I’ve heard lots of people who preach tolerance to turn around and hate other people who are intolerant. I can’t help but feel this is hypocrisy, however well intentioned. It says: “I choose to be tolerant of other people’s beliefs, unless I think they’re intolerant, in which case I’m allowed to be intolerant of their intolerance.”
Does anyone else see this disconnect?
If you truly embrace other people’s right to their own lifestyle in all their forms, that means you’re not allowed to be intolerant of any other lifestyle that does not directly threaten other people’s lives. And even then, depending on the culture, you still don’t have much of a say.
If you believe ignorant people don’t deserve tolerance, then you automatically negate your own right to an individual belief system. Remember that ignorance is entirely subjective. Someone with a strong understanding of science might believe the man of faith is ignorant of universal truths. On the other hand, the man who chooses to pursue the spiritual side of life might feel the man of science equally, if differently, ignorant of his own universal truths.
The “ignorant” hick who knows nothing about city life or scientific theory might think the elitists are ignorant of how to survive without society. He’d be right, and from his point of view, he’s far better off than they are, since he needs no complicated system to survive and can help other people with or without electricity.
If you want to live a life of tolerance, that means you don’t get to pick and choose which variation you tolerate. I’m not talking about tolerating pedophilia, murder or theft. These are definable crimes. But calling people who teach their children to believe in Mohammed or Jesus, that homosexuality is a sin, that sex is free, that something intelligent created the universe, that the earth is warming … is ignorant (whatever your point of view), and thus justifying judgment of them is the exact same sin you so often claim they have committed against either your or those you feel called to defend.
Living up to a lifestyle of tolerance is more than justifying your intolerance, it means leaning to accept other people’s lifestyle choices, even if you think they’re stupid or backward. Perhaps especially if you think they are for the simple fact that tolerance is exactly that. You don’t tolerate what you already like, you like it. You tolerate only what you perhaps do not like, permitting it because you know that you either have no right or place to say otherwise, or because what you tolerate has yet to cross into crime.
However much we might wish to call certain social activity a crime (such as some people believing teaching your children that God doesn’t exist, or vice versa that he does), these are not direct threats to life. We must respect people’s rights to believe as they wish AND to teach their children the same beliefs. That’s the reality of life, of culture, of family.
It’s time you offered respect to everyone’s right to live as they see fit, so long as they do not advocate use of force to make you support or obey their belief systems. They can preach at you the merits of atheistic science or blind religion all they like, but until they attempt to use the force of a gun (either in-person or through government regulation), your tolerance cannot be voluntary, else you represent all you hate, and are even worse for your belief that you actually knew better and failed to realize the truth.
If you’re going to tolerate, then tolerate.
I’m not even saying you should like that other people believe what they believe. Or that you shouldn’t speak about your differences. But if you’re going to live in tolerance, do so, and make no excuses for your own desire to exercise the same selfish intolerance you hate in other people.