Tolerance, Tole-Rant, To All You I Rant…


I asked a friend recently about hostility on social media. He replied by saying, “What’s the use of having an opinion if you can’t cram it down somebody’s throat”. Of course he was joking, but many I know truly subscribe to that belief…

My Belief…

I don’t believe in god, not in the sense of a divine being – man on the throne kind of stuff. Nor do I believe in a singular intelligence or designer, however vague, ethereal or non-specific it might be. At best I believe in an accidental system, and that beneath this system exists an underlying current of higher purpose pulling society in a singular direction. I believe that as time carries forward the stream of that current narrows.

As human complexity increases and that stream narrows it appears to me that we may be headed for a social eruption of some kind. Whether that eruption takes place in the next few years or few hundred, I have no idea. When I step back though, and attempt to take a big picture view of society, complexity, and directionality, it appears this eruption is unavoidable, so I want to get this off my chest while I can.

No Fight In Me…

On the topics of religions, god, and higher purpose, I have two basic rules; I don’t argue on behalf of, nor do I proselytize my beliefs. I also choose never to argue against the beliefs of others. That is, as I hope my beliefs will be respected by others, I ensure that the beliefs of others are respected by me — unless those beliefs involve hatred.

As the futile debates over religions and god causes schisms, what I do seek are occasional discussions that might otherwise fill those gaps. I tend to think the wellness of culture is absolutely dependent on religious tolerance. If useful discussions can’t be had, I simply disengage from all conversation. To attempt to change a person’s beliefs, mine or yours, is a supreme violation of consciousness.

Probably All That Can Ever Be Known…

In the appendix to his book, The Evolution Of God, Robert Wright masterfully explains what I believe is all we can ever truly understand about god, higher purpose, or why we even think in those terms. Wright speaks of an early hunter-gatherer walking alone through the woods alone at dusk. Suddenly there is a noise. The noise stops the man in his tracks. For a split second he thought he saw something associated with that noise, but can’t be certain whether or not he did. He looks again and sees nothing. Rather than continuing in the same direction, the man adjusts his path. He does this as to exhibit caution in order live another day – to push his genes into the next generation.

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The idea though, that he thought he saw something served him much better than not thinking he saw something. That is, if that guard had not been put up, he may have well walked into danger, and not survived another day to spread his genes.

And that’s where the idea of god begins and ends for me; as an evolutionary presence to ensure we protect ourselves, both physiologically and culturally, from things that may hurt us.

Fast Talkin’ Dawkins…

The primary tenet of biological evolution is that traits which serve getting genes into the next generation survive, and traits that don’t serve that purpose get weeded out in time. If cultural evolution parallels biological evolution, which Richard Dawkins himself stated early on in his career, than religion must be a trait that is serving the advancement of culture. After all, religions have not been weeded out over time, only transmogrified, misused and abused.

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At its very core religion is where all culture began. All art began as sacred art. All governance began as sacred governance. Albeit art and government are now (mostly) secularized in the modern era and in the western world, we have early religions to thank for providing us this framework that today keeps chaos in check – despite what we see on the evening news.

Did You Read Anything Up To This Point…?

I know there are people who have read this far, and ready to take me to task. Don’t bother – that’s kind of my point. However asinine my beliefs may seem to you, they are my beliefs and I value them as I value my child. Try and talk me out of loving my child or my beliefs, and you have lost the argument so there is no need for me to speak.

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I have a great reverence and appreciation for religions, though I subscribe to none. I actually believe that rituals are the most important aspect of the human experience, and like art and government, all ritual began as sacred ritual. Whether we believe in a higher power or not, to me, is not as important as behaving as though there is one.

Where religions go in the future can’t be predicted, though billions will try to chart their path, as billions more try to extinguish them. History though, makes a great case that religions may change over time, and may evolve, but for those who would like to see them disappear, I’ll suggest their very presence is the most vital part of culture, and a necessary trait for cultural survival.

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I believe that a successful outcome for humanity is absolutely dependent on religious tolerance. If one steps back and takes a big picture look at the evolution of culture, I’ll suggest it will be hard to disagree with that. Be well. rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from The Mountain Goats.  Enjoy…

13 responses

  1. I have very similar views on this as you do, although I could never be so eloquent in my description! I’ve thought of life as a river carrying us along. It’s been evolving for a long time so the system works very well in its consistency of action and karma. I’ve never needed to create beliefs as the magnificence of the reality of the universe has been enough for me. Although on starry nights I can feel the insignificance of the speck that is me, I still appreciate that my speck is still an integral part of the greater wonder that is.

  2. So many great points here – and as Dr. J said, so eloquently put!

    One of my favorites: “Whether we believe in a higher power or not, to me, is not as important as behaving as though there is one.” Yes. I feel like that’s one of the most important points C. S. Lewis was driving at with his Narnia series…

  3. Systems of beliefs are such a complicated subject. We need to learn about them, talk, and argue, yes, even argue, about them or we will be ignorant and ignorance always leads to intolerance. And yet, lately beliefs have become a sacred cow. We know nothing about it, we are afraid to touch it. We are even afraid to talk about it.
    I want to state very strongly that I respect people’s right to choose what they believe in. This is not the same though as respecting their beliefs. The latter would imply that to some extent I agree with how they view the world and that’s not always the case. So if someone believes the earth is flat, it is his right. Do I respect that view? Not really. Still that person might be my best friend for all the things she stands for.
    I think the problem is not beliefs but what people do with them. Some are inspired to live a good life, helping others, or creating art to the glory of god. Some kill infidels or deny medical treatment to a child because they believe this is what god wants.
    It is a slippery slope. Sacred texts are ambiguous, very often self-contradictory. And maybe this is why we all need to study and discuss them. I have read maybe 20 pages of Koran so I would not dare to open my mouth about what Islam teaches their believers. What I do know is that no matter what faith, we have to condemn actions of those who do harm to others under the veil of their religion.

  4. My two cents: All of the different religions in the world seem to share certain core beliefs. Don’t kill people. Love your neighbor. The trouble starts when people’s egos get involved. That’s when we start saying “My prophet is better than yours,” and “If you don’t believe in my prophet, you deserve to die,” and “My practices are the only path to heaven, and your practices are a path to hell.” That’s just ego getting in the way, it’s all just another way to feel superior to others. Too many people confuse religion with living a more spiritually enlightened life. Holding anger and hatred towards others is a poison that eats us from the inside.

  5. As I read this last evening I was amazed at how similar my views are to yours, Roy. Re-reading this post this morning gave me a better understanding of my own views. Just as Lisa B. talks of, I believe all religions have similar core values. Core values and a strong belief system are my non-affiliated religion. Simply being kind to others and humane to the animal kingdom is enough for me. No, being kind to others is not always easy when dealing with self-centered egos on a daily basis. However, it is what I believe is the right thing to do. (And who was it that said all cultures are judged by how they treat animals??)

    Organized religion has it’s place as you pointed out the historical imprint on present and future beliefs. Even so, I don’t feel the need to gather with others in a formal setting as necessary to stay strong in one’s beliefs. Perhaps this is because of a specific religion being crammed down my throat as a child. I do understand the need for rituals, though, as I hold to many myself.

    Respect of an individual’s right to choose his/her beliefs is imperative. But I must agree with Ewa on my inability to respect those beliefs in all cases. I suppose it comes down to me, and others, being tolerant of those beliefs as long it they are not harmful to the global community.

    There is so much more to say on this topic, but then this will become a post of it’s own 😉 So I will end with the take-away phrase that will now be with me forever: “Whether we believe in a higher power or not, to me, is not as important as behaving as though there is one.”

    • Very nice Lisa. Thank you. The Humanism movement is perhaps the best we can do for those who don’t want to subscribe to a faith. What separates humanists from Atheists is that they don’t wish to do away with religion. Rather, they just extract and act on those cores values you pointed out which are common among all religions.

      I tell people regularly, above all else, I value kindness. Again I thank you very much for your mindful comment. Much love!

  6. This could add very little value to your comment string so know that upfront. I watched American Sniper last night with my husband. War to me is hard to watch and, especially as portrayed in this movie, the suicidal actions of the “enemy” in the name of a higher being (or simply out of hatred for the Americans) was difficult to digest. It was also extremely hard for me to watch the actions of the main “hero,” what he and his wife lived through, and how his life was taken by one of his own. Yet I felt as if I owed it to those who fought for our freedom to sit through and soak up this movie. Mankind does many things to protect religious and civil freedoms. I don’t know whether to be in awe or disgust over some of them. Knowing so many vets suffer through PTSD after they served their time is hard to swallow. I yearn for a world where tolerance is the norm and not the exception so that future lives aren’t so negatively and irreversibly affected. Ok, my rambling stream of consciousness is officially over now.

    • A wonderful comment, Heidi, and much appreciated. Popular culture has associated religion with war for millennia. Critical thinkers such as Robert Wright, Steven J. Gould, Stephen Pinker, and more are exposing this as a farce, and an abuse of the good intentions behind all religions.

      Despite popular notions to the contrary, war is wholly secular, with religion used as a mask — even in Palestine and Israel. People fight over land, resources, and money, and who controls them — exclusively. If one looks close enough at the root of every war, it’s not a shift in culture that’s being pursued, it’s a shift in who shapes and controls that culture. That’s not what religion is about. It’s what ego and the abuse of religion is.

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