Pluralism - the sacred right and duty to challenge all notions of what underlies reality

In a recent online discussion with a friend (an actual friend who lives on the other coast - US), he suggested that it wasn't fair of me to post so many blogs (under my real name) that challenged belief in god considering so many believers are good and reasonable and willing to live and let live. Somehow, anything I say to the effect that faith in any god has yet to be supported to my satisfaction (since my deconversion) represents some kind of affront to all people of any faith. He said that we all have a right to believe as we choose.

I have seen this reaction over and over - but my friend is exceptionally smart, a trained scientist, and vaguely refers to his own faith as a kind of pantheistic reverence for the universe that cannot be refuted in light of the vast amount of information we don't know. Frankly, in many ways that is a perfectly reasonable way to look at things. In fact, it was the last way I looked at the possibility of god until I decided that such a notion was so far removed from the vast majority of the thousands of formal definitions of god that it didn't qualify as theistic faith. In any case, he also despises the political atmosphere that can only exist within a loud demographic atmosphere of fanaticism and simplistic fundamentalism. He tried to suggest that my anger at these 'nutjobs' has caused me to paint all believers with the same brush.

First, I had to remind him that he had to know that wasn't true as I had always conversed with him as an intellectual equal - a thing I would find impossible to do with a teabagger for Jesus. Second, I told him that it was ironic that he would suggest that I was the one who wasn't pluralistic when 90% of all religious believers consider their version of the underlying truth as the only valid one - no matter how 'civilized' and outwardly 'tolerant' they might be. I had to point out to him that, if you believe those who don't follow your religion are all going to some version of hell - or even be deprived of some version of heaven - for the simple 'sin' of not believing as you do - you're a spiritual bigot.

Whereas, I recognize that to go beyond 'tolerance' (as in 'putting up with') diverse belief systems, you have to either embrace all of them as valid and beyond question or all of them as notions to be reasonably but vigorously challenged. The first choice seems ludicrous given that religions make conflicting claims (or why have different religions) and, therefore, cannot all be valid beyond question. This leaves me with the second type of pluralism - the sacred right and duty to challenge all notions of what underlies reality.

This includes my atheism. However, since my atheism flows almost seamlessly from this definition of pluralism via the scientific method, rules of logic, principles of critical thinking, etc. my atheism is better equipped to stand up to the scrutiny of my pluralism than most other points of view that are based on faith and/or dogma.

He actually admitted that he had no way to counter my argument except to say that I could expect to be seen as disrespectful by many even though he now fully understands how I am not. As if I didn't already know people think I'm a trouble making heretic!

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