Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Being Intolerant of Intolerance: Where’s the Dilemma?

Recently I posited that it wouldn’t bother me a whole lot if Rick Warren died an early natural death. I wish he would. Frankly, there is enough intolerance and oppression that those who promulgate it, is its poster boy, have no value to me or a freedom loving society, as far as I am concerned.

Voicing this in an atheist blog I was chastised by a fellow nonbeliever:
“Who is allowed to set the standard on what "tolerance" is? A follower of Warren's can easily point out that you're being intolerant of Warren and his views.”

Well, to paraphrase that famous quote about pornography: “I may not be able to adequately define intolerance, but I know it when I see it.”. There is a vast difference between someone being intolerant of granting full human rights to a minority, and describing my disgust for Warren and my wish for his natural demise as intolerant. The difference is plain: My wish to see Warren suffer a natural early death does not stand in the way of his First Amendment rights to preach / endorse / practice his intolerance. I do nothing to impede that right. My wish has no measurable effect.

On the other hand, Warren's supernaturalist doctrine which drives his speech, activism, actions, and those of his followers, directly obstructs attainment of equal rights for those who’s sexuality is different from his/their own. His actions have had a measurable effect, most recently in California on Proposition 8. That’s intolerance.

If my distain and wish is intolerant then we may as well call abolitionists "intolerant" for their vocal opposition to slavery/ slave owners. Would anyone have called anti-Nazi sentiment "intolerant", and thus comparable to the intolerant anti-Semitic genocidal actions of the Nazis themselves? Such a concept is a perversion of the term.

At best I could be described as radically opposed to prejudice and injustice and thus “intolerant of intolerance”. At worst I can be tagged a mean-spirited-death-wishing- godless-heathen. Albeit, to a Nazi, a slave owner, or a Christian homophobe activist, calling my attitude and ill wishes toward them "intolerant" might make sense ... but only to them, and thus who gives a shit?


OJ said...

I recently stumbled across this same problem when discussing a GLBT rights group and a fundie right Christian group who were both receiving funding from the same institution. I argued that the institution should choose between civil rights and ignorant homophobia.

I received a reply that was along the lines of "both groups deserve funding because it would be intolerant to tell the fundies to get out. I should direct them to your blog post.

DromedaryHump said...

OJ said: "I should direct them to your blog post."

Oh, please do!!

Anonymous said...

test test test

NiroZ said...

I agree that intolerance is about rights, but it's not ineffable, nor is it just about denying other people from practising their rights (I mean, if I was to ask you about your drug/sexual practices/history, I would have no right to do so, but that in no way impedes you rights). Rather, the concept you are getting at is incorrectly including or excluding anyone from anything without proper justification. The reason I like this definition is because it forces people accusing you of intolerance to justify it, rather than leaving it a subjective inference, or even worse, disabling anybody from excluding anybody from anything.

Dromedary Hump said...

NiroZ said: "Rather, the concept you are getting at is incorrectly including or excluding anyone from anything without proper justification."

Thanks for your comment.
There is a defect in your attempt at defining intolerance. You see, to Warren, and Evangelical/Fundamentalists they HAVE justification to relegate gays to 2nd class citizenship and impede their equal rights. They call their justification "The Holy Bile."

That may be a perfectly adequate justification ... for them. But since it is rooted in scripture, and ignores the bioloigical/environment (or some combination of the two) cause for homosexuality, oweing to the bronze age and 3rd century cults' lack of understanding of genetics et al., it is un acceptable to we the thinking.

Now we have an impasse. Your definition doesn't work.

So, I have to reject your premise and say that:
when hatred/subjugation/killing is applied to people just by their existence, beliefs, or practices; and whose practices, beliefs, in and of themseleves cause no one else direct harm(i.e. Jews, Gays, blacks, moderate christians, moderate Muslims, left handed people, fat people, short people...you name it) THAT IS intolerance.