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.