Tag Archives: ruminations

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 datetime@perl.org 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*

Persistence of memories

I found myself concerned about the permanence of this diary, while looking at my great great grandfather’s civil war diary. You see, I still have that, and can know what he did on particular days during the 1860s. But as I write this diary, it is very uncertain whether my great great grandchildren will have access to this information. Not that it seems important now, but I suppose it seemed rather unimportant, at the time, that Isaac Nace heard guns from over in Gettysburg.

Yes, I have backups, but what good will CDs and floppies be in 2140, I wonder? I should probably start printing this stuff out, and putting it in a binder of some kind, just out of courtesy to my decendents.

More talking computers

I had another experience with a speaking computer. I called to cancel a magazine subscription, and was immediately aware that I was speaking with a recording. I figured this meant that I would be able to get through the entire process without the tiresome task of convincing someone that I did indeed wish to cancel.

Alas, it was not to be, although I expect that the process was, overall, less painful than it would have been with a real person.

The computer first offered me two free months if I would reconsider. Then, it offered me a choice of several worthless trinkets if I would repent of my folly. Finally, it said that it would cancel my subscription at the end of the subscription year, rather than immediately, since that was probably what I had in mind.

At last, and grudgingly, it agreed to cancel my magazine immediately, and refund my money.

Now, when subjected to this kind of thing by a person, I always figured that it was their job, and they were just trying to get their bonus. But when a computer program does it, there’s just no excuse, and it was just annoying.

I also wondered what this does for employment. If one can, with one studio recording session, and a simple menu-driven script, replace a few dozen employees, surely this will happen in many call centers. Perhaps things like 411 will be replaced this way, since voice recognition appears to be sufficiently advanced now.

Technology makes us dumber

I got a new phone. In order to call my parents, I press a button, and then I say “mom and dad”, and it calls them for me. As I observed last week, Google allows dumb people to do things that they would otherwise be incapable of doing. And now my phone relieves me of even the mental exercise of pressing number buttons, and of remembering a phone number.

When I was teaching College Algebra, I became convinced that calculators were leading to dumber students being able to pass math classes. I am now becoming more and more convinced that computers in general are allowing dumber people to survive the evolutionary process, but that they are also making the rest of us dumber. I think I’m a pretty smart person, but I can’t remember my parents’ phone number, because I don’t have to. I have trouble writing (by hand) a page of text, because I have been typing so long that that much writing makes my hand cramp up. It’s really quite pathetic.

Of course, technology allows me to be physically unfit also, but that’s hardly a new thing. The phone just got me thinking. Or, perhaps, it enabled me not to have to think …