18 Respect the Religious Beliefs of Others

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On to the next precept – 19 Do Not Try to Do Things to Others That You Would Not Like Them to Do to You


Tolerance is a good cornerstone on which to build human relationships.  When one views the slaughter and suffering caused by religious intolerance down all the history of Man and into modern times, one can see that intolerance is a very non-survival activity.

Religious tolerance does not mean one cannot express his own beliefs.  It does mean that seeking to undermine or attack the religious faith and beliefs of another has always been a short road to trouble.

Philosophers since the times of ancient Greece have disputed with one another about the nature of God, Man and the universe.  The opinions of authorities ebb and flow: just now the philosophies of “mechanism”1 and “materialism”2—dating as far back as Ancient Egypt and Greece—are the fad: they seek to assert that all is matter and overlook that, neat as their explanations of evolution may be, they still do not rule out additional factors that might be at work, that might be merely using such things as evolution.  They are today the “official” philosophies and are even taught in schools.  They have their own zealots who attack the beliefs and religions of others: the result can be intolerance and contention.

If all the brightest minds since the fifth century B.C. or before have never been able to agree on the subject of religion or anti-religion, it is an arena of combat between people that one would do well to stay out of.

In this sea of contention, one bright principle has emerged: the right to believe as one chooses.

“Faith” and “belief” do not necessarily surrender to logic: they cannot even be declared to be illogical.  They can be things quite apart.

Any advice one might give another on this subject is safest when it simply asserts the right to believe as one chooses.  One is at liberty to hold up his own beliefs for acceptance.  One is at risk when he seeks to assault the beliefs of others, much more so when he attacks and seeks to harm them because of their religious convictions.

Man, since the dawn of the species, has taken great consolation and joy in his religions.  Even the “mechanist” and “materialist” of today sound much like the priests of old as they spread their dogma.

Men without faith are a pretty sorry lot.  They can even be given something to have faith in.  But when they have religious beliefs, respect them.

The way to happiness can
become contentious when one
fails to respect the religious
beliefs of others.

1. mechanism: the view that all life is only matter in motion and can be totally explained by physical laws. Advanced by Leucippus and Democritus (460 B.C. to 370 B.C.) who may have gotten it from Egyptian mythology. Upholders of this philosophy felt they had to neglect religion because they could not reduce it to mathematics.  They were attacked by religious interests and in their turn attacked religions.  Robert Boyle (1627–1691), who developed Boyle’s Law in physics, refuted it by raising the question as to whether or not nature might have designs such as matter in motion.

2. materialism: any one of a family of metaphysical theories which view the universe as consisting of hard objects such as stones, big or very small. The theories seek to explain away such things as minds by saying they can be reduced to physical things or their motions.  Materialism is a very ancient idea. There are other ideas.