Tolerating Intolerance

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Demonstrating an all new level of intolerance for anything other than scientific fact, Richard Dawkins has proposed that fairy tales are screwing with the development of scepticism in the young minds of children.

While delivering a speech at the Cheltenham Science Festival, the evolutionary biologist and atheist expressed concerns about ‘statistically improbable’ tales encouraging children to entertain the implausible and far-fetched; such fantastical imaginings are, according to him, not desirable.

I suppose his honesty deserves some credit, however Dawkins’ comments have offended more groups of people than just the extensive Disney-worshipping Tumblr population. Columnists, journalists and other critics have come to the general consensus that Dawkins possesses little sympathy for any ideas other than his own scientific views.

"Jesus himself often enjoyed a glass of red; enough with the Christians-shouldn’t-drink stereotype!"

Unfortunately, this lack of tolerance for diverse beliefs is not limited to Dawkins’ derogatory comparisons of religion and fairy tales. Dawkins’ narrow-mindedness seems to be eerily reflective of society. Despite the fact that diversity and multiculturalism are drilled into the minds of Australians as desirable attributes as early as primary education, there still seems to be high levels of discrepancy between what we practice and what we preach.

So I’m a Christian. But before you go stereotyping me as a scrunchie-wearing, home-schooled crazy, hear me out. People’s reactions when they find out I’m a Christian never fail to entertain. Sometimes, I get a nod of respect, a high five or a fist pound. I assume this means ‘right on’ or maybe they are secretly making fun of me. I don’t really care. With other people, I see a flicker of fear in their eyes which they immediately try to cover up by over-compensating with manners and flattery. Obviously uncomfortable with the fact that I believe in something that they can’t see, they do their utmost to avoid offending me. Maybe they’ve had a bad experience and they’re scared I’ll start praying for them right there in the pub or I’ll get up on the bar and start preaching to the mass of ‘sinners’ ordering alcoholic drinks. I’ll take this opportunity to point out that Jesus himself often enjoyed a glass of red; enough with the Christians-shouldn’t-drink stereotype!

This last reaction to my Christianity is, unfortunately, not uncommon.

Some people start aggressively grilling me about my assumed views on issues such as marriage equality. Apparently I’m a hypocritical homophobe who shoves bigoted opinions down peoples’ throats. Mind you, these accusations start flying before they have even heard what my opinions actually are on those topics. Sure, there are plenty of Christians out there who are hypocritical and bigoted. There are also plenty out there who aren’t. Preaching tolerance, my accusers’ actions demonstrate the opposite and I’m usually not able to get a word in to point this out to them.

Contrary to what a lot of non-Christian Australians tend to assume, there is no ‘typical’ Christian. Just like there is no ‘typical’ Muslim, Buddhist, Jew or Atheist. Very rarely will anyone fit neatly into a culturally-constructed stereotype which is why I believe prejudiced labels can really hurt people.

No ‘typical’ person exists.

Like a lot of issues in society, I think this whole religion vs science, or religion ‘X’ vs religion ‘Y’ comes down to a basic lack of respect for the views of others. Dawkins has the right to an opinion as much as anyone; I only criticise the way he publicly discredits and shames his ‘opponents’, rather than treating them with dignity while respectfully and logically refuting their arguments. After all this is the basis of science, logical educated rebuttals rather than childish shit slinging. 

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