The Origins of Intolerance

What needs do mythology and religion serve in today's world and in ancient times? Here we discuss the relationship between mythology, religion and science from mythological, religious and philosophical viewpoints.

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nandu
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The Origins of Intolerance

Post by nandu » Mon Sep 15, 2008 1:12 pm

Hello everybody!

Posting after quite a hiatus...

I was interacting with some atheists (just for the heck of it) on a blog: and surprisingly, my comment that tolerance of another's belief system was the only way out of the circle of hatred the world finds itself in, was met with surprising hostility. The blog was by an ex-muslim, and she was saying that Islamic faith itself was wrong, not the people. In fact, the majority of the people there felt that once we banish religion from our lives, the world will be a better place.

One surprising opinion was that tolerance by itself was not a virtue. By tolerating the Islamic faith, they argued that I was condoning the extremists who flew the plane into the WTC!

It got me thinking on the origins of intolerance. We know that religious extremists are intolerant: but the moment we start being intolerant of their beliefs, do we also start sliding down the slippery slope of fundamentalism (to the other extreme)? Or, by being tolerant, do we encourage them?

Nandu.
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Post by chloemarie » Tue Sep 16, 2008 4:45 pm

How sad :( I am a bit of an atheist myself but i LOVE religion. It is such a fantastic thing. I forget who said this but one of the 4 basic needs of humanity was transcendence. :D Tolerance is so very important .All religions point to some basic transcendental "truth" of existence they are all metaphors pointing to this "idea" that is above comprehension. The metaphor is conditioned by time and space but the message is esentially the same . The problem starts when religious metaphors become "historical". Basically when Dogma becomes too powerful . For a religion to be "true" it does not have to be historical . When it becomes historical then it begins to corrupt and you get a bunch of fanatics and fundamentalist extremists but religion is not itself the problem.
hope it made sense :P
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Post by bodhibliss » Wed Sep 17, 2008 5:03 pm

Fascinating question.

I have no trouble tolerating beliefs, but I don't extend that same toleration to bad behavior based on those beliefs.

Hence religious terrorism, mutilation of female sexual organs, banning marriages between people who love and are committed to one another for reasons of race or gender, sex with minors, or incarcerating others because the sacraments of their religion (e.g., peyote, or amanitas) differ from one's own (wine), are examples of behavior I refuse to tolerate, even while respecting the beliefs that underlie these intolerant practices.

I also have trouble tolerating the thought police, a role your atheist friends seem willing to embrace, Nandu. I wonder how they intend to control what goes on inside someone else's head ...

Sat Sri Akal,
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Post by Ned Kelly » Fri Sep 19, 2008 8:20 am

Good food for thought can be found in the chapter "Knowledge or Certainty" in Jacob Bronowski's "Ascent of Man". He describes how, in the 1930s, just when late modern physics had discovered the principle of "tolerance", tolerance was crashing all around in the name of the pseudo-scientific "progress" of the Nazis and Communists - and he might have added the American eugenicists too.

(The first eugenic laws of involuntary sterilization were in America, and the Nazis modeled their eugenics law on those of American states. By the way, the original purpose of "Planned Parenthood" was to reduce the number of the poor - especially Blacks - by persuading them not to breed. Maybe it wasn't quite intended to be genocide of Blacks, but what would it look like if it was?)

At the end of that chapter, Bronowski stands at Auschwitz and says, "This was not done by science. This was done by ignorance. This was done by arrogance. When people aspire to perfect knowledge, without any test in reality, this is how they behave."
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Post by SiCollier » Fri Sep 19, 2008 9:21 pm

This is a very good question; I know this very well from another Forum I’m a member of.
nandu
In fact, the majority of the people there felt that once we banish religion from our lives, the world will be a better place.
To my surprise, this is a very wide spread opinion. In that German Bookforum sometimes are also discussed books on religious, mythological or scientific themes. If you dare to admit, you believe in some creator of the universe, a “god“ who transcends all categorys of human thinking (sorry, I just don’t find the exact phrase Joseph Campbell used) - the outcome is, that you get insulted and are described as a fool. Tolerance for these people means, that I have to tolerate their attacks. There is no serious discussion possible.
nandu
We know that religious extremists are intolerant.
In my experience, atheists and agnostics are at least as intolereant as religious extremists are. Though I really would like to understand their position and arguments, I resigned. It always ended up in some kind of war.

It seems, this problem is more widespread than I thought. That’s a pity, because it prevents communication and understanding.

bodhibliss
I have no trouble tolerating beliefs, but I don't extend that same toleration to bad behavior based on those beliefs.
Very well said; I wish, more people would see it that way, too.
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Post by boringguy » Sat Sep 20, 2008 2:05 am

Hi nandu, all,

From my perspective this seems fairly straight forward, but then I'm probably a bit simplistic.

A childs version of ego, built a childs belief system that in many ways has created the product of so much of our society in the institutions of education, economics, government, and maybe worst of all religion. It's a circle that feeds off of itself.

Immature ego feels that it is the death of itself to let go of the need for certainty and control, and entertain the possibilities out side of that limited belief system.

I would hope , and think Campbell really did too, that one role of a mythology of our time, in whatever sense we have that, is to give permission to let go of that childs beliefs and explore the possibilities beyond that. Keeping in mind however that everyone has their own journey and it's not the job of anyone else to remove the veil of maya from another. Thats one reason myth is a great tool.

nandu,
Or, by being tolerant, do we encourage them?

I think each of us can only be who we are, and if that is found to be a good thing then we lead by example, if not then it's still our own journey. Otherwise we are back to letting someone else create who we are.



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Post by chloemarie » Mon Sep 22, 2008 6:50 pm

thought of another thing that has to deal in a round-about way with the question. Carl Jung wrote in i think "Modern Man in Search of a Soul" something that throughs a bit of light on the upsurge of Atheism (or Deism) in the Enlightenment Era, as a way to compensate for the immense role of "spirit" from the medival Gothic Era.This sort of shift to "matter " was so extreme in that it undermined any value for spirit ( aka soul ,psyche,) He called this (in psychology) the psychology without the psyche (i think). Basically it reduced everything to a series of biochemical processes without regard to their numinous mysterious quality. Campbell wrote about this too but i cant remember where anyway the point im trying to make is that a balance is necessary and that an extremism really only is an overcompensation.
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Post by Ned Kelly » Tue Sep 23, 2008 8:52 am

the upsurge of Atheism (or Deism) in the Enlightenment Era, as a way to compensate for the immense role of "spirit" from the medival Gothic Era.
Yes, and now that the Modern Age is collapsing, we can see a paradoxical reconversion of what used to be "matter" into spirit, or rather into insubstantial phenomena. Consider how the self-described "hard headed materialists" on Wall Street have turned money into a hyper-abstraction, and now most of the "economy" involves trading abstractions which do not even represent any real material substances at all.
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Post by Xanadu Within » Fri Nov 21, 2008 7:10 am

Well intolerance (without any of the societal/cultural implications it carries) is not in and of itself a virtue. I feel that any person who claims to be opposed to intolerance has at the tip of their tongue "I don't tolerate intolerance!", a paradox that seems not to be discussed.
Further more, life without religion would not rid the world of intolerance, because bigoted intolerance is a flaw of the human tendency to associate with themselves superiority, and to associate with those that act differently or contrarily the value of inferiority. Intolerance (carrying with it its cultural connotation) is the result of self-superiority being projected to the group that the self-superior individual is a constituent of.
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Post by Ned Kelly » Sat Nov 22, 2008 1:04 pm

Xanadu Within wrote:Well intolerance (without any of the societal/cultural implications it carries) is not in and of itself a virtue. I feel that any person who claims to be opposed to intolerance has at the tip of their tongue "I don't tolerate intolerance!", a paradox that seems not to be discussed.
Further more, life without religion would not rid the world of intolerance, because bigoted intolerance is a flaw of the human tendency to associate with themselves superiority, and to associate with those that act differently or contrarily the value of inferiority. Intolerance (carrying with it its cultural connotation) is the result of self-superiority being projected to the group that the self-superior individual is a constituent of.
YES! And in response, here is a HILARIOUS cartoon about "tolerance":

http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=eijhloJjg50
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Reciprocity?

Post by jonsjourney » Sun Nov 23, 2008 1:38 pm

Good Question. Personally, I think that in a 'perfect world' we would all be tolerant of other peoples' views. I have no problem with a person having a different political or spiritual viewpoint than my own. The problem is that this is almost never reciprocal in the real world. Fundamentalist religious and political beliefs are not tolerant of opposing viewpoints. The need to be a part of the influential 'in group' seems to create a system driven by fear and oppression of 'dangerous' thoughts. As a citizen of the United States, I have seen, in my lifetime thus far, a growing trend of intolerance toward people who do not share the viewpoints of the 'in group'. Although, I must say that I am very much encouraged by the election of Barrack Obama. We may yet retain our status as an example of what is possible when we put the narrow view behind us, especially in view of the social evolutionary reversal we have experienced in the past eight years. I hope that we, all the people of this world, will someday realize that we are ALL sisters and brothers on this planet who deserve the right and the respect of sovereign individuality, above all else.
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Post by Clemsy » Sun Nov 23, 2008 2:36 pm

Jonsjourney, welcome to the JCF Forums!
I think that in a 'perfect world' we would all be tolerant of other peoples' views. I have no problem with a person having a different political or spiritual viewpoint than my own. The problem is that this is almost never reciprocal in the real world. Fundamentalist religious and political beliefs are not tolerant of opposing viewpoints.
Well said. Except I would add, not just tolerant, but supportive of the right to have other views.
He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself. ~Thomas Paine
As for Xanadu's comment about the 'intolerance of intolerance,' it all boils down action. I'm not aware of anyone trying to actively suppress or outlaw the common expressions of intolerance. What is outlawed and suppressed are actions that infringe on the rights of others. It is important to push back against the Dark, but the push has to stay rhetorical unless countering civil rights violations.

There's always this hint of 'my civil or religious rights are being violated by not allowing me to violate those of others.'

:roll:

Active intolerance is always much more organized from the right of the political spectrum. Unfortunately, this makes tolerance an expression of liberalism.

Which is silly.

Important to consider that the idea of 'tolerance' contains a certain 'putting up with something distasteful.' For example, I am careful to say that I am not 'tolerant' of gay rights. I am fully supportive of gay rights.

I am, however, tolerant of those colleagues of mine whose reaction to the Obama election boils down to intolerance, nationalism, religious fundamentalism and, ultimately, racism.

I like your comment about' the right and the respect of sovereign individuality.' This is an idea that fits nicely into Campbell's 'Creative Mythology.'

Intolerance In The News:
White extremists lash out over election of first black president

The Ku Klux Klan is emerging from decades of disorganization and obscurity, and the turnaround is acutely evident -- more than 200 hate-related incidents have been reported since the Nov. 4 election.
Possibly this flare up will die down as the Obama presidency becomes part of the everyday scenery. On the other hand, when mindless intolerance finds itself wounded, cornered and desperate... things can happen.

The only solution is bright, sanitizing light.

Stay aware. Stay informed. Speak out and be heard.

Cheers,
Clemsy
Give me stories before I go mad! ~Andreas
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Post by Neoplato » Sun Nov 23, 2008 3:31 pm

As I get older, intolerant people increasingly anoy me. To me, intolerance is the same as being brainwashed. I may engage these people to see how they defend their position, but I usually bow out before I enrage them. It's a shame that people are quick to dislike or hate a person for they are not, and are reluctant to accept and like a person for who they are. I guess this may be a failure in humanity to see the inner beauty of all life.
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Post by jonsjourney » Sun Nov 23, 2008 8:10 pm

Thank you for the warm welcome Clemsy! I look forward to sharing views with such an enlightened and thougtful group as those brought together by a respect for Joseph Campbell's work.

I agree that a better word would have been supportive. I can only ask for some small forgiveness as it was my first cup of coffee on a Sunday morning. That is my story and I am sticking to it!

Thanks again for the welcome.

PEACE!
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Post by somehopesnoregrets » Sun Dec 21, 2008 3:58 pm

Still working on reading the rest of this thread but wanted to reply to this bit quickly, while the thought is still fresh:
In my experience, atheists and agnostics are at least as intolereant as religious extremists are.
I respectfully disagree with the sweeping nature of this statement. In my experience, there are extremists in any belief system, including those with atheist and agnostic features. So, I would rewrite the above to "In my experience, there are at least as many atheist and agnostic extremists as there are religious extremists." I did meet many kind and open-minded atheists and agnostics. Maybe I've just been lucky that way.

I have been going through stretches of atheism and agnosticism in my own spiritual journey, but this has never led me to a point of wanting to outlaw or censor other people's ideas. In fact, I've always valued diversity and free exchange of opinions, even at the heights of my own questioning the transcendent. So, to me intolerance looks like an individual, constitutional problem rather than one of specific belief systems. Even thought there seem to be certain beliefs that are more conducive to narrow-mindedness, I have found, when looking closely, kind and openhearted people even in those.

Nice running across you outside of the German language forum, SiCollier...

I very much agree with the differentiation Bodhibliss makes between tolerating belief versus tolerating behavior. Being intolerant of beliefs makes us fashists. Being tolerant of some intolerable behaviors makes us doormats.

Of course, like any subtle distinction, there is bound to be a slippery slopey gray zone. For example, what about beliefs that are hateful and preparing people for horrible, hateful behavior? I personally still fight for freedom of thoughts whose content I despise, because if those in power pick and choose what we are free to believe then there is no freedom. It just looks like it. But I also can see that this is a preference of mine, that I am culturally biased in this regard (being raised in Germany and living in California, both countries with a relatively high regard for intellectual freedom), and I can see how somebody can arrive at different conclusions. It is scary to me, though, to see people willingly choose intellectual slavery (but I still want to make a good case rather than outlaw those options). Freedom of opinion plus an education system that leaves a lot to be desired, can be a dangerous combination, I guess.

Hope this made sense and didn't sound all wishy-washy...

Hugs.
:-) Julia
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