Dr. Stat

Dr. Stat is a Statistics Professor. This blog is his opportunity to share ideas and opinions about education (especially math education), politics, and whatever else comes up.

Friday, April 29, 2005

On Religious Tolerance

There is a saying, "Falsehood can tolerate any amount of truth and still be false, but truth cannot tolerate even the smallest amount of falsehood and still be true."

Excessive tolerance necessitates embracing falsehood.The fact that various competing and mutually exclusive truth claims exist does not prove that they are all false.

Religions are not equal (in validity or truth). However, they are all complicated. None of them can be understood in sound bytes or short quotes. It is possible to evaluate the relative merits of religions logically and historically, by careful study. It is probably not possible to come to a conclusion of truth by this method.

Western Civilization values religious tolerance, and that idea of tolerance was promoted by Christians and enshrined in the laws of the United States by Christians. It was not easy for the colonists to realize that tolerance was good or necessary, but they did it, in spite of their deeply held religious beliefs. However, tolerance for others to believe and practice as they like does not extend to agreeing with their beliefs. Many liberals require that we treat all religions as equally valid (but implicitly they mean "except Christianity") but to do so is to insult them all, because if they are all equally valid they are all false.Christians who are actually living their faith do not persecute others, but they do seek to share the Good News that constitutes their religion. If this is offensive, so be it. Seriously, now, what kind of friend would I be, if I knew my friend was going to hell, but refused (out of "respect") to tell him how to avoid it? Only by denying the truth of my own religion could such a thing be considered! But there is absolutely no point in "forcing" someone to become a Christian. The historical claims that such things happened are either false or the events were orchestrated by someone for political purposes who did not understand Christian faith.

On the other hand, Muslims have a long and rich history of forcing people to become Muslims. Atheists also have a long and rich history of coercing people to become atheists--that is to say, persecuting them in an effort to make them give up their religion. The current work to promote atheism in the American educational system is incredible.

Claims that all religions are equally war-like, that is, that people make war because of religion, are incorrect. Some religions do this (Islam being the most prominent example), but most do not. There is nothing in Christianity that would encourage starting a war for religious reasons. The Christian religion was explicitly pacifist for the first three centuries, agreeing to war only after Constantine mingled the Christian religion with politics. Most Christians now believe that they may support defensive military actions, which are sometimes mis-characterized by the detractors of Christianity as offensive. However, political people have always used religion to their advantage in promoting their causes. This must not be attributed to the religion itself, except where the religion truly is the source of the aggression.