Tuesday, December 13, 2005

On real tolerance

Okay, so I simply do not tolerate intolerance. I find it intolerable. People are intolerant, and I'm all, "I won't tolerate that."

Matt Lavine at Basket Full of Puppies directs us to a comments thread over at Eschaton where he kind of got a less-than-deserved gang beating from the locals (which, to be fair, wouldn't have been so enthusiastic if he hadn't been quite so liberaler-than-thou) when he said that maybe picking on Jesus wasn't the best way to hold on to your Christian base:
All this mockery directed at that which maybe 100 million voters consider to be God incarnate. Brilliant politics as usual, guys, and first-rate manners to boot. Hope it was worth it.

And before you start casting stones, I'm less religious than any of you and more progressive than 95% of you.

Yeah, that last part was kind of dickish, but otherwise, dude's got a point.

Here's the thing about religion: pretty much every major religion, from the various interpretations of Christianity to Islam to Hinduism and even to Buddhism (which I realize is more of a belief system than an actual religion) has some basis in historical record and some basis in pure faith. We can all recognize that there was this guy named Jesus, and he lived about two thousand years ago and he walked around telling people to be nice to each other. When a guy in a dress tells you that Jesus was the son of God and is still hanging around heaven handing out advice, and you believe him, that's where you get religion. It's just crossing that line and believing things that haven't been or can't be proven.

Here's the kicker, though: atheism is just as dependent on faith. I'm not saying it's a religion, because there are all kinds of bullet points that have to be satisfied for something to be considered a religion (interestingly enough, Elvis worship and SEC football both qualify). But just as the existence of a higher power can't be proven, the absence of a higher power can't be proven. There is plenty of scientific evidence out there saying that phenomena we used to attribute to God actually have a scientific explanation; there isn't any evidence that God doesn't exist, period. So to believe that there isn't a god, you're still working from historical record and putting down a layer of faith on top of that. If we're going to be completely honest with ourselves, agnostics are the only ones who can't be accused of blind nuttiness.

Where am I going with this? Nowhere in particular, except to say that messing with anyone because of their belief system is a pretty crappy thing to do, especially for a party that's supposed to be all about tolerance. I still think the whole "War on Christmas" thing is a complete crock, and I don't think that the Democratic party needs to go around endorsing any particular religion, or even religion in general. But we seem to have adopted the attitude that we need to respect every religion except Christianity, because all of the uber-conservative wingnuts out there are fundie Christians. And considering that a goodly number of Democrats are fairly vehement in their Christianity as well, that's a great way to piss off your base.

The difference between rightie-fundie Christians and those of us on the left is that the fundies believe that everyone should believe what they believe. It's not enough that they have their faith; they have to have their faith and share their faith and spread their faith like Ebola in a halo, and if you aren't wishing them Merry Christmas and governing from their beliefs, you're oppressing them. Christian Democrats, for the most part, have their faith, take comfort in their faith, are willing to share their faith if asked, and are willing to live and let live otherwise. They're not hurting anyone. Why go out of your way to piss them off by taking jabs at their belief system when it's just as easy to shut the hell up?

If you want to go after the fundies, don't do it on the basis of what we have in common; do it on the basis of what's different. Don't attack them for believing in Jesus. Attack them for being such bitches about it. Attack them for attacking others, for trying to impose their beliefs on others, for trying to curtail others' rights on the basis of their own beliefs. Point out that there's a whole contingent of Christians on the left side of the aisle who don't act like schmucks and are, on the whole, happier people for it. Prove that you really do believe in tolerance by being tolerant of those who are tolerant. It's what the Flying Spaghetti Monster would want you to do.

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