Thursday, January 2, 2014

While on the topic of words that bother me...

"Tolerance." Now, my problems here aren't with the meaning of the word, but rather the caveats that go unsaid. And the way conservatives then latch on to make their arguments. It was in the forward for the book "I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist:"
The tolerance peddlers are further exposed as frauds when you consider that they simply will not practice what they preach—at least toward those annoyingly stubborn Christians. They are absolutely unwilling to "tolerate" the Christian premise that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (p9)
I have also seen this in the defense of Phil Robertson (of Duck Dynasty fame). Conservatives groaning about how liberals aren't "tolerant" of his viewpoints.

I actually find the conservative arguments to be somewhat rational. They are, after all, fighting against what really seems to be a thought stopping argument. The one that I can think of off the top of my head is that conservatives are supposed to tolerate gay people. No specified reason given. Just 'cuz. The question I've had for such liberals is should we also tolerate pedophiles? I sure hope not!

Now, I do actually know the unspoken reason — no one is suffering any harm in the case of gay couples. Conservatives have to "tolerate" it because they don't have a good reason to not do so. We libs, on the other hand, do have reason to not tolerate homophobic remarks. Because they do cause harm! Primary example would be the depression it can cause with LGBT youth, thus the need for the "It Gets Better" campaign or "The Trevor Project."

A problem I think that some liberals have is that the reasons conservatives have are religious in nature. Liberals that are also religious can't counter such reasoning very well. They can't call out such arguments as total bullshit (without lying), so they are left to arguing theology, which is rather unproductive, leaving the liberal to fall back on the "tolerance" for unspecified reasons shitty argument.

Example: Liberal may actually start out with the harm argument. Conservative comes back with a "But God says so" argument. Liberal, believing that God exists, is left to debating over what God actually said. So, in the future, the liberal just shortcuts this entirely with the "tolerance" for unspecified reasons argument.

Having said all of that, I don't know how many liberals actually use this lousy tolerance argument. I have seen it used, so the number is more than zero. But I see conservatives knock down the argument way more often! It is to the point that it seems little more than a straw man. Unlike a pure straw man, it is nearly a correct representation of an opponent's position. The problem that makes it like a straw man is the opponent is a large group of people who do not all share the same position. So while it may correctly represent some in the group, it does not represent the group as a whole, and may even only represent a small segment of that group.

An analogy I find appropriate would be to criticize all Christians for the beliefs of Westboro Baptist Church. They're a Christian group, for sure, but they don't represent all of Christianity. They don't even represent mainstream Christianity. It is unfair to generalize Christianity via WBC. Likewise, it is unfair to generalize liberals over those who make the "tolerance" argument.

In short...

Liberals — Don't use these short-hand arguments! They are easy to knock down. Go into full detail whenever you can.

Conservatives — I'm on to you. As far as I can tell, you are misrepresenting the majority of liberals in order to knock down low-hanging fruit. (And, so that I'm not seen as hypocritical, allow me to specify that I am referring specifically to those conservatives that use this tactic and not all conservatives.)

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