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Saturday, 11 February 2012

Does a religious tolerance exist today?

Nowadays it is very fashionable to speak about tolerance or about being tolerant. Many people like to add this epithet to their names. It seems that the religious tolerance is most misunderstood. Most of them consider its existence impossible as religion goes hand in hand with bigotry according to their opinion. Those people who allow tolerance existence understand it as an absolute lack of criticism of all religious principles. For them religiously tolerant people, despite the differences in dogmatic and moral bearing, are required to pray together, to participate in public worships, not to ask someone about the religious teaching because it is important to be religious and it has no significance to which concrete religion you belong. “They all teach you good”. Such behavior by no means is a manifestation of religious tolerance but certainly is a compromise of a believing person with his or hers own consciousness and religious beliefs. Tolerance among the representatives of two religious communities consists precisely in the mutual respect of all human and civil rights, as well as the right of free choice of religion. Very good and illustrative example of what religious tolerance is has been given to us by Jesus Christ in his parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37).
Replacement of moral guidance
Orthodox Church for centuries has made notions that preserve the truth of faith and in no way violate its basic principle - love. These rules are incompatible and affect only the exact expression of faith in God. These are clearly established and probated almost 2000 years truths, called dogmas. In recent years, many "liberal" people rebelled against the dogma. Each of them was led by different incentives, but to the same final goal - tolerant society, without fundamentalist moods, attacks or voluntary death. Orthodox faith is in danger, protecting its incompatible truths being awkward hindrance towards unifying world religion with claims for universality and respect for all religions. Already twenty years after placing the issue of public debate in Bulgaria, religious education in secondary schools is not introduced. The main reasons for this distortion indicate the religious rights of non-Orthodox minorities. Maybe the society has not yet understood, but the atheistic dictate and nature-moral orientations of totalitarian time have been changing before our eyes with the dictatorship of misunderstood tolerance and a value system turned upside down. Frequently used slogan "Democracy is respecting the rights of minorities" has proved to be suitable for fighting the Orthodox population. In Western countries “to be a Christian” means “to be a respectable citizen and to pay your taxes”.  In the Orthodox Christian East, however, the concept has a different meaning. For believers, the Church is the foundation that professes One, Holy, Catholic Faith and the Apostles. Only dogmas are guardians of that faith. While Christianity is behind the idea that the dogmas contains within itself tolerance, various paid foundations and others over governmental organizations are trying to prove that religious tolerance must contain within itself dogma, not to conflict - in the name of tolerance between people. This is the terrible replacement of values. No tolerance towards different religions but the dogma is what strengthens and protects the people. On November 25, 1981 the Declaration on the Elimination of all forms of discrimination on religious affiliation or belief was accepted. Art. 2 of the Declaration states: "No one shall be subjected to discrimination based on religion or belief of any State, institution, group or individual.”
Over governmental organizations are trying to build awareness of today's "Christian" as a global personality in the name of constructing a better world. Their main idea is that everyone must believe in several gods in order to be recognized as tolerant. The principle of tolerance actually denies the absolute Truth. Today it will be hard to find an intellectual who will not be convinced that there is a way of combination of Orthodoxy with the spiritual wisdom of other religions. Moreover Christians are so scared by the idea for peace among religions that are even inclined to admit killings in the name of "righteousness". Thus the internal religious pluralism and tolerance, religious and tasteless omnivorousness are set as obligatory super religion for the whole world in future, where will be no any trace of tolerance.
If identity is sought in the religious borders, this is the most often way to do, then it should be seen at the limited views on the possible tolerance and the problem becomes complicated by the fact that in modern society tolerance is "replaced by the law". There are places where these legal norms have been established and others where they are less, but the problem for tolerance remains really open until it has some sense in view of the differences that are not accepted during the centuries.
From the Christian point of view and the Eastern view the words of Cardinal Echegaray are valuable who stresses that "tolerance in time of religious pluralism should be seen in terms of the absolute, which a believer accepts, without excluding the other”. The problem is that all Christians, including Eastern, do not understand tolerance in that way. We see that in practice exceptions are a permanent phenomenon. If the absolutely tolerant society is a universal society, it is easy to observe the fact that there is no such one. Tolerance is possible in mutual acceptance of truth, which the other believes it is "absolute". These categories are variable in any religious or confessional horizon and can not go much further than usual generalized principles. One thing is to assert your notion for "absolute" tolerance and quite different is to impose it by violence and that would be the border line beyond which the tolerance starts. When in recent times the French people claim the "republican civil identity" within their historical pattern of tolerance, it sounds beautiful, if it does not normally mean that the modern French society is perfect and has solved all problems and tensions that spring from the religious and confessional differences. That the principles of tolerance might be determined as a system of legal norms, only confirms that tolerance is indeed a "limited" virtue. Here we are close to the most important matter in the context of the problem, which raises the question: how to find and experience "internal religious causes of tolerance”? They exist, because if they did not, there would not be an exit from the vicious circle, though they have been buried unfortunately beneath historical layers.
There is no concrete reached condition (state) in history which could be an authentic paradigm because tolerance is a process but not a reached condition in a particular society. With this not one but a series of questions is revealed and none of them are rhetorical. Can the living of faith be limited to somewhat fundamentalist form as the most common is to limit it to ethno-religious model? There are too many of them in history, also nowadays the living of faith is limited to a liberal-dogmatic model. In all cases the situation with this point of view remains the same as stated in the beginning – a point of view is offered as sufficient, but it excludes itself from the other, equally limited perspective. If there is no real community in what is most important in the experience of faith, the rest is hollow convention, which provides a limited chance of tolerance.
All representatives of monotheistic religions agree with that and it goes also for the Eastern Orthodox Christians. In this context of the problem Eastern Orthodox Christians behave in the same or similar way as the others and face the same difficulties.
Generally Eastern Christians and the widest Orthodox circles do not have a problem with the value of tolerance and it is constantly proclaimed. The problem however is found in other direction - in relation to the liturgical practice or daily living in faith. Orthodox Christians depart themselves in a peculiar way because they believe that they are the only ones who hold the Christian truth.
Orthodoxy “generally does not accept to be considered as one of the Christian confessions”. That reveals  a much bigger problem than it seems to be at first sight. If one faith appropriates the monopoly of an absolute truth of faith, problems arise in the range of tolerance that is not easy to solve. If tolerance is a condition in which one recognizes the right of others to hold their absolute truth, then the assignment of  a monopoly on faith is a violation of the principle of tolerance. If the Orthodox Christians in one country are majority, the obligation of complete tolerance is over them, because the minority was brought to accept the situation "as given”, and it is the same if the minority will be tolerant or not, because it "has” to be such. All existing references to some "model" exactly show that. Tolerance perspective is limited and that’s why there is no much room left for freedom in the society. Undoubtedly there are "internal-religious reasons for tolerance” but it is not clear how they may live in the practice of confessional limited (and conflicting) perspectives and simplified understood tolerance.
It is seen at every turn in Eastern Christianity and everything speaks that things are not much better with other religions and denominations. For a believer it is not a problem that his or her truth of faith is universal but the situation is changing when contacting with others. The effort, the problem to be solved by a system of law norms, did not result in what is expected - in today's world there is no country which does not offer by law "full freedom of faith” but believers in the world are in no less conflict than in earlier centuries. Problems look resigned from outside, but not resolved.
Religions are systems of applicable explanations of meaning. Answers about the meaning of life are considered to be final - they are definitive. The person who has found the answer to the question of meaning is convinced that the answer is valid and final. Members of religious communities are convinced that their faith is the true answer of the essential issues in their lives.
In a certain relation with tolerance the people who belong to different religions and confessions should not argue for the other truth but the relation offers some kind of acceptance and it is not possible if only "my" truth is the right and the only one. In modern society in the plan of tolerance, it is complicating even more because it is associated with the issue of pluralism. Pluralism is one of the biggest dangers to religion. It involves at the same time the existence of multiple explanations of the meaning and the forms of life in a region or country.
Pluralism also is a sign of the modern Western world, i.e. the modern discussions which we are witnessing today, aimed primarily against the West and Western civilization. Hence the religious fundamentalism can be understood as a protest against the modern Western world. The internal religious reason for tolerance exists somewhere at the core of religious systems as a condition, on which every civilization is based. The modern democracy and religion are not mutually excluded in this deep fundamental plan.