While most religions have some beliefs that are true, not all religious beliefs can be true because they are mutually exclusive—they teach opposites. In other words, some religious beliefs must be wrong. But you’re not supposed to say that in America today. You’re supposed to be “tolerant” of all religious beliefs. And in our culture today, tolerance no longer means to put up with something you believe to be false (after all, you don’t tolerate things you agree with). Tolerance now means that you’re supposed to accept every belief as true! In a religious context, this is known as religious pluralism—the belief that all religions are true. There are a number of problems with this new definition of tolerance.
First, let us say that we are thankful that we have religious freedom in this country, and we don’t believe in imposing a religion legislatively (see our book Legislating Morality). We are well aware of the dangers of religious intolerance and believe that we should accept and respect people who have different religious beliefs. But that doesn’t mean that personally we ought to embrace the impossible notion that all religious beliefs are true. Since mutually exclusive religious beliefs cannot be true, it makes no sense to pretend that they are. In fact, on an individual level it can be dangerous to do so. If Christianity is true, then it’s dangerous to your eternal destiny not to be a Christian. Likewise, if Islam is true, then it’s dangerous to your eternal destiny not to be a Muslim.
Second, the claim that “you ought not question someone’s religious beliefs” is itself a religious belief for pluralists. But this belief is just as exclusive and “intolerant” as any religious belief of a Christian or Muslim. In other words, pluralists think all non-pluralist beliefs are wrong. So pluralists are just as dogmatic and closed-minded as anyone else making truth claims in the public square. And they want everyone who disagrees with them to see things their way.
Third, the prohibition against questioning religious beliefs is also an absolute moral position. Why shouldn’t we question religious beliefs? Would it be immoral to do so? And if so, by whose standard? Do pluralists have any good reasons supporting their belief that we ought not question religious beliefs, or is it just their own personal opinion that they want to impose on the rest of us? Unless they can give us good reasons for such a moral standard, why should we allow them to impose it on us? And why are pluralists trying to impose that moral position on us anyway? That’s not very “tolerant” of them.
Fourth, the Bible commands Christians to question religious beliefs (e.g., Deut. 13:1-5; 1 John 4:1; Gal. 1:8; 2 Cor. 11:13; etc.). Since Christians have a religious belief that they ought to question religious beliefs, then pluralists—according to their own standard—should accept this Christian belief as well. But of course they do not. Ironically, pluralists—advocates of the new tolerance—are not really tolerant at all. They only “tolerate” those who already agree with them, which by anyone’s definition is not tolerance. Fifth, the pluralist’s claim that we ought not question religious beliefs is a derivative of the false cultural prohibition against making judgments. The prohibition against judging is false because it fails to meet its own standard: “you ought not judge” is itself a judgment! (Pluralists misinterpret Jesus’ comments on judging [Matt. 7:1-5]. Jesus did not prohibit judging as such, only judging hypocritically.) Indeed, everyone—the pluralist, the Christian, the atheist, the agnostic—makes judgments. So the issue isn’t whether or not we make judgments, but whether or not we make the right judgments.
Finally, are pluralists ready to accept as true the religious beliefs of Muslim terrorists—especially when those beliefs say that all nonMuslims (including pluralists) should be killed? Are they ready to accept as true the religious beliefs of those who believe in child sacrifice or other heinous acts? We hope not. — I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek)
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