Tolerance is for other people

Tolerant of Christmas?

Tolerant of Christmas?

Tolerance is what we demand from our adversaries, but extend only to the like-minded. This was the thought that crossed my mind a few years ago after watching the ACLU attack yet another public Christmas display. Never do we get through December without this organization or some other “tolerant” interest group suing or stomping out some recognition of the true meaning of Christmas.

It is interesting to me to listen to people demand tolerance of homosexuals, Muslims, and various other subcultures because these same people show up later demanding that Christian symbols be removed from public buildings or in some cases commercial buildings. For me religious freedom means we have the right to practice and express our religion. Government tolerance should mean the government is friendly toward all religions and hostile toward none.

Moses on the inside facia of the U.S. Supreme Court

Moses on the inside facia of the U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court North Frieze

Charlemagne, Mohammed, and Justinian appear in a frieze adorning the U.S. Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is adorned with religious symbols representing, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.  The very first amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees us the right to practice our religion and to freely express it.  In case you have forgotten, have a false memory of, or have never seen the first amendment as it is written here is the exact text of it:

AMENDMENT I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It is truly amazing that 69% of American believe that the first amendment establishes a “separation of church and state.” In fact such a statement never appears in Constitutional law, it is an invention designed to limit religious expression.  Simply put it is the establishment of intolerance.  Rather, the first amendment guarantees religion protection from repressive governments.  Can religion be repressive?  Absolutely but that thought has nothing to do with government tolerating and recognizing religious holidays.  As long as no religious symbol are prohibited on public property there should be no constitutional issue.

The problem arises because a new religion has risen in the United States.  A religion that masquerades as the absence of religion.  Atheism is as much a religion as any other.  Atheism is founded on the core belief that here is no god, no spiritual entities, and all that exists or has ever existed can be observed in this present existence.  Like any religion, it requires faith in the absence of supporting evidence.  Holes or flaws in creation theories are dismissed as forthcoming.  The similarities do not end in creation myths, rather continuing the parallel, we see an organized structure has formed around this ideological foundation.  This structure is better known to us as scientific academia.  When a member of this elite religious order allows a theist to speak or worse, entertains the possibility of the divine, that individual is disciplined and excommunicated.  Like any religion, atheism is threatened by competing belief systems and is active in attempting to suppress them.  Thus we see active attacks on religious holidays and ideas.

You might think I lifted this thought from Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, however this has been on my mind since I was a freshman in college. I will never forget turning in a humanities paper and getting marked down because all my dates were in the form “BC/AD”.  I was informed this was a recognition of the validity of Christian influence in society and that the correct form was “BCE/CE”. My scholarly professor peered down her nose and explained, “This form recognizes time in a ‘common‘ understanding rather than as a recognition of a particular religion.”  When Mr. Stein’s movie came out I was delighted to see such a well documented exposé regarding what I was certain was going on.

Like any good religion, no challenge can go unchallenged.  We can see how anyone who stoops low enough to listen to an argument for the existence of God is quickly labelled an idiot. Open minds are for the ignorant not for the superior demigods of academia and science.  Another example of intolerance that received a high degree of publicity, (nearly always misrepresented and editorialized,) was the textbook labels in Cobb County Georgia.

Evolution DisclaimerCreationists in Georgia were not demanding a chapter or even a class discussion on creationism.  No they simply wanted high school students to understand that evolution is a theory and not a fact.  Read the actual text of the sticker rather than the parodies that have swamped American perception.

This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.

Approved by
Cobb County Board of Education
Thursday, March 28, 2002

Apparently, it is unconstitutional to even admit that it is not the “fact of evolution” but rather the “theory of evolution”.  The school system and especially the university system has not so subtly suggested that the theory of evolution is an established fact.  The fact is, it is a theory only and a theory that is in crisis as a result of break-throughs in microbiology.  Suppression of contrary evidence only lends credence in my mind that evolution is a core theology for atheism as a religion.  Many people think that admitting evolution is a theory somehow is tantamount to adopting a religion or teaching creationism in the classroom.  This position is logical when you consider their religion is being challenged.

I could go on and on with this topic but it leads away from my point.  Christmas has become a favorite target for attack because it represents a popular religious theology that is viewed as a threat by its challenger religion, atheism.  It is popular for liberals and proponents of evolution to accuse Christians of being stupid and close-minded.  They exhort the religious to be “open-minded” or better yet, tolerant of their unbelief.  Yet in their actions they demonstrate completely closed minds and extreme intolerance toward Christians.  If one expects tolerance, it helps to show some as well.  In America today, tolerance is demanded from our adversaries, but extended only to those who are like-minded.

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  1. If we allowed every religion to express their views through displays there would be no room in court houses for trials or legislators in the Capitol buildings. The only appropriate thing to do is remove all religious references from our government buildings. Religious symbols are for private property and houses of worship.

  2. The title of your blog is rather unfortunate, given the content of this post.

    If you define ‘atheism’ as a religion, you’ll also have to admit that a very, very wide array of beliefs are also religions, including a great many political and philosophical schools of thought. Is Humanism a religion? (That’s Humanism on its own, as opposed to Secular Humanism.) What about Neo-Platonism? Kantian ethics? Where exactly should we stop in our quest to slander these modes of thinking by calling them religious?

    You also raise the tired spectre of the anti-Christian, liberal boogyman: academia, and the Humanities in particular. I study in a Humanities department that is, I would wager, at least 60% Christian. Plucking a book at random from the philosophy section of my school’s library will yield a Christian (or at least theistic) author more often than not. A great many faculty members in my school’s science department are devout Christians.

    The sticker you mentioned would apply equally to any branch of science or, indeed, any branch of human thought. There is nothing in science that should not be approached with an open mind, that should not be questioned, probed and doubted to the fullest extent of scientific limitations. Nobody, and I do mean nobody in academia is afraid to call evolution a theory. That’s what it is, and that’s what it has always been. The biology lecturers in my university refer to it as a theory. My philosophy lecturer, when discussing the ‘design’ arguments for God’s existence, referred frequently to ‘Darwin’s theory of evolution’. But I’m not going to waste time explaining what a scientific theory actually is – the information is out there for anyone who wants to take a look at it, and the fact that you have yet to do so speaks volumes about you as a person.

    The dirty secret of Creationism is that it does not represent a valid threat to established scientific fact. Stein’s insipid movie fails to bring this up, and his gullible followers have latched on to the idea that the supression of Creationism in academia is a political issue rather than one based on the evidence. Until Creationists can come up with something better than weak attempts at undermining evolution based on their own ignorance (“It’s only a theory!!!”), they will continue to be ignored.

  3. Augustine: My reference to Humanities was consequential, as the subject was the snobby Professor, so your exception is misplaced. My liberal reference was left undefined but specifically I was referring to the unfair religious bashing Palin endured during the presidential campaign. I’ll accept blame for the misunderstanding there. I know many very religious Christian, Jewish, and Atheist liberals so I was not implying all liberals are atheists. I generally do not stereo-type in that fashion.

    Tired or not atheists hold the greatest antipathy toward Christians. I contend this is based on the competition for the American soul. I love the way you attempted to generalize the sticker situation. While, I personally don’t care one way or the other about the sticker on the science books the point was there was NO religious message yet it was widely portrayed as an attempt to bring creationism into the classroom. Thus to teach kids the world is only 4000 years old, and blah, blah, blah. My point was the sticker asks for an open mind when the very concept in regard to evolution is offensive to devotees of the religion. I think it would be akin to asking Christians and Jews to place a sticker on Bibles saying this is only one of many religions. Religious people would not have it and neither would the atheists which I see as religious zealots.

    You said “Nobody, and I do mean nobody in academia is afraid to call evolution a theory.” Not true. Sir John Huxley wrote in 1959, “The point to make about Darwin’s theory of evolution is that it is no longer a theory, but a fact. No serious scientist would deny the fact that evolution has occurred, just as he would not deny the fact that the earth goes around the sun.” (Tax, Sol, Ed. “Evolution After Darwin,” Issues in Evolution, Chicago University Press, 1960, Vol. 3, p. 41.) R. C. Lewontin wrote in 1981, “all present forms of life arose from ancestral forms that were different … No person who pretends to any understanding of the natural world can deny these facts any more than she or he can deny that the earth is round, rotates on its axis, and revolves around the sun.” (R. C. Lewontin “Evolution/Creation Debate: A Time for Truth” Bioscience 31, 559 (1981.) Stephen Jay Gould wrote in 1994, “Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact … humans evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin’s proposed mechanism or by some other, yet to be discovered.” (Stephen Jay Gould, “Evolution as Fact and Theory,” Discover 2 (May 1981): 34-37; Reprinted here with permission from Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1994, pp. 253-262.)

    Without a deity there can only be one other answer. You want to demagogue the definition of religion. Fine. I am defining religion as any belief system that establishes or denies the existence of a deity or deities and relies on faith to support questions unanswered by observable evidence. I see a high degree of dogma in the defense of atheism as well as in attacking alternative belief systems.

    This blog entry had nothing to do with making an argument for or against creationism. Note the title it was about tolerance. You illustrated my very point in your closing paragraph. I could not have painted a better picture of intolerance demanding tolerance.

  4. My point was the sticker asks for an open mind when the very concept in regard to evolution is offensive to devotees of the religion.

    Why does the sticker solely target evolution? If it was not a religiously motivated attack on evolution, why are no other theories contained within those same textbooks viewed with such suspicion that students must be safeguarded from putting too much trust in them? This is the reason why those stickers are bullshit; they propogate the idea that evolution is a uniquely suspect theory, when in fact it’s on much steadier ground than many other accepted theories.

    While we’re on the topic, you’re confusing the definitions of ‘fact’ and ‘theory’. As Gould points out in your quote, it is a scientific fact that organisms are descended from common ancestors, that mutations are passed down from one generation to the next, that some of these mutations confer a survival advantage, and so on. These are facts; evolution is the theory which best explains those facts. As I said before, nobody is ‘excommunicated’ for calling evolution a theory, because that’s exactly what it is. Scientists do, however, get quite annoyed when the likes of Stein claim that evolution is a weak theory, because it certainly is not.

    There are certainly dogmatic atheists out there; I’ve met quite a few of them myself. However, in general, atheism does not require the same level of blind faith as a ‘true’ religion, nor does it require the same painful rationalisations.

    I’m not demanding tolerance from anyone. You have no particular obligation to tolerate my views – what I would like is for people like you to stop irresponsibly spreading misinformation about science. (Evolution is in crisis thanks to new discoveries in micro-biology? Really? What journal was that published in?)

  5. Hey,
    Firstly, I like your espoused lack of trust in politicians of any stripe (on your about page). Well done.

    I think you might find this review of Expelled illuminating.

    Creationism is, plainly, utter bull. My own distaste for it comes from seeing elegant ontological arguments disparaged in the favor of arguments from design (which always fail). If you are looking for an interesting and intelligent attempt to prove God exists, I’d highly recommend St Anselm’s proof.
    This idea that “its just a theory” is such a scare tactic. Theories in science are hypothesis that have been tested and proven. Theories often hold much more weight than items carelessly labeled as “facts”.

    Tolerating a subculture is different from demanding it be displayed on public property. (The Supreme Court displays, which is inclusive, is simply a history of law (which is often how the Torah is referred to, for example)). Homosexuals are asking for the same right to love, marry, and enjoy the resulting legal status and rights as heterosexual couples. They aren’t forcing you to rennounce Jesus or to enter into a gay marriage yourself. They just want to have the freedom to follow their own path. That’s quite different from wanting this country to be officially Christian (with laws and public displays that affirm that).

    By the by, I would never accus Christians of being stupid and close-minded, I know too many. This liberal simply feels it necessary to call out theocratic tendencies, wherever they may surface.

  6. I’m familiar with the ontological arguments. They’re certainly fun to ponder over, but I think I’d need something a bit more substantial than that to convince me that God actually exists. I also wouldn’t say that ‘design’ argument always fail – the fine-tuning argument at the very least doesn’t seem to have been replied to definitively, which is more than I can say for some of the others.

    That Expelled review is great, although at this point I think the movie has been ripped apart in every way possible!

  7. I’m not sure what bothers me more… That the first amendment has become so bastardized, or the fact that it has been allowed to proceed on this path for as long as it has.

    While I certainly believe that there is a necessary separation of church and state; this is simply meant to ensure that America never fell into the pitfalls that England did when they blended religion and government. It was never meant to keep people from offending one another and it sure as hell was never intended to to be used as a tool to tell people that they must be secular in their beliefs or they must hide them.

    A government of the people, for the people also means that a government building or property may display symbols that represent the beliefs of the people so long as they don’t pass laws that force everybody into a specific religion or belief system.

  8. Augustine and Dan:

    Thank you for the comments. interestingly, my remarks were about tolerance and the comments I receive are arguments for intolerance. This leads me to conclude atheism is an extremely intolerant philosophy that values self over others and discounts human free will as unimportant. Having recently read Nixon and Mao, I recall this was Mao’s view. When combined with a lack of respect for life such intolerance becomes justification for sorts of potential evil.

    I felt the movie Expelled was not as much an attack on atheism but a look at how academia punishes and excludes creationists. Just as the point of my blog was how acceptable intolerance is when it is our own. In both cases atheists leap at the chance to bash creationism and see every offense as an attack.

    I like the bating, Dan, switch the subject to something unrelated and see if the Idiot will become intolerant. I believe one of the founding principles of this country is freedom and tolerance. We tolerate religious views we do not agree with, we tolerate political speech we do not agree with, we tolerate inaccuracies in the press regarding politicians, and we tolerate many other decisions people make as long as they do not cross the line of inhibiting the freedoms of others. This is a principle you will see throughout the Bill of Rights. Augustine might need to revisit those.

    I don’t see Christian demanding nativity scenes on public property. I see communities who want to recognize the festive season and long historical tradition. I think public property is “public”. Meaning it should be available to the people and reflect the values and traditions of the community. If a city wants a nativity they should be free to have it, but with the understanding that if others in the community want a suitable display they are free to have it. Space allocations might need negotiation, but as long as the display is requested by residents of the community, I feel this represents “tolerance.”

    Augustine asked about my comments on microbiology, my reference is to the building volume of data that illuminates just how complex cellular biology is and what would be required just to assemble the right combination of elements to provide the building blocks. Then those elements need to be assembled in the right sequence and finally animated. The theory of evolution has gaps and areas that require faith, failure to admit this sets you up in a poor light. Then there is the inflation theory, one that interestingly fits perfectly into the Judeo-Christian creation story. We have diverted this topic long enough on this. It is off topic but I entertained it since the initial point seemed earnest.

    Back to the subject, Augustine says he did not request tolerance and is unwilling to grant any. A very sad position to be in. To them who show no mercy, no mercy will be shown. Christians call it reciprocity, Buddhists call it Karma, I believe in it. Without it, the Salem witch trials might still be a daily occurrence. Should we someday experience another great holocaust, I expect Augustine to either sit back in quiet approval (should the persecutors be on his side) or become a victim. I for one oppose intolerance because it builds into the hate that yields crimes and violence.

  9. Thanks Ryan!

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