Appreciation – Not Tolerance

Montreal - Tully

While looking up how to spell “religion” on Google (yes, the school system failed me and I use Google quite a bit to figure out the finer points of spelling – keeping in mind that Google kicks out atrocities like ‘color’ as opposed to ‘colour’ – but that’s another post. Seriously – it’s in ‘draft’), I came across “ReligiousTolerance.org”.

Ok, but back it up a step – why was I looking up ‘religion’? Well, I did a quick Google search for “William Tully” (don’t tell me you’re not looking up your own name!) and it would seem that because my blog posting frequency has somewhat diminished over the last while, the good Rev. William Tully of New York City has made up some ground on the search results.

See, back before I started my blog, my name never really showed up anywhere, and the search results were littered with references to The Good Reverend… As a devout (am I allowed to use that word?) atheist, you could imagine my surprise, right? Wait, no, if you’re not an atheist, you likely couldn’t – and we’ll get to that in a bit.

Anyways, I have nothing against The Rev, however, I do use him as an opposing benchmark while I figure out things on this here interweb.. (best Simpson’s quote ever: “Ooooh, I see they have the internet on computers now!” – too funny!). Think about it though, the one person who ranks on Google, with the same name as you, has the exact opposite views on religion as you. If it was an opposite view on say ‘cars’ or something, well who cares right? But religion? That’s one of the biggies that will be debated until Humans no longer exist.

Ok, so what do we have so far? Religion (my atrocious spelling), Atheism, The Rev, and ReligiousTolerance.org.

Whenever I see or hear the word tolerance used in the same breath as religion, it makes me laugh, simply because anyone who is religious in any form is automatically the least tolerant when it comes to anything but their religion.

A few months back, Colleen and I decided to go used book store hopping here in Toronto. Generally I like my books to be new, crisp, and smelling of paper and ink rather than some musty basement or a 20 year old ashtray, however, the curiosity of finding something unique usually lures me into the store.

One of the stores we went into was on Bloor Street, just East of Bathurst (don’t remember the name, but it’s pretty much a fixture of Toronto and can’t miss it when doing the tour). You end up going down some stairs from the sidewalk to enter the store. Once you do, you find yourself in this narrow, yet seemingly long book store which is packed with books and seems to descend well below the level which one would expect a store to go to. After puttering around a bit, I found myself on a mission of exploration to see just how far back this store went, and just how far below the Earth’s crust it descended.

I’ll tell you this, that the East side of the store goes WAY back, and down towards the end of this mine shaft, in the last traces of light from the entrance, you will find the section labelled “Religion”. 20 minutes later I found myself still flipping through and reading various pages of a Qur’an I happened to find upon my arrival. It was a quite new green, black, and gold, hardcover book with paper as thin as butterfly wings (couldn’t think of anything else thinner than bible paper and felt that I really shouldn’t compare the two being of two different religions). From what I could gather, the book was printed from back to front, yet the front of the book talked about the translation and gave a small map of the sections of the book – it just didn’t mention the book was printed from back to front. Rather confusing.

What I realized while walking down the sidewalk later (no, I didn’t buy it – couldn’t justify the $35), was that had I been remotely religious I likely would not have a) even picked it up, b) contemplated buying it, and c) would not have been able to see the beauty in the writing from an unbiased position.

If you are of religion, and you find yourself reading a text from another religion, at some point (and likely more than one) you will be in conflict with something that is written. The only way you can actually be in conflict is to be biased to your own beliefs. If you were not biased, you would not be able to be in conflict.

This raises the challenge in that you cannot fully appreciate one religion if you are a part of another. As an Atheist, because I am not in conflict, am I not able to appreciate a religion more than my religious counterparts? Now I’m not saying that religious people cannot appreciate another religion, what I am saying is that there is a self-imposed cap on the level of appreciation simply because at some point there will be a conflict of views (if there wasn’t, you would be a part of that religion which you are trying to appreciate and not the one you started out from).

So what, right? Well, really, all that is left is for religion to preach tolerance because that’s all they’re left with. They can’t fully appreciate another religion which they are in conflict in, so we all must tolerate the other ones.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather lead a life of appreciation of other views and beliefs than a life of forcing myself to put up with another religion (tolerate) because it conflicts with my own. Appreciation on the highest level is always better than just tolerance.