• JoeyO

Is it possible for one worldview to be tolerant of other worldviews?

In this crazy mixed-up world, anything goes. Believe whatever you want, just don’t impose your belief on others. Behave however you want, just don’t hurt anybody. Live and let live. Toleration has become the buzz word of today’s political correctness, a benchmark for the highest expression of civilized thinking.

The tolerant person accepts that all views are equally important and should be given equal time. The tolerant person is sensitive to the feelings of others, especially in discussing religious or political matters. The tolerant person is really a “nice guy”, someone who does not get in your face during heated discussions. So it’s easy to get enamored with a fuzzy concept of toleration, a polite mind-set of “live and let live”.

In some ways toleration between people is essential. It is important to respect the dignity of those who don’t share your views. It is even crucial that we learn to agree to disagree. We must recognize the right for opposing sides to exist within an atmosphere of mutual respect. So it is possible to tolerate people who hold conflicting ideas. But in the final analysis, it is not possible for worldviews to tolerate rival worldviews. What’s the difference?

In the controversial arena of beliefs and ideas, fuzzy tolerance has to take a back-seat to cold, hard logic. The law of contradiction states that two opposing statements cannot both be true at the same time and in the same manner. So which sentence is true? Statement A: The moon is made of green cheese or Statement B: the moon is made of rock and metallic ores. Only one statement can be true; we can’t have it both ways. .

Likewise, religions based on conflicting worldviews cannot both be true at the same time and in the same manner. Christianity holds to a theistic worldview; Hinduism is based on a pantheistic transcendental worldview. These are mutually exclusive. They cannot tolerate each other as truth systems.

Besides, this culture’s fuzzy concept of toleration belies its very nature. For toleration by definition assumes a right standard. Toleration simply measures the allowable deviation from that standard. Notice how this plays out in real life:


· Think about how intolerant an engineer has to be when he builds a bridge. Precision in calculation and measuring devices are assumed. Competence and professionalism are expected, even demanded. A tolerant engineer cannot be tolerated for careless, because imprecise bridge building has catastrophic results.


· Think about how intolerant an eye surgeon must be. She must calibrate her laser machine to the tightest parameters. Any deviation from the exact figure could visually impair her patient.


· How would you evaluate a tolerant math teacher who asks you what is the sum of 2+2. You answer 5 and get a B+ on your test with smiley face and a nice encouraging note saying “close enough”. No way! Math teachers are intolerant by definition. Math demands exactness. There is one right answer and an infinite number of wrong answers. “Close enough” does not cut in math. Tolerance is not the attitude of a respected math instructor.

So in these professional endeavors, intolerance is prized as a desirable quality. There is a right way of doing a task and a number of wrong ways. There is a right answer and a number of wrong answers. If we tolerate the wrong ways and the wrong answers in some endeavors, we open the door to inconceivable hurt and misery.

This same idea of tolerance applies to worldviews. One is right, the others are wrong. By definition a worldview is intolerant to conflicting worldviews.

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