November 18, 2009

When Tolerance is Not Viable

Santa Claus
Astreja asks a thought-provoking question over at, "Where do we draw the line between tolerating or attacking someone else's weird ideas?" I suppose that "tolerating" in this context likely refers to remaining silent on the subject of someone's beliefs even if one does not agree with them. Thus, we might rephrase the question to be one of how we decide to speak out and criticize a belief versus keeping our thoughts to ourselves. I suspect the decision usually boils down to our estimation of the likelihood that a particular belief will be harmful, doesn't it?

When I encounter a parent telling her children about Santa Claus, I find it unfortunate that someone would lie to one's own child merely for entertainment purposes. However, I feel little need to say anything. The potential for harm here seems trivially small. I cannot say the same for the Muslim parent instructing his son in the virtues of martyrdom or the Christian who tells her daughter that her Jewish friends will go to hell because they have not been "saved."

These beliefs (i.e., those that are both false and have a reasonably high potential to cause harm) must not be tolerated. No, they must be challenged and criticized in the hope that the person holding them will see the error of his or her ways and modify them.

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