is just how God chooses to reveal himself.

            There are two kinds of people in this world: those who live by faith and those who don’t. God demands that his righteous people must live by faith. God is not stirred or moved by less that is why you will never find him on the road of reason.

            Now, even people of faith understand the place and purpose of reason. We are all made with the ability to reason. But to enter the realm of the spirit, we CHOOSE to forego reason to APPLY faith, knowing that it WORKS because when we applied faith in the past, it worked. You might see it as the behaviour of a mouse who finds a button that brings cheese. Even if it was a coincidence or an accident the first time, he will still press that button believing that cheese will come again. It doesn’t mean he won’t try other methods to get cheese.

            I think we all have the ability to exercise this type of faith, and we do. Like, when you have faith in your child, you believe in their ability to succeed, though they may be struggling. When you build up their confidence enough with your belief and faith in them, they also start to believe in themselves and things that working -through faithfulness. However, some people use faith less, while others use faith more.

            Have a blessed day.

  2. When I see a post responding to or criticizing another post, I usually try to read the post in question, first. This one, I admit, I did not get all the way through. I stopped reading when she said that we atheists/secular humanists seek to destroy her right to believe what she wants. This is absurd on the face of it! I don’t think I have ever seen an atheist crusading for such a thing. And if I did, I would be the first to shout them down. Trying to persuade people out of beliefs we think are mistaken is completely different from trying to outlaw them.

    Also, I find it pretty gross when people are proud of their bigotry. Just because your religion says that same sex sex is wrong, doesn’t give you a right to go around telling other people outside of your religion that they must follow your religion’s rules, even though they are not harming anyone! I have just seen way too much harm to LGBT people like me to not get pissed at people who promote bigotry in the name of “morality”. What’s moral about kids getting kicked out of their homes or being forced into harmful “conversion” therapy or being taught that their very nature makes them a bad person, just because they are gay or bi or trans?

    1. Well I don’t recommend reading the comments under that same post where she offers her thoughts on “the real agenda behind homosexuality.” I cannot even address it. Sometimes I have to walk away just to keep my hope up for humanity.

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