In Documents, Other

IHEU: Conference of the International Humanist and Ethical Union

Mexico City, November 15, 1996 at 20.00 – 22.00 h   Plenary Session

The Threat of Intolerance

Several speakers, e.g. Taslima Nasrin [Bangladesh] and Fariba Hachtroudi [Iran/France] spoke quite long, so people were tired when it became my turn to speak about:

Positive Tolerance as a Core Value of Secularism

Nettie Klein made signs to me, suggesting to talk briefly. I smiled. Various people, including Paul Kurz, left the aula, which was completely occupied during the whole evening, after Fariba had finished. I went from the podium to the chair realizing that reading my story of about fifteen minutes would be fatal. So I let my text go and spoke spontaneously.

“We are all believers, ladies and gentlemen, whether we are religious or non-religious.

So the question arises how to reconcile the various belief-systems when they have to share the same political and cultural space. The different stories we heard tonight, are cruel enough in order to realize that the question of co-existence of different belief-systems and the answers to this question can be decisive about life and death. In any case decisive for the degree of freedom and welfare of the citizens of a country. My thesis is that both religious and non-religious world views need secularism as a political value-system in order to guarantee their freedom for themselves and from and to each other. The only exception to this rule, or the only rejection of this thesis, will come from those belief-systems which tend to be or to become so fully convinced of their sole truth that they become absolute, static and closed toward any idea or value, different from theirs, like it happens when a fundamentalist mindset or attitude takes over.

Fundamentalist attitudes

Such an attitude might be characteristic for certain religions in a specific place and time, but also for secularist belief-systems such as Stalinist Marxism or Hitler’s national-socialism or Mao-Tse-Tung’s Cultural Revolution or radical versions of the Enlightenment. They are of the same dogmatic and violent nature as Islamic fundamentalism or Christian right-wing millenarists in the USA. The refusal of dialogue and the acceptance of brutal violence are the visible signs of these intolerant value-systems.

Here we reach the limit of the original meaning of tolerance, viz. toleration, by accepting and by endorsing something that’s very unpleasant. Tolerance toward anything and anybody will end in the well-known dilemma of becoming itself intolerant. Positive tolerance as a value and an attitude has to draw the line where it runs the risk of accepting the violence of the fundamentalist belief-systems, religious or secular ones. The positive tolerance derives its strength and inner conviction of the acceptance and positive appreciation of differences: it enjoys that there are more world views than one; it enjoys the various aesthetics of the religious and secular cultures; it enjoys and here I speak metaphorically more than one color. It understands intuitively and consciously that cultural life can only flourish within diversity. Culture is not different from nature in its all-pervading life-energy and its creative force with endless manifestations. Also culture shows this creative force in the manifestation of various world views. Humanism is one of the many world views with perhaps one advantage in comparison with the world views based upon a specific revelation. The advantage, however, counts only when humanism accepts in its non-ideological dimension, all the worldviews that foster the notion ‘humanness’. If so, then humanness and humanity are the common denominator of all world views; the source from which they drink, and the spirit they share in accepting each other’s differences.”

The reactions were touching. Many people thanked me personally.

[ref. Library – Humanism toward the third millennium II. Mogobe Ramose, Ecosophical Aspects of Botho/Humanness in African Philosophy, 97 blog books and sales]

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