Saturday, March 10, 2007

Macauley on Religious persecution

I've started reading "In the name of Heaven" by Mary Jane Engh and in the preface, there was this rather perceptive quote I'd like to share:

"I am in the right, and you are in the wrong. When you are the stronger, you ought to tolerate me; for it is your duty to tolerate truth. But when I am the stronger, I shall persecute you; for it is my duty to persecute error." - Thomas Babington Macauley, Critical and Historical Essays"

9 comments:

Hallq said...

...is that quote tongue-in-cheek or serious?

Hallq said...

Oh... and that book "In The Name of Heaven" looks like a wonderful resource. Where'd you hear about it?

Strappado said...

It's tongue in cheek, just summarizing the mindset of some religious minorities. If you take a look at the Wikipedia article, as well as the wikiquote, you'll see the man had a way with words.

Wonderful book indeed. Heard about it in the Sam Harris forum. You can take a look at it here:
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9781591024545&itm=1

Bob said...

Why is tolerance a commendable trait based upon your worldview Strappado?

Strappado said...

First we need to find out who we should be tolerant to, and I think Karl Popper says that very well:

We have the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should tolerate even them whenever we can do so without running a great risk; but the risk may become so great that we cannot allow ourselves the luxury. http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/quotes/quote-pq.htm#KARLPOPPER

In other words, people who are not a threat to me or society should be tolerated.

Partly because we all may have something to learn from them, even if we think they are weird from the outset.
But most important: because what goes around comes around. It's a quite common irony that intolerant people have supported an intolerant system only to become victims of the same intolerance later. Ted Haggard is a prime example, but I think more about the general atmosphere of society. If you persecute a group of people for no good reason, you may risk them wanting to get even things out when they can.

Bob said...

"First we need to find out who we should be tolerant to, and I think Karl Popper says that very well"

No, even more fundamental is the question: "Why should I be tolerant at all? (based upon your worldview)" So when you say:

In other words, people who are not a threat to me or society should be tolerated."

You are just begging the question as to why I sould tolerate anybody at all (if we assume Materialism).

"But most important: because what goes around comes around."

I don't that is one of the laws of physics Newton came up, it seems to be an appeal to an Eastern morality. I would assert that in doing so you are not being rational or consistant to your worldview.

So I sould be a nice guy because I want to be treated nice? I am just as rationally justified (based upon Materialism) to be a completely self centered ego-maniac and not give a rip what other people think about me (I mean they are just stupid animals anyway).

As for Ted Haggard I wouldn't call it irony but hypocrisy.

Strappado said...

Well, in short, it's a question of which society people want.

I see you're rephrasing the question now, and the question is why I think you should be tolerant. You imply that without a reference to a god/God I have no way to put sufficient strength behind my argument, right?

Firstly, I think you misunderstood what I meant with "What goes around..." I don't care particularly about eastern philosophy.
But I do know that the Antichristian attitudes do not come from out of the blue. And while I have always been a hardline Atheist, I see which arguments have a broad acceptance and which do not. Say, the attitudes to gay people. They cause you no harm, yet you are intolerant of them. That gives Atheism fuel.

So what I mean is that by behaving tolerant, there is more to gain in the long run as long as you don't tolerate violent movements etc. But I can not refer to a moral imperative which says "Be tolerant or else" of course. Then again, is there any such thing in Christianity? Not a working one at least.

Bob said...

"Firstly, I think you misunderstood what I meant with "What goes around..." I don't care particularly about eastern philosophy.
But I do know that the Antichristian attitudes do not come from out of the blue. And while I have always been a hardline Atheist, I see which arguments have a broad acceptance and which do not. Say, the attitudes to gay people. They cause you no harm, yet you are intolerant of them. That gives Atheism fuel."


Well, I think you are right in some of what you say here. I think that a lot of Christians have been intolerant of homosexuals, by that I mean in the classical sense of intolerance, not the modern sense of the word that means you completely accept. I as a Biblical Christian think homosexual practice is wrong, I also think adultry is wrong, and fornication. So the question is do Christians treat gays like they do heterosexual high school aged teens who are experimenting with their sexuality (fornicating)? On the whole I don't think so. This is wrong.

Homosexuals have dignity and worth (traits Materialism strips of man) because they are made in the image of God. We as Christians need to be like Christ and truly love people even if they are sinning, this in a lot of ways simply hasn't happened to those who are involved in homosexual lifestyle. So I join you Strappado in objecting to the demonization of gays often done in the name of Christianity, but I disagree and still hold that homosexuality is immoral.

Now, I would still stand on the point that you really have no right to say intolerance is wrong based upon your worldview. That's just something that happens in a materialist universe when bags of water and chemicals (people) interact. To say that it is wrong is akin to saying the rainfalling is immoral, these are just things that happen.

"So what I mean is that by behaving tolerant, there is more to gain in the long run as long as you don't tolerate violent movements etc. But I can not refer to a moral imperative which says "Be tolerant or else" of course. Then again, is there any such thing in Christianity? Not a working one at least."

What is there to gain? More gays will like Christianity (which is a big lie anyway according to you)? What is there to gain by treating people nicely, I am being completely serious here, when we assume materialism? It is not like our moral motions have any real significance. I think the only appeal you can make is a kind of survivalistic ethic which would say that being nice gets us allies. But so does minipulation and money. Either path is valid.

Now as for a working system I have no problem at all providing one. Firstly I think Christianity is properly basic, it is my presupposition that God is there and He has not been silent. It is on this foundation that all other things are accounted for (uniformity of nature, laws of logic, human dignity, human personality, and a moral standard). This is my foundation, the personal God who made all of life, and has revealed Himself to man through revelation in the Bible. (Now I can go into why we start spicifically with the Christian God and not Islam if you want but I want to explain morality).

On this foundation, that God exists and He has revealed Himself, we have answers for necessary questions. We know what man is and why he has worth: man is made in the image of God and therefore has dignity and worth higher than bugs and cats. This is how human dignity is accounted for, on a Materialist view the highest dignity we can have is that we are higher advanced biological machines than cats and can exert our will over cats.

Anyway, as for morals, morality is based upon the character of God, which He has revealed in the Bible. Because it is based upon the God who made man it is universal and applies to all men. Because God does not change neither do the catagories of right and wrong change because they are dependent upon His character. Our moral motions have significance and eternal ramifications in that we are to be held accountable to God for our actions, therfore they have true significance.

Now this is a basic description, but unlike what you said it is a "working" system. If there is something that seems wrong with it please tell me or ask a question.

F. Patterson said...

I don't think the comment is tongue in cheek at all but in essence explains the world history of religion in one simple statement.

It's kind of like E=mc2