The question of tolerance concerns having a society allowing for a variety of different viewpoints of morality and ethics. Tolerance is necessary in a society which values diversity of cultures.
Society can be structured in two ways:
- Absolute values — Society decides morals and values. Non-conformists are rejected (via an "Inquisition.") The government legislates beliefs.
- Tolerance — Allows all cultural, religious, and moral viewpoints. Government doesn't determine or enforce these and allows for freedom of speech.
In a tolerant and pluralistic society that values diversity, we must choose tolerance.
Unintended Side Effects
Tolerance is the obvious choice; of course we want a tolerant society. But upon careful consideration we discover two unintended side effects of tolerance:
- Discrimination against religion and morality.
- All members of society must tolerate the moral filth imposed on them by others. Whoever has the lowest moral standard sets the cultural norms.
- Freedom of speech — In a tolerant society you can't legislate the content of speech (or you will violate people's freedom of speech). Therefore, all members of society will be publicly subjected to everyone else's words and ideas. You can limit the exposure somewhat by boycotting your consumption of media, but this will not completely solve the problem; you must still tolerate speech you can't boycott, such as billboards, and the unwanted public interaction with vulgar people.
- Abortion — Since a tolerant government can't legislate morality but must allow for "free choice", those who believe abortion is murder must tolerate the practice (but they can exercise their freedom-of-speech rights to try to change the laws). How weird it is for those who are forced to tolerate murder.
- Crime — Every society has laws against certain behaviors. By necessity these laws will include value judgments (thereby contradicting the assumption of tolerance). There is always the risk that laws will discriminate against those with religious and moral views turning them into criminals.
- Religion — In a tolerant society you can't give people special privileges based on their religious beliefs. For example, (1) Jews can't insist on the right to refrain from work on the Sabbath, (2) required religious garb (turbans and knives for Sikhs) isn't guaranteed legal protection. If laws are passed that no longer provide special rights for religious practice, the result will be discrimination of religion in the name of tolerance.
- Discrimination — Laws forbidding certain belief results in discrimination. For example, the Boy Scouts forbids homosexuals from being scout leaders. But because the rights of homosexuals must be protected, you can't discriminate against them. The result is that religious and other morals- and values-based institutions must conform to the low moral standards of society. In effect this discriminates against people and institutions wishing to live out "higher" moral standards than the rest of society.
None of this is all that surprising. Modern philosophers such as Nietzsche, Kant, Hegel, Marx wanted to do away with religion altogether.
Read more: Gay Marriage | Homosexuality | Relativism
The Power of the Boycott
Why don't those of us who are offended by public immorality merely boycott those who profit economically from it? Things to boycott:
- Unwholesome television programs and movies
- Businesses selling unwholesome products
- Public schools, because they allow free reign to relativism and encourage low moral standards
Certainly we can't boycott everything in society that is linked to something unwholesome because the economic system is interdependent but we should target the worst offenders, particularly those such as the media having the most influence in promoting relativism.
How to Survive
How can those with "higher" moral standards and values survive living in a tolerant, pluralistic, relativistic society? Things we can do:
- All religious- and value-based organizations must join together to promote favorable laws. Unfortunately, many of these emphasize their differences instead, but we all lose from this.
- Organizations can evolve to reduce the exposure. For example, the institutional church can switch to a house church model as is common in China.
- We can hide by discontinuing those "offensive" practices and beliefs which so enrage society at large. Examples:
- Jews can abandon their Sabbath regulations in regards to employment
- Sikhs can abandon their dress code while at work
- Muslim women can stop wearing their head coverings
- Fundamentalist Protestant Christians can hire homosexuals for church positions including ministers and pastors (but the congregation can boycott these churches)
- The Boy Scouts can allow homosexual scout leaders (but parents and young people can boycott the Boy Scouts)
When citizens must ignore their religious and moral beliefs and values to avoid persecution, it is clear that society has become deeply warped. We should educate our society about why higher moral standards for all are desirable.
House Church Model
The house churchcan survive in a society having low moral standards. Its strengths:
- If your small group becomes infected by bad leaders, you can easily abandon it and start another one.
- There is no visible institution for activists to target.
- There are no employees (pastoral and administrative) to persecute. For example, homosexuals can't claim that such a group discriminates in hiring.
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