I am going to begin this article with a rather provocative statement.
Religions, cultures, beliefs and opinions which differ from our own should not be tolerated.
Now, before you fall off your chair in disbelief at this apparently out of character statement, let me explain further. Let us examine the word tolerate. If I were to say to you that 'I tolerate my wife' or 'I tolerate my children', how would you view my relationship with them? Tolerance is often held up as a virtue in our society, but I am of the view that this is simply not good enough.
If we just tolerate another religion, culture or belief, we are effectively saying, 'That lot are clearly wrong and frankly I don't like them very much, but they are here, so I suppose that I will have to put up with it because I am too much of a coward to tell the truth about how I feel.' Tolerate is what you do with a toothache until the time of your dentist appointment comes around.
Tolerance in this respect is fundamentally dishonest. You either completely accept others' right to have opinions, beliefs and customs that differ from your own, or you do not. If you do not, you should be honest and say so. If you tolerate another person's way of life, you are being dishonest, both with yourself and with the other. You are pretending to be OK with it, when really you are not. Acceptance, on the other hand, is a different matter. If you accept something, you no longer have to tolerate it. You have accepted it. It no longer troubles your mind at all.
But may I suggest going a step further than acceptance. My suggestion is that we openly celebrate our differences. What an incredibly dull world this would be without the myriad of wonderful differences in belief, opinion, custom and appearance.
Imagine the wonderful variety of life in the world which is often celebrated in TV programmes such as those made for the BBC by the great broadcaster David Attenborough.
Giraffe: Those blummin' gazelles. Can't stand them, with their short necks, white bellies and their bouncing in the air. Have you seen what they eat? Low down vegetation! Disgusting! How can anyone eat low down vegetation when there is all this wonderful high up vegetation?
Elephant: Oh, I don't know. I quite enjoy both high up and low down vegetation. Perhaps you should give low down a try some time. Mind you, you're right about that bouncing in the air thing. Flippin' show offs. Anyway, must be off. Catch you at the watering hole. [Under his breath] Lanky short nosed yellow poser.
Sounds a bit silly, right? Doesn't really happen, does it? No. Of course not. Animals aren't mentally disturbed like many humans are.
I suggest we should welcome, cherish and celebrate the wonderful variety of human life in the same way we celebrate the wonderful variety of other species.
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