An Open Letter to my Conservative Brothers and Sisters about Tolerance

Lately, you  guys have given the word “tolerance”  a strange, new meaning. You seem to think that if your behavior has crossed the  line and become hateful, mean-spirited, discriminatory, bigoted etc, and I point that out, I’m being intolerant myself. I’ve been wondering where you got this idea. I haven’t had much success so, as usual, I decided to start with some definitions. Dictionary.com says that tolerance is ” a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry”. Merriam-Webster says “sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own”. For the defintion of “intolerant”, we return to Dictionary.com, which defines the word as meaning “not tolerating or respecting beliefs, opinions, usages, manners, etc., different from one’s own, as in political or religious matters; bigoted.” According Messrs. Merriam and Webster, intolerant means “unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression especially in religious matters ” Still at an impasse, aren’t we?

Maybe somthing a little more concrete will shed some light on the subject. More than once in the last few weeks, I’ve been told I’m being intolerant by not patronizing a certain fast-food restaurant. So, where I eat makes me intolerant? I could say the same thing about your lining up yesterday to buy chicken from a restuarant that gives money to hate groups.

 In his blog, The Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta said

“No one should be tolerant of intolerance — and that’s a game Christians love to play (“Well, you’re just intolerant of our religious beliefs!”)… but no one’s taking away their rights. No one’s forcing gay marriage in their church. No one’s asking them to attend a gay wedding against their will. (Let’s face it; they weren’t invited in the first place.) “

He’s right, you know. Allowing LGBT people to marry won’t deprive you or anyone else of their rights, religious or otherwise. The same goes for birth  control and a lot of the other crap people bitch about. The point is unless I’m somehow already abridging your rights, I’m not being intolerant just by pointing out your intolerance. I have a feeling I know what you really want: to be able to say whatever the hell you feel like with no backlash. I hate to tell you, Sparky, but here’s what free speech  boils down to: You have the freedom to be a bigot, and I have the freedom to call you one. (from the Christian Left Facebook page). In other words, you have the freedom to say what you belive; you do not have freedom from the repercussioins of what you said. Because that’s just chicken shit.