Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Thoughts On Bigotry and Bigoted Defenders of "Tolerance"


Doing a word search of the word bigot and its variants is a pretty useless activity. The word exists of course, but it is defined so broadly in modern dictionaries as to be meaningless—the Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “a person who is prejudiced in their views and intolerant of the opinions of others.” But when you think about it, anything could be considered bigoted if you have a strong view (favorably or unfavorably) about it. For example, if you refuse to consider the point of the Nazis as valid, and go out of your way to oppose them, you are a bigot under this definition.

Merriam Websters Collegiate Dictionary defines the term as, “a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.” But such a definition is very subjective. Who defines what is obstinate or intolerant? Who defines whether a view is a prejudice or not? Remember the comment I stated above? How do you distinguish a moral repugnance for Nazism from bigotry? The problem with these definitions of bigot is they make it impossible to distinguish between holding a belief from conviction and holding a view out of hatred of any view which does not come from a preferred view. 

That leads us to another problem—that a large portion of people who throw the word around “bigot” do appear to be obstinately devoted to their opinions to the extent that they want to silence people with different views on a subject—that is, the irony of this position is that this attitude by the self-appointed champions of tolerance against bigotry fits the description of bigotry.

For example, the Christian is targeted for saying “X is morally wrong,” and people who disagree will not even consider the actual position of the Church. The fact that the position exists is considered proof of bigotry while the only way of getting away from that label is to abandon any beliefs that the cultural elites dislike. The champions of tolerance find Christianity to be morally offensive when it teaches that something must not be done because it goes against what humanity is called to be, both naturally and in relationship to God. 

Personally, I think we can start to understand the term bigotry through a statement by GK Chesterton:

The difficulty was expressed to me by another convert who said, "I cannot explain why I am a Catholic; because now that I am a Catholic I cannot imagine myself as anything else." Nevertheless, it is right to make the imaginative effort. It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong. [Chesterton, G.K. The Catholic Church and Conversion (Kindle Locations 137-140). Kindle Edition.

He makes this statement to demonstrate that he has not refused to consider other positions—only that he will show that he has considered them and found them to be wrong in some aspect. So, I think that to have a proper understanding of what a bigot is, it is a person who refuses to admit the possibility of getting something wrong when he or she opposes the view. So, it is not bigotry if a person investigates Islam or Mormonism and says, “I’m sorry, but I have investigated this and believe this is not true, so I will not accept it and will counter it with the truth when needed.” But it is bigotry when someone says “I don’t see how someone could be so stupid as to believe this!” If you don’t look into the reasons as to how a person could believe something, how do you know they are not right?

So, this is the point of contention here. First, do you understand what it is you are opposing (that is—do you actually know what they stand for)? Second, do you understand why you oppose that position as being wrong? If you don’t understand the position in the first place, it requires investigation. For example, I have a clear idea what I am opposed to and why I oppose them things like racism, nationalism and the like. It doesn’t change my views of the people who espouse these things (they still deserve to be treated as human beings), but I know that what they hold is wrong. I also know why I hold to the teachings of the Catholic Church—because I have tested them and found that they had answered my objections (at first) and then laid down solid reasoning for why we were obligated to avoid X and to do Y.

A person is free to use the word “bigoted” as a club, bashing all people he or she disagrees with, but the term is an ad hominem attack (marked by or being an attack on an opponent’s character rather than by an answer to the contentions made) in this context. But this is a case of the person who accuses another of bigotry is the one actually guilty of the charge. Unless a person understands what an informed (as opposed to those ignorant louts the media likes to point to) Christian believes (as opposed to what people wrongly attribute to us) and why we hold to it in the face of such hostility, such a person is unable to imagine how he might possibly have gone wrong—which is to say, bigoted, prejudiced against the views of others.

No comments:

Post a Comment