Tolerance and Postmodernism

Richard Dawkins is openly intolerant. When it comes to religion, he claims to be intolerant, not only of extremists, but of moderates who are tolerant of extremists. Many, like Dawkins, believe that those who are in the right confront those who are wrong.

There is definitely a place for confrontation in any society, but, years ago, I hardly thought this would be the nature of the challenge to Christianity.

Rather, the loudest voice opposing religion was an accusation of intolerance. I am here speaking of the postmodern claim that those who feel they know the absolute truth will tend to oppress those who believe differently.

The trouble, then, is not that this idea has been rejected by the current opponents to belief, but that it has been accepted. The false dichotomy between a refusal to make claims and an angry judgment is a destructive one.

Neither polite dismissal nor angry judgment acknowledges that others are saying anything of content – that their perspectives should be given fair and respectful consideration. Both approaches refuse to really engage with the idea that an opponent might be speaking truth. The former simply ends the conversation, and the latter promotes a shouting match, often using the term “fairyology” to support the anti-intellectual statement that one not need to actually understand a position in order to argue against it.

To disagree respectfully, then, is not to engage in verbal conflict. It is to affirm that truth exists, and that at least part of that truth is the goodness of mutual respect and understanding.


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