Thoughts on tolerance of others’ beliefs…

Here’s something I see a lot, at least in Internet discussions: When someone criticizes a belief held by a group of people, such as a political or religious group, they are shouted down for being “intolerant” of that group as a whole and not willing to accept others’ beliefs. But this is a fallacy.

There are certainly groups on both sides of the political spectrum who are hostile to beliefs that are not their own. The Tea Party immediately comes to mind. The fallacy is assuming a monolith attitude–for example, believing that the extremist views of the Tea Party apply to all conservatives, which is a perception the Republican Party is struggling with now. 

But giving a belief a fair hearing shouldn’t result in automatic acceptance of that idea, even if it is grounded in religious faith. Ideas and even beliefs should be criticized. And there is no “rule” that just because someone has authentic beliefs, everyone else must honor them.

Take, for example, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was dis-invited from speaking at Brandeis University on the grounds of being “Islamaphobic.” You can read what she had to say here. She is criticizing some authentic beliefs of some Muslims. She is not criticizing all Muslims or even claiming that all Muslims hold these beliefs. The fallacy is believing that whenever anyone speaks out against a belief grounded in religion, they are being intolerant of that religion as a whole. No, they are being intolerant of the belief, in this case, the curtailing of women’s rights. 

There is a balance between automatically rejecting beliefs that are not your own and automatically accepting every belief in the name of liberalism or tolerance or what-have-you. Crying “Intolerance!” every time someone criticizes a belief, and assuming that criticism of a belief means hatred of a group, shuts down free and open discussion, which shuts down free exchange of ideas. It does not lead to less intolerance; it leads to less understanding.

For further reading, I found this essay at Psychology Today to be a thoughtful analysis of this subject.

Fictitious Dishes…

I love the idea of cooking dishes inspired by books. The photographs here are mouth-watering: Fictitious Dishes: Elegant and Imaginative Photographs of Meals from Famous Literature | Brain Pickings.

The Bell Jar

I just finished reading The Bell Jar, so this photo really resonated with me. The staging of the food perfectly captures the literary tone.

Little Free Library project…

I’m going to be sponsoring a Little Free Library in our neighborhood. “Take a book, return a book.” I enjoy looking at the pictures of all the little free libraries people have built. Here’s one repurposing a pay phone booth, which is extinct now, of course.

Littel Free Library in a pay phone

It would be nice to build the equivalent of a Little Free Library using e-books, but giving the restrictions placed upon them by publishers, that doesn’t seem likely. Fortunately, paper books will be with us for a long time. Just because I have and enjoy a Kindle doesn’t stop me from buying paper books. My urge to share books, as well as to support community meeting places like our local bookstore, also keeps me buying them.

Every day should be women’s day…

I missed International Women’s Day–does that mean I can’t celebrate women until next year?

I loved the tone of this piece: International Women’s Day: 24 hours of the “Unique Female Perspective” » I Blame The Patriarchy.

It’s bizarre to set aside a certain amount of time to acknowledge women or blacks or any specific group of people, as if we are alien beings that are a struggle to comprehend.

I’m not going to link to any of them, but I don’t think nonprofits that work to advance women’s rights and improve their health and education should participate in this kind of thing. Every day should be women’s day.

Books Read: Quarter 1, 2014

These aren’t all the books I read over the last three months, just the ones that I found most interesting or thought-provoking. Click the covers for full reviews.

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Look out, it’s a political rant!

I rarely, if never, post political rants here. I’m not sure why. People all over the Internet spew way worse things than what I’m about to say and they don’t seem to suffer for it. Besides, this has been stuck in my head the last couple of days, and I need to write it down to get it out, which is what this blog is for, supposedly.

I am getting very, very tired of people rushing to the defense of wealthy CEOs and heads of companies when they, for example, donate money to fight marriage equality or deny reproductive rights. They claim that the evil gays or feminists or whoever are intolerant — violating our sacred virtue of “tolerance” — because we dare to criticize this poor guy’s opinion.

The latest example of this is former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich. Just Google his name–outraged bloggers are taking up his poor pitiful case all over the Rageosphere, in all the usual places, but also some surprising ones too, such as The Atlantic and Mother Jones. He donated money to support California’s Proposition 8, which de-legalized same-sex marriage in that state for a while, and when he was made CEO, some employees expressed concern, and another company, OKCupid, encouraged its users to uninstall Firefox. Eich stepped down as CEO after just two weeks. Ok, those are the facts.

Now, I did a little research on this story and read this New York Times piece, in which Mozilla board members actually get interviewed, as well as this piece straight from Mozilla. I have to conclude based on the evidence (crazy, right?) that Eich was not “fired” or “forced out,” as the hysteria would have it. He resigned, and also didn’t want to take another position at the company when it was offered to him (so he wasn’t “deprived of his livelihood,” whatever that might mean for someone making CEO dollars). I guess he just had to get out of the kitchen, if you see what I mean.

But that is beside the point, which is that the people who criticized Eich were not showing intolerance for his opinion or infringing upon his free speech or free thought or right to be a homophobe or whatever. Here is where I explain what an opinion is.

Eich could have the opinion that he doesn’t like same-sex marriage, that it’s icky even, and he could say, “Well, I am never going to marry a man!” And everybody would say, “That’s fine, no one’s asking you to, chill.”

Or Eich could say he doesn’t like same-sex marriage, so he is never going to attend such a wedding. He may alienate some friends or estrange some family members, but that’s his choice, he’s a grown-up.

Or Eich could say he doesn’t like same-sex marriage, so he won’t watch movies or TV shows that present them in a positive light, and he may even boycott the companies that produce such entertainment. Again, sure, that’s his prerogative, he probably wouldn’t enjoy those movies anyway. Although who knows? They might be just charming.

Or Eich could say that he doesn’t like same-sex marriage, so he will spend his life trying to convince married gay couples to get divorced. All right, I doubt he’ll have a lot of success, but if that’s what he wants to do with his life, who’s going to care?

But what Eich did — not said, did — was donate money to make sure that no one in his state could marry someone of the same gender. He used his money to tell total strangers what they could and couldn’t do in their lives, even though their actions caused him absolutely no harm. He actively participated in legislating  behavior he considered to be wrong, showing absolutely no tolerance for the views of others — especially those who actually wanted to get married.

This is not an opinion. This is action that is harmful to others. And that’s where tolerance ends. There is no rule anywhere that says that gay people, and their allies, have to tolerate behavior that hurts them or deprives them of their rights. That doesn’t even make sense.

The members of the Mozilla community — the employees, volunteer software developers, and customers — are perfectly justified in saying that such actions do not represent their values, that Eich was not the right person to lead their community. And apparently he agreed with them, because he resigned.

Sure, Eich has the right to his opinions about marriage equality and to even make political donations if he wants. He does not get shielded from the consequences of his actions. He does not have the right to be CEO of Mozilla. But don’t worry too much about him. I’m sure he still has plenty of money.

5-minute habit stack…

I thought this was a brilliant idea for how to build new habits: the habit stack (from the blog Be More With Less).

The idea is to stack together the activities that you want to do daily and build on them in small increments. By the time you reach the amount of time you want to spending on these activities, the habits will be ingrained as part of your routine.

For instance, I would like to get in the habit of starting my day with a walk, yoga, and journaling. The first week I do each activity for just 5 minutes every morning. Surely I can spare 15 minutes every morning, right? Each week, I add 1 more minute to each activity. By the time I get to the desired amount of time–perhaps it’s 20 minutes for each activity, or 1 hour total–I’ll already be in the habit of doing it. It sounds like a nifty way to trick your brain, one I’m going to try.