Religious tolerance … well, except for Christianity

I suppose I could get inflamatory here, but I’ll try to remain bemused and offer commentary, rather than ire.

I find it interesting, in a culture that appears to value tolerance over discrimination (and here, please note, gentle reader, that I use the term discrimination to refer to the intellectual process of considering options and choosing the better, rather than the brainless process of spurning those who are different) that the principle of religious tolerance appears to apply to only non-Christian religions. Now, I suppose, that as a white protestant male, this should not surprise me, as tolerance in all other areas applies to those that are *not* in the majority groups, while those who *are* in the majority groups are deemed not to warrant such tolerance. Likewise, Christianity, being in the majority in the USA, is not deemed worthy of tolerance. Tolerance, after all, is something that the majority is supposed to extend to the minority, not the other way around.

I find this attitude abhorant at a number of levels. It is hypocritical, with different standards applied to people from different groups, which is, in turn, the very discrimination (of the latter, not former, definition) that it seeks to counteract. But it also seems to imply that the majority are, in fact, in the moral right, and should extend these graces to the “lower” groups, which are not required to reciprocate. This attitude, too, is worse than the evil it seeks to counteract.

As to why I bring this up – A discussion has arrisen on the mailing list as to what is the first day of the week. I made a comment that the “general usage” should determine the the API, so that average users would find the API useful. And, although the ISO has declared that Monday is the first day, any calendar on the shelves of your local bookstore will list Sunday as the first day, and that thus the API should reflect this, not the ISO’s statement. But, that, perhaps, this opinion was more that of a USA audience, with largely Christian heritage, at least within the last 3 generations, and that the European perspective was solicited. I suppose that I did not phrase it quite that way. draw your own conclusions.

What amazed me, though, was that this generated not just one, but two sarcastic remarks about how Christians are confused about the distinction between Sunday, the Sabbath, and the Seventh day, on which God rested from his labors of creating the world. This is not the case – Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, not a celebration of the Sabbath, and the Christian tradition is not confused about this, although certain individuals may be.

Now, perhaps I’m oversensitive about this, but it’s not an isolated incident. It is fine, in our culture, to criticize Christians, but not to criticize Islam, Universalists, Buddhists, or Hindus. It is perfectly OK to equate radical wackos like Robert Tilton and Tammy Faye with Christianity as a whole, but if you were to equate Osama Bin Laden with Islam as a whole, you would be accused of religious intolerance and bigotry. Clearly, Robert Tilton does not represent the traditional view of Christianity any more than Osama Bin Laden represents traditional Islam – at least, this would be clear to anyone who took a moment to look at the larger picture.

Now, I’m straying rather far afield from the original remarks made on the mailing list, and I don’t want, by any stretch, to claim that the people making those comments were the same insensitive boors that I’m portraying here. I do think, however, that they are related symptoms of the same social ill. And I think that the majority has as much right to courteous treatment as do any given minority.

But, perhaps, as a white protestant american male, I’m not entitled to that opinion.


Followup: 2003-Jan-13


Please note that the comments made merely sparked this line of thought, and were not nearly as inflamatory as this article might lead you to believe. This article is part of a long train of thought, and not solely based on the remarks made on the mailing list, which, in retrospect, I appear to have misconstrued anyway. *sheepish grin*