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Tolerance Isn't Good Enough: The need for mutual respect in interfaith religions

Discussion in 'Interfaith Dialogues' started by spnadmin, Dec 10, 2010.

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  1. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    It is fashionable in interfaith discussions to advocate "tolerance" for other faiths. But we would find it patronizing, even downright insulting, to be "tolerated" at someone's dinner table. No spouse would appreciate being told that his or her presence at home was being "tolerated." No self-respecting worker accepts mere tolerance from colleagues. We tolerate those we consider inferior. In religious circles, tolerance, at best, is what the pious extend toward people they regard as heathens, idol worshippers or infidels. It is time we did away with tolerance and replaced it with "mutual respect."

    Religious tolerance was advocated in Europe after centuries of wars between opposing denominations of Christianity, each claiming to be "the one true church" and persecuting followers of "false religions." Tolerance was a political "deal" arranged between enemies to quell the violence (a kind of cease-fire) without yielding any ground. Since it was not based on genuine respect for difference, it inevitably broke down.

    My campaign against mere tolerance started in the late 1990s when I was invited to speak at a major interfaith initiative at Claremont Graduate University. Leaders of major faiths had gathered to propose a proclamation of "religious tolerance." I argued that the word "tolerance" should be replaced with "mutual respect" in the resolution. The following day, Professor Karen Jo Torjesen, the organizer and head of religious studies at Claremont, told me I had caused a "sensation." Not everyone present could easily accept such a radical idea, she said, but added that she herself was in agreement. Clearly, I had hit a raw nerve.

    I then decided to experiment with "mutual respect" as a replacement for the oft-touted "tolerance" in my forthcoming talks and lectures. I found that while most practitioners of dharma religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism) readily espouse mutual respect, there is considerable resistance from the Abrahamic faiths.

    Soon afterwards, at the United Nation's Millennium Religion Summit in 2000, the Hindu delegation led by Swami Dayananda Saraswati insisted that in the official draft the term "tolerance" be replaced with "mutual respect." Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict), who led the Vatican delegation, strongly objected to this. After all, if religions deemed "heathen" were to be officially respected, there would be no justification for converting their adherents to Christianity.

    The matter reached a critical stage and some serious fighting erupted. The Hindu side held firm that the time had come for the non-Abrahamic religions to be formally respected as equals at the table and not just tolerated by the Abrahamic religions. At the very last minute, the Vatican blinked and the final resolution did call for "mutual respect." However, within a month, the Vatican issued a new policy stating that while "followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation." Many liberal Christians condemned this policy, yet it remains the Vatican's official position.

    My experiments in proposing mutual respect have also involved liberal Muslims. Soon after Sept. 11, 2001, in a radio interview in Dallas, I explained why mutual respect among religions is better than tolerance. One caller, identified as a local Pakistani community leader, congratulated me and expressed complete agreement. For her benefit, I elaborated that in Hinduism we frequently worship images of the divine, may view the divine as feminine, and that we believe in reincarnation. I felt glad that she had agreed to respect all this, and I clarified that "mutual respect" merely means that I am respected for my faith, with no requirement for others to adopt or practice it. I wanted to make sure she knew what she had agreed to respect and wasn't merely being politically correct. The woman hung up.

    In 2007, I was invited to an event in Delhi where a visiting delegation from Emory University was promoting their newly formed Inter-Religious Council as a vehicle to achieve religious harmony. In attendance was Emory's Dean of the Chapel and Religious Life, who happens to be an ordained Lutheran minister. I asked her if her work on the Inter-Religious Council was consistent and compatible with her preaching as a Lutheran minister, and she confidently replied that it was. I then asked: "Is it Lutheran doctrine merely to 'tolerate' other religions or also to respect them, and by respect I mean acknowledging them as legitimate religions and equally valid paths to God"? She replied that this was "an important question," one that she had been "thinking about," but that there are "no easy answers."

    It is disingenuous for any faith leader to preach one thing to her flock while representing something contradictory to naive outsiders. The idea of "mutual respect" poses a real challenge to Christianity, which insists that salvation is only possible by grace transmitted exclusively through Jesus. Indeed, Lutheran teaching stresses this exclusivity! These formal teachings of the church would make it impossible for the Dean to respect Hinduism, as opposed to tolerating it.

    Unwilling to settle for ambiguity, I continued with my questions: "As a Lutheran minister, how do you perceive Hindu murtis (sacred images)? Are there not official injunctions in your teachings against such images?" "Do you consider Krishna and Shiva to be valid manifestations of God or are they among the 'false gods'?" "How do you see the Hindu Goddess in light of the church's claim that God is masculine?" The Dean deftly evaded every one of these questions.

    Only a minority of Christians agree with the idea of mutual respect while fully understanding what it entails. One such person is Janet Haag, editor of Sacred Journey, a Princeton-based multi-faith journal. In 2008, when I asked her my favorite question -- "What is your policy on pluralism?" -- she gave the predictable response: "We tolerate other religions." This prompted me to explain mutual respect in Hinduism wherein each individual has the freedom to select his own personal deity (ishta-devata, not to be confused with polytheism) and pursue a highly individualized spiritual path (sva-dharma). Rather than becoming defensive or evasive, she explored this theme in her editorial in the next issue:

    "In the course of our conversation about effective interfaith dialog, [Rajiv Malhotra] pointed out that we fall short in our efforts to promote true peace and understanding in this world when we settle for tolerance instead of making the paradigm shift to mutual respect. His remarks made me think a little more deeply about the distinctiveness between the words 'tolerance' and 'respect,' and the values they represent."

    Haag explained that the Latin origin of "tolerance" refers to enduring and does not convey mutual affirmation or support: "[The term] also implicitly suggests an imbalance of power in the relationship, with one of the parties in the position of giving or withholding permission for the other to be." The Latin word for respect, by contrast, "presupposes we are equally worthy of honor. There is no room for arrogance and exclusivity in mutual respect."

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rajiv-malhotra/hypocrisy-of-tolerance_b_792239.html
     

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  3. findingmyway

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    Re: Tolerance Isn't Good Enough: The Need for Mutual Respect In Interfaith Relations

    Spnadmin ji,
    Thank you for posting another wonderful article from the Huffington Post. The idea is an absolutely wonderful. I would like to add 2 points if I may:2cents:

    1) Atheists such be included in this initiative as they are often very intolerant too.

    2) To have mutual respect it is not necessary to accept other beliefs but to accept that other people can believe in them. Taking the example above, I do not believe that Krishna and Shiva are manifestations of God but I can respect other people who do believe in this as long as they can respect my beliefs. I can not believe murti's are anymore than mere statues but I can still respect Hindu's who retain this belief as people without looking down on them for their belief.

    Regards,
    Jasleen
     
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  4. Sinister

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    Re: Tolerance Isn't Good Enough: The Need for Mutual Respect In Interfaith Relations

    This is the worst thing I have ever read,

    religions should not be tolerated nor should they be respected

    everything should be understood...the understanding is enough to trigger responsible emotion which will produce action when necessary. This and this alone should be the agent responsible for the evolution of our morality.

    huffpo loves to print without giving their op-ed's much thought.

    because lets face it... not everything can be respected with any degree of honesty...its nihilism and leads to the breakdown of the social contract.

    I also highly doubt the sikh guru's "respected" any mindless rituals (and there were many) that were being performed for a religion by the 'religious'. in fact it has been known that the leaders of any modern religion actively challenged religious beliefs and practices of their time (one example is of Jesus and the pharasees). So, we as the contemporary religious are to diverge from the very actions taken by our prophets, gods and guru's? (i wouldn't count on it)

    because at the end of the day something will conflict with moral beliefs and utter disgust will kick in to call nonsense...nonsense!

    so while we talk all kumbaya, for now, just remember its pragmatism is limited, dependant entirely upon context and time/space.
     
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  5. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Re: Tolerance Isn't Good Enough: The Need for Mutual Respect In Interfaith Relations

    This is what I consider to be a baffling paragraph

    Why would the idea of "mutual respect" be sensational or "radical?" Thought provoking to say the least.
     
  6. findingmyway

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    Re: Tolerance Isn't Good Enough: The Need for Mutual Respect In Interfaith Relations


    Completely disagree with you!! As I said in my last post, it is not about respecting the mindless rituals or any other belief but respecting the individual who follows those beliefs. It is understanding that is harder than respect and that will lead to a conflict in moral beliefs as I will demonstrate in a minute. Our Guru's most of all condemned the Brahmins who knowingly pulled to wool over people's eyes and took advantage of them for power and money. They gave people the tools to live outside of oppression but never interfered with the right of people to choose whether they wanted to use those or not. They respected that decision.

    Ex 1; I have a Hindu friend who I admire greatly. She doesn't eat onion or garlic and keep murti's in her house to which she prays. Both those things are beyond my understanding as they make no sense to me at all. However, I have great respect for her as a person for 2 reasons. Mainly she is a wonderful person. She makes me feel quite selfish as she is very generous spirited and although she has little time or money does a lot for other people. Whenever someone she knows is in trouble she will help in anyway she can, she is kind, thoughtful and doesn't speak ill of anyone. Her husband is ill and she only found out after marriage (arranged in India) yet she doesn't desert him but helps to look after him and provides for him as he can't work. Secondly, I respect her conviction to stay true to her faith no matter how hard it is, eg eating out. So I cannot understand her but respect her.

    Ex 2; Most of my friends drink. After seeing how they behave, how awful they feel the next day etc etc I can't understand why anyone would want to! However, I can respect their choice as frankly it's none of my business (until I have to carry someone home). Equally they respect me for being a teetotaller and sticking to it always. We cannot understand each other but can respect each others differences. If I understood the charm, maybe I wouldn't have always been a teetoller, who knows! So the important thing here for acceptance is not understanding but respect.

    Most people who are not Sikhs won't understand the reasoning behind wearing a turban for example. Doesn't matter as long they respect a Sikh's choice to wear one and a Sikh for having the courage to wear one. Respect the people and choices they make, not the beliefs. They are 2 very different things!
     
  7. Admin Singh

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    Re: Tolerance Isn't Good Enough: The Need for Mutual Respect In Interfaith Relations

    Thread is going nowhere! Please clear your differences through private messages if at all! Closed!
     
  8. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Re: Tolerance Isn't Good Enough: The Need for Mutual Respect In Interfaith Relations

    P/S Recent comments were moved to leaders for review. Some posts may be moved back after discussion. Heed Aman Singh ji's warning. Thank you.
     
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