Sunday, November 2, 2008
Difference in Belief as Source of Conflict and Open Question
Why does it exist: Intolerance towards dissident thinkers and believers?
Change of religion is always accompanied by guilt feeling, both in the person who changes religion, and in the people around him or her. There is fear for divine sanctions when a person leaves the truth, and there's painful self-criticism of those around him. And what is truth, when we have no absolute knowledge of it. Leaving the faith is therefore a painful process, also for the bystanders, who fear for the dissident's well-being and future. A change into the opposite direction -- from liberal or atheist thinking into orthodox religion -- is considered no less a threat to the modern, freethinking bystanders, than an individual leaving orthodox religion to a devoutly religious society. Apart from that, no one appreciates rejection of cherished truths. Guilt feeling, fear for unknown sanctions, and hurt pride are as much cause of religious intolerance as hunger for power is. These fears are also the reason for religious communities living in separation from each other. Most of all, the individual's transfer to the other community is sometimes felt as an extra threat, and therefore it is surrounded by heavy prohibitions and barriers. As soon as people perceive that their opinions have not been proved to be necessarily and obviously superior over other people's, tolerance towards others is likely to increase -- unless those others persist in defensiveness. The pure fear of the other's possible intolerance and conquest-greed leads to intolerance and defensiveness. Another way towards more tolerance is fatigue of intolerance, and the violence it leads to, or the lapse of time. Tolerance comes from within ourselves, however, we depend on others to practice it. Often people scream before having been hit, when we all should remember that we make tolerance and freedom ourselves, by our willingness to listen and negotiate with others. It takes trust not to immediately assume an aggressive propagandist agenda in others, when they open their mouth about their religious and other beliefs. This is a difficult yet compulsory task, if peaceful and pleasant cohabitation is what we want.
It should be noted, that there is a big difference between liberal and tolerant belief. Orthodox beliefs can be tolerant, when the believer enforces them on him- or herself only. Enforcing a view is not the same as propagating and stimulating others to follow it. As soon as liberal views are forced upon societies by law, and it's inhabitants disagree, one may wonder if they loose their liberating force. The most tolerant philosophies have been forced upon people through canon barrels and concentration camps. There is no natural connection between orthodoxy and (in)tolerance.
We also should note that ties of family and friendship are not confined to nationality, language or faith. People marry and make friends across the borders. This urges to lessons in trust and tolerance.