Friday, February 10, 2006

Tolerance in a Diverse World

Thanks to the blog, Ed Talks Life, I was led to a Pew survey taken in 2002 on religion. The survey said that 75% of Americans believe many religions can lead to eternal life. On the surface, that result seems to say that an overwhelming majority of Americans are tolerant of other religions. The survey also said that 80% of the respondents believed that one could be a good American without Judeo-Christian values. Again, a sign perhaps of a high level of religious tolerance.

I wonder if Pat Robertson, General Boykin, Bill Bennett and others are aware of these statistics? I wonder what they would think of them? Would they assume the results were wrong? Or that the respondents were wrong? I'm not knowledgeable enough about these things to know.

There is a passage in the Bible, in the Book of Job, that goes "Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where was thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou has understanding."

The Book of Job has been taught as literature and the above passage is followed by a long series of statements that remind us of our ignorance in the face of a universe we can barely pretend to understand. Non-Jews and non-Christians have been moved by the story of Job. There are a number of ways to interpret Job but the visceral meaning is clear: no single man or woman on this earth can pretend to have all the answers.

I've started reading a book on conflict resolution by Marc Gopin; it's called: Between Eden and Armageddon: The Future of World Religions, Violence, and Peacemaking. Gopin, in his acknowledgements quotes Jeremiah:
Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you about extraordinary things, secrets that you have not known. For thus says the Eternal Being, the God of Israel, concerning the houses in the city and the palaces of the kings of Judah that were torn down.... I am going to bring her relief and healing. I will heal them, and I will reveal to them an abundance of peace and truth.
I'm not knowledgeable enough to understand the full context of the quote but I keep coming back to the first sentence: "Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you about extraordinary things, secrets that you have not known."

There's not a doubt in my mind that scientists like Kepler and Newton would have taken those words to heart. It's sometimes forgotten that the early scientists assumed an intimate relationship between their science and their religious beliefs. In their minds, it was the secrets of God they were exploring. The warning from the Book of Job held true in the early days of science: no man or woman can pretend to have all the answers. It still holds true but there are people in politics and religion who seem to have forgotten it. But there was always this other possibility that was explored for centuries and it was recognized by believers and nonbelievers: that the universe might yield its secrets, or at least some of them. And there's an added subtlety that the early scientists understood: our beliefs and history are not fossilized; more pages are added all the time to the books of life. So much is written no one can be certain what it all means whether one belongs to one of the major religions or is agnostic or atheist or believes in things they hold private. But those who study conflict resolution have come to understand this: there is more that binds the people of the earth than there is that separates us. If the Pew survey is correct, and there is more tolerance than perhaps we generally recognize, it is important to hold accountable those in our country who would exploit our differences for purely political reasons. There is a danger that at home and abroad we are steadily drifting towards territory that is unthinkable.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have also done some research on the Kings of Israel and thought I might share this information with the others who are interested. I also researched the tribe they were from, the approximate time that they lived as well as the contemporaries of the time. If you are interested you might want to check it out at http://www.BibleFamilyTree.com .

10:00 PM  

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