The Age of Intolerance

Welcome to a By-Gone Era

Quakers, Protestants and other religiously persecuted Europeans, mainly from Britain, escaped the government-run Anglican church and other intolerance hundreds of years ago.  They came to America.  They pledged to support each other’s beliefs, not by forcing everyone to conform, but by simple tolerance of each other.

Tolerance is not truly “support” but at least it’s not interference.  The various groups having differing religious beliefs agreed not to interfere in the practices and beliefs of other groups.  They agreed to tolerate the others’ views, respecting them.

Tolerance, Acceptance, Support, Adherence

Your beliefs in the After-Life or in a number of other things, like whether milk and meat can be cooked in the same pot, whether people are reincarnated into life after life until they ‘get it right,’ whether a man can marry 4 women, whether driving cars on Sunday is wrong, whether God exists at all, whether the King is the Son of God, and so on and so forth, are in fact your beliefs.  No one else may believe the same thing you do, or maybe a billion other people have a lot of the same beliefs as you.

If someone else disagrees with your beliefs, do you want them to disagree violently with you, wielding the power to behead you?  Probably not.

Would you want to be able to give your case for your beliefs to them and possibly convert them, or would you prefer to be rendered mute and unable to express even a single word about your own beliefs?  Probably outlawing free speech seems too restrictive.  Some people believe in allowing on speech that they consider acceptable.  This love of political correctness chills the first Amendment right that some consider worthy of restrictions.

Support by Edict or Teaching Understanding

Would you want them to be able to force you to come to their synagogue, mosque, temple, church, or to be able to force you to donate your time, money or effort to support their beliefs?  Maybe you should be able to force them to do the same?  Not.  Teaching the fundamental tenets of a religion may be possible for adults when studying comparative philosophies or religions, but care must be exercised with younger students not to cross the line between comparative study and advocating.

Would you want to have all commercial operations cease on your “holy day” – whatever day you choose, because that would be adhering to your beliefs?  Or, would their day be “holy” too and commercial-free?  Maybe forcing you to open your store on your holy day is just as unacceptable as forcing them to open on their holy day.

Which of the words best describes how you want other who don’t believe in your religion (or lack thereof) to behave:

  • Adherence – forced compliance with someone’s beliefs
  • Support – forced payment, participation, attendance or ‘training’
  • Acceptance – forced silence for all
  • Tolerance – live and let live, but freedom to act and speak according to beliefs

Freedom to Believe is Not License

If we agree that Tolerance of others’ beliefs is the correct approach, we need to recognize that some behavior is simply unacceptable, period.  For example, it is never acceptable that someone is allowed to die or be killed as a direct consequence of a religious belief and in most cases as an indirect consequence either.

Equally, it is never acceptable for harm to be a consequence of religious belief.  One may argue about social behavior, but violence or resultant harm is just wrong.  It may be unkind or uncivil to deny someone when they ask for some voluntary action, but is it actually a crime?

A doctor, who has power of life and death, has sworn a duty to do no harm under the Hippocratic Oath, but does this oath obligate the doctor to accept the religion of the patient or embrace their religion?  The sworn duty clearly obligates the doctor to accept and be silent in order to comply with the Oath.  It does not obligate support or adherence of the religious beliefs of the patient, although some believe it does.

Religious Tolerance and the Law

A nurse who is ordered to administer a treatment that the nurse believes is against religious tenets may want to object, but does her duty override her beliefs?  We have to go back to her medical Oath, if any, not to do harm.  Absent a sworn duty to treat, a nurse has the right to obey his religious beliefs and not to render aid, legally, but it is not a license to commit an act adverse to the health of the person he is aware of.

Just because someone believes through their religious teachings that some act that the law has specifically proscribed is desirable, the law does not grant license to the believer to act contrary to the law and commit the proscribed act.  Belief in doing some illegal act is not license to do the illegal act.  If some men believe that their religion grants license to have sexual intercourse with underage children, the law takes precedence over those beliefs.

On the other hand, if someone believes through their religious teachings that some act is proscribed by their religion, the law cannot compel the believer to commit the act unless the life or limb of the person requesting the commission of the act.  If some believe that water must not pass the lips of a believer during identifiable times, this prohibition cannot override medical necessity to drink liquids.

Some claim that the law may compel a doctor, for example, who has sworn a duty to protect life to perform an act that the doctor may believe is proscribed by his religion.  We must look to the Hippocratic Oath for guidance and allow no harm whether through action or inaction.

Instead, with the PC police patrolling we find ourselves in an Age of Intolerance, completely lacking in traditional personal freedom.

Freedom – A Viewpoint

Imagine a scene in rural America not long after the Constitution.  A family lives in a log cabin built by the husband and wife near a stream, far from any townspeople, with farm animals and planted crops for the family to survive off of.  Freedom includes the family’s right to believe what they want about their Creator, if any, but also extends into how they live their lives on a day-to-day basis.

  • If they want to turn grape juice into wine and serve it to the whole family, including children, is that a part of their freedom?
  • Are they free to slaughter animals on their property for food or for any purpose, or must they answer to townspeople about what they do with the flesh or how they kill the animals?
  • Can the family dump its waste into the stream without regard to the neighboring farms or downstream property-owners who might be affected?
  • Can the family dig up and use the minerals and wealth of the land as they see fit or must they obey rules from the townspeople?
  • What will the family’s reaction be to townspeople claiming taxes on the family’s wealth that only the family worked so hard to create and maintain?

The notion that “it takes a village” is not part of the thinking of this family.  They live on their own apart from the “village” and interface only as they see fit with the rest of the world.  No one from town comes to the farm to plow the fields or tend the animals, but when the time comes for the bounty of their hard work to come to market, the villager want their pound of flesh.  Like Shylock they care not if the farmer dies from their taxation.  They want their pound and half of flesh.  The farmer after all has eyes, and will suffer from the townspeople’s visiting their view of the world on him.

What, then, is the meaning of freedom as envisioned over two hundred years ago?

  • Does the village play any part?  Are the views of townspeople important at all?
  • Or, does the farmer do as he wants up to the edge of his property, so long as nothing spills over onto a neighbor?
  • When dealing with his neighbors, does he negotiate as an equal and a neighbor or does he allow the townspeople to slant the table towards those they favor or feel need to be granted an upper hand?
  • Does he obey the townspeople’s rules solely when he’s in the village?
  • Does the farmer take on the role of “the Little Red Hen” and simply enjoy the product of his work, since no one stepped up to help him produce his farm output?
  • Does the farmer allow the townspeople to come onto his property, confiscate his grain and livestock, and re-distribute them to those the townspeople feel are needy?

Clearly to the farmer and his family “Freedom” means freedom from interference of those outsiders who appoint themselves to rule over him, and freedom to live as he sees fit, dealing with his neighbors honestly and only on an equal basis.


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