Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Cognitive Dissonance of Tolerance


Words have meaning.
Thoughts have consequences.

Unfortunately, these are important concepts that have escaped some.

Take, for instance, the word "tolerance". In modern use, it has a unique meaning to some and a completely different meaning to others. The result behind the differing definitions of the word, mean that by subscribing to one definition above-and-over another will lead to different consequences.

True tolerance means we need not accept an idea which is false or an action which is wrong, but it should accept the full dignity of other human persons and their basic human rights. Thus we should always uphold another's dignity and human rights (true rights, not made-up ones), because this is how we are bound together. We do all of this, because it conforms to what is true and good. In other words, we accept and "tolerate" the person at all times, even when their actions are offensive or immoral.

As a consequence of true tolerance, we must accept the freedom of others to believe as they wish, speak as they wish, and act (within the bounds of natural and civil law) as they wish. Thus, we should strive to live in peace and we should try to understand one another as much as possible. THAT is true tolerance.

Many who have a social agenda have used a much different understanding of tolerance to further their agenda. It holds the following ideas out as both true - at the same time:
  1. We must be tolerant of other people's ideas, lifestyle, choices, etc.
  2. You must agree with certain modern ideas, lifestyle, choices, etc or you are a bigot and we will not tolerate you.
This is the definition of modern cognitive dissonance and we have bought it - hook, line, and sinker. How?
It has been done in five steps:
  1. Separate tolerance from truth.
  2. Expand the definition of "tolerance".
  3. Placing tolerance among the highest of the "virtues" of a Western democratic society.
  4. Ignore the logical inconsistencies.
  5. Malign those who hold-out against this idea of tolerance as prejudiced and bigoted.

Step #1 - Separate tolerance from truth.
Our culture, as is the case in many other things, has bought the lies about what tolerance should be and it goes well beyond the definition of true tolerance given above.

If we do not know the truth, then we can accept almost anything. But, if we know the truth and act in accord with the truth, then we are limited to what we can accept, because the truth is, by definition, not tolerant of that which is not true. It creates boundaries and is exclusive.

G.K. Chesterton said
"Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions."
As I said at the beginning. Thoughts have consequences. If we have true thoughts, then the consequence is we ought to live according to that which is true. When we don't live according to the truth, we face natural consequences to those actions. For instance, if a woman chooses to ignore the truth an affair could ruin a marriage, then she must live with the consequences if her husband leaves her.

EXAMPLE FROM CULTURE - All proponents of the modern idea of tolerance will reject some traditional understanding of morality. It might be on issues of abortion, same-sex relationships, etc. but they all have a relativistic understanding of truth.

Thus, the truth is merely anything you want it to be in the cafeteria of choices.

Take for example the reaction to what Phil Robertson, of Duck Dynasty, said a while back.
NOTE - he didn't speak words of gentleness or tact, nor did he make an important distinction. Those who have same-sex attraction are not sinning unless they act on their sexual desires in a sinful way (which would be sinful for anyone). Merely having a same-sex attraction is not sinful. Nonetheless, the backlash is telling. Here is a comment from one opponent:
"Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil's lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe."
So, here we have one person being intolerant of another's perceived intolerance, which then leads to a divorce from truth and the decision to be able to determine who is Christian and who is not.

BTW - some are saying the big issue is lumping homosexuality alongside bestiality, but if you read his entire comment, he also lumped heterosexual sex outside of marriage in there too. But nobody was outraged about that. Notice the cognitive dissonance?

Step #2 - Expanding the definition of "tolerance".
The modern idea of tolerance = you must not "judge" another person's actions as wrong. You should accept (plus approval of and permission to) whatever lifestyle they live and choice they make. Even if the choice is sinful or harmful to their mental or physical health, we still must tolerate (e.g. accept) it.

If you don't agree to this kind of tolerance, then you are intolerant. we should "live and let live". Of course, this kind of idea false apart quickly when we oppose someone's views.

Other say that tolerance is "open-mindedness". The problem is that most who say they are "open-minded" have very set beliefs about a lot of things and when you disagree with them, their minds seem to close very quickly. Once again, GK Chesterton said it best:
"Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid."
EXAMPLE FROM CULTURE - No Catholic I know would think that harming a person with same-sex orientation was good. In fact, it is wrong to do so and this is what the Church clearly teaches in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph #2358). But, it only takes one act of violence (which no Catholic should ever think is OK) against a student who is same-sex attracted in a public school to give license to teach that we all have to accept the gay lifestyle by implementing tolerance programming into the schools.

This is the modern idea of tolerance is being taught in public schools today and trumpeted to our culture.

Step #3 - Placing tolerance among the highest of the "virtues" of a Western democratic society.
A generally accepted definition of the word "virtue" = the habitual and firm disposition to do the good. This means that I do what is good easily and frequently.

The modern idea of tolerance is said to be a virtue. The problem with this idea is that it then leads to the conclusion that if it is a virtue, then it is morally "required" of all sane people in society and we are "obliged to cultivate the virtue of tolerance" (note - pdf in link).

Tolerance by intolerant demands has become a false virtue.

EXAMPLE FROM CULTURE - Studies within Academia prove that there is a conscious effort to change the view of modern tolerance into a virtue, and thus an obligation. Here is a quote from the abstract of one such study (emphasis added):
Some political theorists argue for a view of political tolerance that requires more from people. These theorists define positive tolerance as peoples’ beliefs that they have a duty or obligation to take action to protect people’s freedom to be different. Such an obligation should lead people to take action to help people who belong to disliked groups so they can “lead the good life” and share in society’s benefits. Employing undergraduates in a study at a metropolitan Midwestern university, we develop the first such scale to measure positive tolerance. We demonstrate it is reliable with exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis. We also find that among those prejudiced against gays and lesbians, positive tolerance leads to some support for the rights of gays and lesbians to both marry and adopt children. We conclude with a discussion of how some of the positively tolerant overlook their negative group affect to support gays and lesbians in “living the good life.”

Step #4 - Ignore the logical inconsistencies.
This radical understanding of tolerance is only useful if we ignore the logical inconsistencies inherent in it.

**We must be tolerant. Except when we are intolerant of intolerance.
**We must be open-minded. Except when we are close-minded about close-mindedness.

If you say that tolerance is accepting everything about others, then you should never have a problem with another disagreeing with you. If one thinks tolerance means acceptance of all actions (even actions another considers wrong), then the "tolerant" one must accept that others do not accept certain actions or those who are "tolerant" are being intolerant.

EXAMPLE FROM CULTURE - Catholics who say that marriage should only be between one man and one woman are charged with bigotry and intolerance. The fact is that Catholics are limiting themselves as well with this idea, not just others. No person can marry another person of the same sex. So, it isn't about picking on one group, because the rule applies to all.

Some say it is about the "right to marry someone you love". But, as we have discussed in other posts, it is never loving to have ANY sexual act which might cause harm to the other, and a same-sex sexual act is, by nature, harmful to the both persons. Thus, it can't be about love.

It also isn't about "equality" either. The purpose of the state recognizing marriage and giving certain rights to married couples is because the state depends on the family to raise the children that naturally come from the family, so the state can survive and thrive. Same-sex couples, by nature, cannot have kids. Thus, they should not get legal recognition of their relationships or preferential treatment. I won't even get into the other reasons why gay marriage is a bad idea, but you can read about it here.

The logical inconsistency is that those who support same-sex marriages are intolerant of the Catholic Church's intolerance of same-sex marriage.

Step #5 - Malign those who hold-out against this idea of tolerance as prejudiced and bigoted.
The examples for this step are too numerous to give, though I have posted a few above.

It is obvious that this step is very important, because most people do not like to be told they are being mean, exclusive, or rejecting others. But, the problem is that the Church isn't doing this. They reject certain actions, because we believe they are harmful to others. This isn't mean - it is a LOVING ACT. If I think you are doing something bad and don't tell you - then I am acting cruel toward you.

But, if I am looking out for your best interests, then I am acting out of love.

CONCLUSION

Christianity IS INTOLERANT of :
  • sin
  • immorality
  • scandal
  • injury to another persons dignity
  • etc.
But, the Church is NOT intolerant of people.

We must fight against this false understanding of modern tolerance as a virtue and obligation. We must fight against sin. But, we must also tolerate other human beings and their human rights.

Words have meaning.
Thoughts have consequences.
"Are tolerance and belief in revealed truth opposites? Putting it another way: Are Christian faith and modernity compatible? If tolerance is one of the foundations of the modern age, then is not the claim to have recognized the essential truth an obsolete piece of presumption that has to be rejected if the spiral of violence that runs through the history of religions is to be broken? Today, in the encounter of Christianity with the world, this question arises ever more dramatically, and ever more widespread becomes the persuasion that renouncing the claim to truth in the Christian faith is the fundamental condition for a new universal peace, the fundamental condition for any reconciliation of Christianity with modernity."
-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
One more:
"We need to remember that tolerance is not a Christian virtue. Charity, justice, mercy, prudence, honesty - these are Christian virtues. And obviously, in a diverse community, tolerance is an important working principle. But it’s never an end itself. In fact, tolerating grave evil within a society is itself a form of serious evil. Likewise, democratic pluralism does not mean that Catholics should be quiet in public about serious moral issues because of some misguided sense of good manners. A healthy democracy requires vigorous moral debate to survive. Real pluralism demands that people of strong beliefs will advance their convictions in the public square — peacefully, legally and respectfully, but energetically and without embarrassment. Anything less is bad citizenship and a form of theft from the public conversation.”
-Archbishop Charles Chaput
Fr. Barron on the limits of tolerance:


More from Fr. Barron:

No comments: