love and heretics

It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness

Tolerance, and the right to criticize religion?

The Travel is Fatal post, brings up issues of tolerance, and acceptance and what they include.

Bigotry being wrong, regarding issues like race and gender, is easily seen by most.

One cannot choose one’s skin color, genetics, etc.

But are acceptance and tolerance always a good thing?

Of course not. We cannot be accepting or tolerant of things that are harmful. (not if we care about the survival of the human race)

I think there is a difference in accepting and tolerating “people” and what they are born with, verses behaviors, actions, ideas, thoughts, and beliefs.

Sometimes it is hard to separate, but we should.

So when I say I am accepting and tolerant, I say that I am so of humans. Your age, gender, race, color, accent, etc.

But, I may not be tolerant and accepting of some humans behavior and ideas.

Freedom of speech, and expression are treasures that have been bought with blood.

But along with that, comes the right to criticize.

Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body; it calls attention to the development of an unhealthy state of things. If it is heeded in time, danger may be averted; if it is suppressed, a fatal distemper may develop.” [New Statesman interview, 7 January 1939]” ― Winston Churchill

“To criticize a person for their race is manifestly irrational and ridiculous, but to criticize their religion, that is a right. That is a freedom. The freedom to criticize ideas, any ideas – even if they are sincerely held beliefs – is one of the fundamental freedoms of society. A law which attempts to say you can criticize and ridicule ideas as long as they are not religious ideas is a very peculiar law indeed. What is wrong with inciting intense dislike of a religion if the activities or teachings of that religion are so outrageous, irrational or abusive of human rights that they deserve to be intensely disliked?”

– Rowan Atkinson

But, with this, IF our goal is compassion and the ability to live in peace with diversity, (that does not cause harm to others)
our methods of criticism desire attention.

He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.” ― Abraham Lincoln

There is an almost universal tendency, perhaps an inborn tendency, to suspect the good faith of a man who holds opinions that differ from our own opinions. … It obviously endangers the freedom and the objectivity of our discussion if we attack a person instead of attacking an opinion or, more precisely, a theory. ” ~Karl Popper

While irony, and sarcasm can be tools of criticism, one does have to be wary of crossing the line over to mocking, and bullying. What is to gain then? One loses the value of criticism.

And a final thought,
The value of criticism is a two edged sword.

When I speak of reason or rationalism, all I mean is the conviction that we can learn through criticism of our mistakes and errors, especially through criticism by others, and eventually also through self-criticism. A rationalist is simply someone for whom it is more important to learn than to be proved right; someone who is willing to learn from others — not by simply taking over another’s opinions, but by gladly allowing others to criticize his ideas and by gladly criticizing the ideas of others. The emphasis here is on the idea of criticism or, to be more precise, critical discussion.” ~Karl Popper

The trouble with most of us is that we’d rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.
― Norman Vincent Peale



  1. rautakyy

    Very good points! To me the difference between acceptance and tolerance lies in that I do not have to tolerate ideas I accept as my own or close to my own. However, I do tolerate people whith stupid, ridiculous or even harmfull ideas. What I do not tolerate is to let those ideas pass by as truths.

    Here in Finland we have this one businessman, consultant who thinks himself as some sort of philosopher and passes as such to some of his business-minded likes, who some time ago critizised the Finns for being critical. He said that Finns lead unhappy lives, because we do not take shit, like other people in countries where they have a lot worse of, than we do here. What he failed to see, is that the sole reason why we do not have it as bad as people in some other cultures who are content in very little is because we are critical – as he himself was. Yes, there is the other side to it, and being over critical may actually eat a bit of your happiness, but happiness despite misfortunes one could try to repair is pretended.

    • I had struggled with this concept for some time. Some love to throw out, if you are tolerant, you must be tolerant of intolerant people, presenting the paradox, can one speak out against intolerance IF one is tolerant? Would that make one a hypocrite.
      I think this resolves that silliness. Making things absolutes always screws them up. 😉

      I love that Finns have learned the value of criticism. I agree that criticism, as with all things, can be taken too far. Moderation in all things.

  2. Great quotes and I especially I agree with Rowan Atkinson

    • Thanks Mak! There is a really cool video of Rowan, making this point cleverly as he does so well. I think you will enjoy.

  3. I’m thinking of a line from one of Sondheim’s lyrics, I believe it’s in “A Little Night Music” “… it’s intolerable to be tolerated…” There is a big difference in affect between acceptance and tolerance. But if I can’t have the former, I’ll settle for the latter, it being, as it were, the antechamber to acceptance… But I’m kind of off-topic here.

    I think of myself as almost a Dawkins-level atheist. But I’m in complete agreement with being critical of ideas, while at the same time being temperate with speech. I don’t mean in the sense of backing down, but ….So much “discussion” on the Internet, for example, is merely ad hominen attacks; opinions and sarcasm and shouted obscenities that are intensely personal rather than objective examinations of the ideas. I think people have spent so much time in “silos” – protected bubbles in which they only hear the echo of their own opinions – that they have lost the ability to listen to a different opinion without having a meltdown, and they have lost the ability to tailor their speech to the audience. One talks differently to one’s peer grou
    p than to one’s grandparents, for example. You take into account where they’ve come from, the attitudes that were prevalent in their day, and their particular values. If you can have that empathy, if you can slip in the back door, people will be more likely to listen and give new ideas a chance. But if you attack them, they’ll feel threatened and react accordingly.

    • Well said.


  1. Tolerance, and the right to criticize religion? | Christians Anonymous

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