24 June 2007

Tolerance and respect

Daniel, from San Luis, tells me he's not going to read this blog anymore because as a Catholic he feels I'm intolerant and disrespectful, based on my earlier post entitled "Monsignor my ass". I'm taking the opportunity to expand on that issue. (By the way, Daniel, I do publish comments like yours, which articulately disagree with what I think. What I don't allow is gratuitious insults and xenophobic rubbish, like she did.)

First, what is intolerance? Intolerance is saying, "I don't like what you think/say/do, so I'm going to discriminate you, or punish you, in some way." I can't do that with the archbishop. I believe he represents an evil organization, and I think many of the beliefs he holds are detrimental to human wellbeing. All I can do about it is criticize him, using the means at my disposal, one of which is ridicule. Any sensible member of any religion knows there are billions of people in the world who consider his or her religious beliefs false, ridiculous, absurd, or even supernaturally harmful. This doesn't mean those people are intolerant. I would have coffee or dinner with the archbishop any time and I'm sure we could get along fine, just as I get along with people of the most diverse beliefs in my daily life, as long as the archbishop refrains from telling me I'm going to hell because I'm a filthy unrepentant atheist.

Then, what is respect? More importantly, why do religious beliefs and to what extent do they deserve respect? (H. L. Mencken famously said, " We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.") My idea of this is that respect is for people, not for ideas. You respect a person when you talk to them using the proper words and not insults, acknowledging their opinions, and accepting that they have different ideas even if you don't like them. Ideas are not people! They can't feel pain when attacked! If you bring to a table the idea that it's OK to burn people alive to punish them for heresy, or that Jews are an inferior race, or that women should be locked up in their homes and be content with being loyal sexual objects for their husbands, your idea will be called horrible things, torn to pieces and exposed as discriminatory, barbaric, medieval, and utterly damnable. But if you're dealing with tolerant subjects, they'll attack your idea, not you. You will be attacked or forcefully restrained or expelled only if you actually try to enforce your idea.

I respect archbishop José Luis Mollaghan. I don't respect his religion, and I shouldn't, because it's been the source of a lot of suffering and continues to be, in my opinion, a force against positive change and even for death in many parts of the world. Above that, it's a religion whose leaders treat me and many of my compatriots as second-class people, and if they were in power, they'd most surely also make me a second-class citizen. I don't like the fact that the Vatican has a spokesman telling me and my compatriots that being a good Argentinian and a patriot is somehow linked to being a faithful Catholic. I don't like how assumes he speaks for all of us and in behalf of all of us. I find the whole Christian theology thing a huge lump of incoherent nonsense.

So that's my personal opinion, and you can disagree or not, but you can't take away my right to say it in this public, but explicitly personal, account of my life. If archbishop Mollaghan has a blog, a personal webpage, a diary, or a self-edited paper, he's also free to voice his beliefs there — but I say he shouldn't be allowed to do it in a public patriotic holiday, as if he were an authority that represents us, the people. We didn't elect him, it was some old guy in the Vatican who did. He's not monsignor, "my lord", to me. He has enough influence to be quoted in independent media, and he has his own place as well — let him speak in church.


  1. Anonymous13:22

    I agree.
    If I'm watching tv and I don't like what I'm seeing I change the channel or just put off the tv; I don't accuse the channel of being "intolerant". And even then, watching something that I am not in total agreement with, there's a chance that it just might broaden my opinion in some way, so why not watch it anyway? Where's the harm in that? Everybody has the right to express their opinion, nobody should be called "intolerant" because of that.

    Way to go, Pablo.

  2. Would there be any difference if he used another title instead? Something Like "You are not monsignor of mine"?
    That is the only disrespectful term I could find in this text.
    The rest is just an opinion that you can disagree with.
    I think intolerance happens when a person is banned or put aside, discarded or discredited for not liking what he says or thinks, like stop reading someone's blog for suddenly realizing has a different opinion on delicated matter such as religion.
    Being tolerant on the other hand implies a enourmous effort such as continue reading or talking in spite of others opinions.
    Too much of a reaction for something so honest.

    Excuse please any mispelling errors. Writing in English other than technical takes me a lot of time and effort.

  3. Anonymous03:01

    "I don't like what you think/say/do, so I'm going to discriminate you, or punish you, in some way."

    As I see it, it certainly wouldn't be a punishment to have that loser stop reading and posting on this blog. Your posts are obviously intelligent, and he has demonstrated an impish, passive-aggressive, angry reaction to constructive, well-developed criticism about the Catholic Church's involvement in the Argentine government.

    These types of commenters are good at times because they personify intolerance, and give you something to publicly skin alive. As such they also generate discussion, and add entertainment value to your blog. But I've also seen them bring down the entire level of discourse. I'll be the first to say that can be fun sometimes, but at a certain point it can be a turn-off if you muck around there too long.

    I think you handled him really well with this post, but tbh a discussion on tolerance gets BORING fast. I'd much rather see you rail on the archbishop any day ;-)

  4. Yes, agree, it gets boring. Let's remove that nail from your coffin now. :)

  5. I answered to Daniel because I felt I was misunderstood. Shouldn't do that anymore, since I was clear enough.

    Shooting fish in a barrel is not fun for me anymore. I prefer to assume good faith in Daniel's case; as for the archbishop, I was using him as a metonym for the whole Church, and his speech as an example of the relation between Church and State.

    Thanks for all your comments.


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