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Posted by on Oct 24, 2012 in Uncategorized | 13 comments

We Have To Tolerate Dumb Beliefs

You know why? Because we all have them; the only problem is that we don’t realize which ones they are. But tolerance is not the same as respect, and being irrational in some aspects of one’s life is not the same as causing harm to others. For example, while I have no problem with people who read their horoscopes and believe those silly predictions (written by what I imagine to be unemployed journalists), I do have a problem with people who believe their seriously ill children can be healed by prayer or homeopathic remedies and, therefore, fail to seek necessary medical care. And while I have no desire to ruin the fun for those who enjoy astrology, I do have the desire to stop people who harm their children from committing further negligent and criminal acts.

Moreover, even the most intelligent people on this pale blue dot are often wrong. Sometimes they believe silly things. If anything, history certainly shows this to be true. But the one thing they know that others often miss is that being wrong can be a good thing. It can allow a person to learn from their mistakes and to grow. Also being able to admit error shows courage; and in the best sense, that’s what being open-minded means. Only the truly stupid (or emotionally deluded) fail to see their own stupidity.

Finally, I’d like to mention one last, if only tangentially related, concept. I am emphatically not anti-theist. I would much rather spend time with liberal Christians than with militant and angry atheist feminists. My atheism doesn’t make me angry, and it doesn’t make me hate the religious. Being a woman in the West doesn’t make me feel oppressed, and it doesn’t make me hate men. I can’t hate people for the foibles we all share, and it’s undeniable that all of us engage in emotional rather than rational thinking at some point. As long as people are kind to each other and appreciate human beings for the individuals they are, and as long as they don’t discriminate against or hurt others, they have my respect. Mistakes were meant to be forgiven. Maybe there was a time in mankind’s history when hate served a valid purpose, but I don’t see any benefit flowing from hatred and spite today. We have enough of a problem dealing with the politics of greed.

  • skepcheck

    If only everyone had the same attitude the world would be a very different place.

  • padawanphysicist

    I dunno about that horoscope thing. I overheard some lady saying “…my constellation, Gemini…” and wanted to get the hell away ASAP.

    • bluharmony

      But there’s so much more to a person than that. I know plenty of people who read horoscopes, and it doesn’t bother me in the least. There’s infinite value to science, logic, and critical thinking, but there’s no less value to creativity, talent, and inspiration.

      • padawanphysicist

        I think there’s a difference between being polite to people and respecting their beliefs. I genuinely am bothered when people believe certain foolish things, but I don’t always express it, especially when there’s nothing to be accomplished by doing so.

        • bluharmony

          You don’t have to respect the belief, just the person.

          • padawanphysicist

            Yeah, I agree with that.

            Also (I should have thought to say before), when the ultimate desire is to change the other’s beliefs, rudeness and dismissal are counterproductive. They sometimes come about because of frustration, but the urge to express frustration is best suppressed. And I suspect that being truly persuasive requires genuinely respecting others’ intellectual capacities.

          • bluharmony

            Yes, that’s exactly right, I think.

  • Copyleft

    But… but self-righteous anger feels soooooo goooooood! How can you pass that up?
    Give hate a chance. Maybe you should listen to more talk radio.

    • bluharmony

      Anger might actually have some use if it motivates you to do something positive or to protect yourself. But hate? I just don’t get it at all.

  • ZedZero

    I was pondering the way people cloister themselves in their
    own little buckets and see the world as revolving around their particulars.
    Like the atheist bucket, gay bucket, Fox News bucket, or liberal bucket. The Liberal
    Bullying essay is quite instructive. I ask are they bullying me to get in their
    bucket or are they bullying me to get out of their bucket? I am confused.

    I like to create social dichotomies in my life as it allows me to
    have empathy where others and I have been are cruel. In an experiment I got one
    hundred dollars, split into 3 dollar bundles and gave every homeless person I
    encountered 3 dollars. It took me 18 months to give it away. I found I was not
    nearly as hassled as had fantasized I was by begging and the homeless people
    are really happy, it seemed to me, to be acknowledged as a person more so than
    getting 3 bucks. Many it seemed to me were reaching out to touch my hand rather
    than grabbing the money. Being a germ-o-phobe it freaks me out but, I do look
    at these people in a completely different way and actually talking to them lets
    you understand they very mentally different from you or I. I do get god blessed
    damn near every time but, I dig deep and say thank you rather than argue the
    point (insert smiley face).

  • My laws of the 3 F’s: we are all Flawed, Fallibile, and Frail. We are all capable of making mistakes, being misled by our own beliefs, of simply being wrong. We are screwed-up by nature, it’s part of being human. All too often, belief systems don’t make us better or worse, they just become channels for what’s already in us; either ways for us to express the best in ourselves or excuses for indulging in the worst. I’m willing to tolerate and live with a lot. That’s how my philosophy is these days.

  • B-Lar

    “…being irrational in some aspects of one’s life is not the same as causing harm to others.”
    Unless of course that irrational thought leads to misguided harmful action.
    Tolerance is a false virtue. To be tolerant of abhorrent behaviour gives tacit approval to it, and should only be used strategically when perceived approval is outweighed by some future gain. If someone is wrong, tell them why. If they are unable/unwilling to see your point and continue their behaviour, it reflects badly on them, not you.
    Tolerance removes responsibility for the effects of an action from the actor and places it on the observer.
    Restraint is better. Give people the benfit of the doubt and read charitably wherever possible, but unequivocably state when they are wrong. Prepare yourself for the possibility that they dont care that they are wrong. Be as gentle or as forceful as you like, but do not tolerate except for tactical advantage.

    • bluharmony

      The tactical advantage is the benefit one derives of not needlessly hurting someone’s feelings. I’m not an accommodationist. I believe in speaking the truth when necessary (and I don’t believe that theism or astrology is compatible with science). But I also believe in kindness. Truth and kindness are sometimes at odds; when they are and when there’s no benefit to be derived from telling the truth, for me, kindness wins.