Tolerate the Intolerant

"Tolerance isn't about not having beliefs. It's about how your beliefs lead you to treat people who disagree with you."
-Timothy Keller
I had a difficult time finding quotations for today's post. Hopefully the ones I've found are adequate. However, in searching for quotations, I did find a fair number of quotations that I couldn't use, including one that I almost considered using for the sake of contrast. It described the paradox of freedom, and I found it to be a rather interesting perspective. So I'll be going over that in today's post. Today's post is, of course, about tolerance. Tolerance is often, I believe, a good thing. However, in today's society, it has been elevated above all else, while simultaneously being twisted and distorted so that it is no longer good. This is what I hope to bring to light in today's post.

In my hunt for quotations I found a piece from Karl Popper's book, The Open Society and Its Enemies. "The so-called paradox of freedom," he wrote, "is the argument that freedom in the sense of absence of any constraining control must lead to very great restraint, since it makes the bully free to enslave the meek." To put it another way, let's say that a country has a law against opposing anyone. The problem with this is that if a criminal does oppose somebody, you have no way of stopping them, because the police force would have to oppose the criminal, and thus, would be themselves breaking the law. Karl Popper compares this paradox to the paradox of tolerance. That is to say, if you tolerate everything, you must also tolerate intolerance.

The obvious point of this paradox is that some restrictions must be in place. For example, in America, we have freedom, but we do not have freedom to murder, as this would infringe upon the rights of another. Likewise, we do not have freedom to enslave another human, as that would take away his freedom. So while we do have freedom, we have limited freedom- we are free, so long as our freedom does not remove another person's freedom. However, Karl Popper's application of this scares me. He writes, "I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force ... We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal."

There are two things that he could mean by this. He could mean that intolerance should be treated as a crime. This is a very scary thought. The second, and (hopefully) more likely, is that intolerance should be treated with intolerance, just as your freedoms are removed when you take another's freedom. Intolerance would be restricted by force in this case only when the intolerance demonstrated itself with force (which would, of course, violate various other laws). On the surface, this is a logical argument. However, because of the way that tolerance has been twisted, I believe that there are some more questions that need to be asked, and some more angles that need to be looked at.

Can tolerance be compared to freedom? In our culture, "tolerance" has become another word for "approval." This is where the issue lies. We no longer desire tolerance. We desire approval. This is why so many people are labeled as sexist, racist, homophobes, islamophobes, and any number of other degrading terms. For example, the Christian faith says that homosexuality is wrong. Christians do not go around beating up homosexuals, but also are not willing to violate their beliefs (note the first amendment of the United States constitution). But Christians are still labeled as homophobes for saying that homosexuality is wrong. So what tolerance is really saying is, "You must approve of the same things I approve. You must support the same things I support. You must accept the same things I accept. If you disagree with something, then don't talk about it."

People are no longer allowed to say that there is objective good and evil, or that there is right and wrong. Much less, that there is only one God and one way to heaven. You must accept other beliefs as valid. Which means that you really can't believe what you want to believe anymore. You can believe what you want, if what you want to believe is that there are many roads to heaven and each person's beliefs are equally good. But if each person's beliefs are equally good, then this must apply to the Christian as well, and the Bible rather clearly indicates that there is good and evil, right and wrong, and one way to heaven through the Lord Jesus Christ. If you truly believe in tolerance as it is preached today, then you must be willing to accept other people's beliefs, even if you disagree with them. That includes a belief that one know the only true path to heaven.
"Tolerance only for those who agree with you is no tolerance at all."
-Ray A. Davis

A Nerd's Popularity

"To think or not to think? That is the new question."
-Nadina Boun
It used to be that nerds were mocked, made fun of, and looked down upon. They liked things like comics and videogames and math and science and books. But recently, society has taken a turn. Our culture is now interested in Marvel vs. DC, in videogames and the internet, and in keeping our bookstores alive. Superhero movies are all the rage. Gaming channels on YouTube have hundreds of thousands of subscribers, sometimes millions. Nerds have become popular. At least, that's what our culture thinks. But I disagree. I think that nerds exist in approximately the same ratio that they've had before. Only the appearance has changed, and I'll explain why I believe that in today's post.

The explosion of "nerd" culture can be most easily seen in the recent popularity of videogames and superhero movies. Even Star Wars: The Force Awakens was an instant hit. And yet, I've heard very few people complain about the way Disney has treated the Star Wars Expanded Universe. I've seen many games reach popularity through their combat aspects, and the recent movies from Marvel also seem to be primarily action movies. That is to say, the content that used to be enjoyed exclusively by nerds has become much more popular, but I don't think that the culture has changed so much as the content has. Things that once had a style that only a nerd would enjoy have now become more broad and allow for more people to enjoy them.

I see being a nerd as being about analysis. About looking deeper than people would normally think to look. Previously, this applied to comics, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Dungeons and Dragons, etc. People would debate over the specifics of a person's powers and what they could do, or would study the Mandalorian language, or would read side-stories to figure out the main one, or would design long, elaborate storylines that take a lot of math to figure out. I think that this is what made the nerds nerdy. These interests themselves simply lent themselves easily to analysis, rather than being what made a nerd a nerd.

As our technology and culture have been changing, the lines defining nerdiness have been blurred. The internet has made it easier (to some extent) to identify and find the nerds, making them seem proportionately more abundant. Similarly, because the internet has made information far easier to access, analysis has become more common, and nerdiness has become a bit more popular (though, not by as much, methinks, as people believe). But nerds are still defined by their analytical and overthinking nature, rather than their interests themselves. American football, for example, is no longer something that nerds are barred from enjoying, because of the easy availability of stats, statistics, graphs, and more information about the game. Similarly, comics are no longer restricted to nerds only, because of the action that's been inserted and the way that they've been made easier to understand.

The point is that the nerds will be the ones who think about the details about whatever it is, past the point that most people would. A nerd wouldn't say to stop overthinking something, a nerd would encourage further thought. Being a nerd isn't about the interests, it's about the reasoning and thought behind the interests. Anything can be analyzed and looked at with intensity, and anything can be viewed with simplicity. But the fandom doesn't make the person something that they're not. I think, in a way, that it's good that interests have become broader and enjoyable to more people. However, nerds are still relatively unpopular. The only difference is that the words have changed.
"Why is being a nerd bad? Saying I notice you’re a nerd is like saying, ‘Hey, I notice that you’d rather be intelligent than be stupid, that you’d rather be thoughtful than be vapid, that you believe that there are things that matter more than the arrest record of Linsey Lohan. Why is that?"
-John Green

Minecraft's Popularity

"Minecraft certainly became a huge hit, and people are telling me it's changed games. I never meant for it to do either."
-Markus Persson (Notch)

I'm going to assume that you have at least heard of Minecraft, even if you don't know details about it. If you haven't even heard of it, I could explain it, but odds are you wouldn't find this post interesting anyway. However, if you've heard of it but don't know details, that's another matter, because this post will attempt to answer a question about Minecraft from those who don't play it. I've been asked (by those few people I know who haven't played Minecraft) why Minecraft is so popular. So I shall attempt to break it down.

Minecraft is a block-based sandbox game. Block-based means that the game is made of blocks. That may sound stupid at first, but think of it this way- your computer screen is also made of blocks called pixels. They're very small, so we don't typically notice them unless we're looking for them. In the same way, while Minecraft's blocks are a bit more noticeable, they still tend to work out when they're put together in the right combinations. Not everything is exactly one block. There are stair blocks, fence posts, doors, glass panes, flowers, half-slabs, and more. "Block-based" really just means that when you place something down, it will fit in a 1 meter x 1 meter x 1 meter area. (I suppose doors, beds, and some paintings actually take 2-4 blocks, but they're the exception.)
Minecraft is a sandbox game because it doesn't really have a set storyline. Of course, there is progression as you harvest better materials, but you aren't restricted to one path. In RPGs (Role-Playing Games) you take on the role of [character] and go on [quest] to do [task]. There are aspects that keep you from going down one trail or another, because you're playing a story. Of course, there's nothing wrong with that style of game. I enjoy RPGs. But a sandbox game means that you go where you want and do what you want. If the game has a boss (or several bosses) you typically choose when to fight it by going to its dungeon or summoning it. But if you don't want to fight the boss, the game will never force you to do so.

The appeal of vanilla Minecraft (as opposed to modified Minecraft) is in its versatility. You can go wherever you want and build whatever you want. You can fight monsters or set the game to peaceful mode. You can survive the depths of caves in survival mode, or you can build with unlimited resources (not to mention the power of flight) in creative mode. You can play by yourself or play with friends. You can build a simple hut in the woods or a grand palace on a mountain. (In my current Survival world, I'm actually building my house inside a mountain. I've been told it looks almost like a dwarven hall.)

But Minecraft doesn't stop at vanilla. You can also modify it, either by writing programs as add-ons, or by using command blocks (in-game tools for programming). You can install texture packs that make your blocks and tools look like whatever you want. This gives the game even more diversity than it had before. Sandbox games are only one style, after all. While they are very broad in their capabilities, some people like direction and story. But Minecraft has that in the form of custom maps. People write mods and commands that enable Minecraft to take the form of pretty much any other game you can think of, while others wrote their own original stories meant to be played in Minecraft.

On one hand, Minecraft can be almost anything you want it to be. (It can even be round, with mods.) On the other hand, Minecraft grants each player a new experience and the options to do whatever they want with that experience. This is why I think Minecraft is popular- because nobody goes into it looking for the same thing. If you don't believe me, go to YouTube. PaulSoaresJr roleplays a survival adventure as a knight or a viking, while Mumbo Jumbo uses redstone to automate anything he can get his hands on. Grian jumps into creative mode to fly around building amazing structures that would be extremely difficult (if not impossible) to make in survival mode, and Logdotzip hops around on custom parkour maps. Each of them has over 100,000 subscribers (which is my long-term YouTube goal). These players show why this game is so popular. Because no matter what kind of game you're looking for, odds are you can find it in Minecraft.
"Minecraft is to a large degree about having unique experiences that nobody else has had. The levels are randomly generated, and you can build anything you want to build yourself."
-Markus Persson (Notch)

'Minecraft' certainly became a huge hit, and people are telling me it's changed games. I never meant for it to do either.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/markus_persson.html
'Minecraft' certainly became a huge hit, and people are telling me it's changed games. I never meant for it to do either.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/markus_persson.html
'Minecraft' certainly became a huge hit, and people are telling me it's changed games. I never meant for it to do either.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/markus_persson.html

Science Textbooks and the Bible

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."
-Galileo Galilei
I just found that quotation, and I must say, I think that it's excellent. It loosely describes today's topic, I believe, but also describes my blog as a whole. However there's something disturbing that I've noticed lately among Christians, which is something that I hope to put to rest today. Not that I expect to succeed, but by addressing it, I hope to at least make some small difference. This trend is the idea of theistic evolution- a method of reconciling science and the Bible. There are a few arguments and assumptions commonly used to support this, beginning with "the Bible is not a science textbook." I'll be addressing these throughout the post.

Before going over the specifics of the argument for theistic evolution, I'd like to bring to light the assumption that's made here, which is that science points to evolution, and thus, is in a starting position opposed to the Bible. That is to say, people assume that science and the Bible actually need to be reconciled in the first place. This is, of course, an assumption, and I don't believe it to be the case. There are all sorts of problems with the theory of evolution, and various evidences that are still in textbooks have been publicly proven to be false (by evolutionists) and yet remain in textbooks. Basically, evolution is heavily pushed in the media, and people start to think that there's more evidence for it than there actually is. Thus, I don't believe that the two need reconciliation. This is important, because I believe that if they are at odds, you have to pick one or the other. I don't believe that theistic evolution is an option.

Moving on to the actual argument itself, it is, quite simply, "the Bible is not a science textbook." That is to say, the Bible is here to lead us to God, but not necessarily to give us a sound basis in science. The point of Genesis, therefore, is to tell us that God created the world, not how it is that He created it. To back up this interpretation, people point to other differences between the Bible and reality. For example, in the time when the Bible was still being written, people commonly believed that you thought with your heart. Science now tells us that we think with our brains, but the Bible still indicates that our thoughts come from the heart. (Examples can be found in Matthew 12:34, 15:18-9, Mark 7:21, and so many other places that I can't name them all.) So if we take the Bible as a science textbook, then we should be taking this literally, and we should believe that our heart provides our thoughts. Maybe our brain pumps blood instead? Or maybe we're just filled with blood like they used to think and we don't need to pump it.

There are two potential reasons I can think of for why this argument doesn't actually work. The first is the, admittedly weak, argument that spiritual definitions don't always match the physical ones. Sometimes they do, but it's possible that we physically think with our brains and spiritually think with our hearts. Of course, I'm not asserting this as fact. It's a possibility that I'm throwing out there. Feel free to examine that and get back to me about it, but it's not my main argument. My main argument is, quite simply, that I agree. The Bible is not a science textbook.

You see, the argument that the Bible is not a science textbook is actually a form of strawman fallacy. That is to say, the opponent is misrepresenting my argument to make it easier to attack. I don't believe that the Bible is a science textbook. But I do believe that it is, in part, a history book, and that's very different. It's one thing to use terms that somebody will understand to get a point across. That has to do with language and culture. Even now, we refer to the sun rising and setting, or what we feel in our hearts. It's quite another to assert an event as being historical when it's actually just a fairy tale. To say "this is what happened" when it didn't actually happen. That's just an outright lie. The idea that God created us can be summed up in Genesis 1:1, which is translated, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Why is the rest included if all that's meant to be said has already been said, and the rest isn't even true?

The Genesis account never pretends to be a science textbook. It doesn't describe how God designed the laws of physics. In fact, it never even mentions physics. We use science to confirm history, just like an archaeological dig can discover the ruins of an old city. We hear that the city was there, but don't see it today. So we use science to dig up the ruins and confirm that it was there. In the same way, we now can use science to go back and confirm history, but Genesis is not pretending to teach us about science. It is, however, asserting that account as historical fact. In fact, if Genesis isn't reliable, then neither is the rest of the Bible. After all, Jesus is described as the last Adam. Without the first Adam, salvation wouldn't work. We all have one common ancestor, and we need that to be saved. For that matter, with no original sin, there's no sin curse either, and there's no need for us to be saved in the first place. But then, that would mean that death and disease and destruction were part of God's original creation, which I find to be inconceivable.

An argument for theistic evolution strengthens evolution, but weakens the Bible. I once debated with an evolutionist who said that he wasn't against the idea of a god to guide events. The reason he said that was because he saw the flaws in evolution, and knew that it couldn't possibly happen by chance. But why would God choose to create with that method? God is not at all against the idea of using His supernatural power. He caused a bush to burn and not be consumed, He walked on water, He turned water into wine (not the same water)... In fact, the entire point of the gospel revolves around His raising Himself from the dead! Now, raising someone else from the dead is a pretty tricky feat. I only know of one Person to ever do it. (Hint, it's Jesus again.) But to raise yourself from the dead is a whole different matter. That's like, super-supernatural. So to argue that God "wanted to create the world in a natural manner" is utterly ridiculous. The sole purpose for the argument of theistic evolution is to reconcile the Bible with science, not to read the Bible as it was actually intended (that is, as a historical account). In the end, I don't see theistic evolution as an option. I see no room in the Bible for evolution. We can use science to examine history (and I believe that science confirms the Bible), but we can't argue that Genesis is false on the basis of the Bible not being there for the purpose of scientific education.
"Science and religion are not at odds. Science is simply too young to understand."
-Dan Brown

It Doesn't Affect You

"It doesn't affect you."
-People who want you to let something go
Yeah, it's a lousy quotation. But it really is something that I've heard said a lot. I'll have an opinion about something, and people will tell me that I shouldn't assert this opinion because the topic doesn't affect me. Sometimes, this is how it should work. If two people are having a private discussion, it's not my place to step in and start telling them what I think. In this way, it doesn't affect me. But then, that isn't the situation where I typically hear this phrase. Normally it's something else entirely. Something happens across the globe, or a law changes that won't change the way I live. These do not directly affect me, and therefore, people who support what happened will tell me that I shouldn't oppose it because it doesn't affect me. I, however, would beg to differ. I think there are situations where we must speak up.

Before I get into the meat of the topic, I'd like to give an example. Let's say that I have a box. This box is empty, and this box is closed. My box has never been opened, and I take pleasure in that fact. But let's say that one day, I'm sitting at the park gazing fondly at my box as it sits on the bench beside me. Suddenly, a stranger walks up and takes my box. He opens it, looks inside, closes it, and puts it back. The box is now, physically, exactly the same as it was. This will not directly affect my life. My actions will not be required to change simply because my box was opened, seeing as how the box is now closed again. But it has still affected me. My box, which was never meant to be opened, has been opened, and thus, has been defiled.

I'll come back to that example again in a moment, but first, I'd like to move to another example. Let's say that a law is passed legalizing murder. The exception to this rule is that nobody may murder me. I now have secret service agents protecting me (but in such a way that I won't even notice them) so I'm still safe and not directly affected. It's still illegal to murder me, so no issue, right? This law hasn't affected me in any way, except maybe given me a freedom that I didn't previously have. So, since it doesn't affect me, I have no need to speak out against this law.

As you may have noticed, my being forced to live differently isn't the only way to affect me, and things that affect me aren't the only things that I should speak up about. See, there are two issues that, more than any others, cause people to tell me to shut up because it doesn't affect me. These issues are gay marriage and abortion. I've done a post on each of these topics before, so I try not to saturate my blog with more of what I've already examined, but in this case, I'm looking at a new aspect- that is to say, I'm not examining the topics themselves, but rather, why it is, in fact, my place to discuss these issues.

Marriage is a religious institution. That is to say, the entire purpose for marriage (as opposed to unwed companionship) is either, A, to glorify God, or B, to glorify a fake god that we made up. In that way, marriage basically "belongs" to religion. If you don't believe in God, then there's no reason to value marriage. Gay marriage is actually a defilement of something that is precious to us, and thus, even though I don't have to change my behavior or become a homosexual, I still am affected.

I believe in a just and holy God Who has said that murder is wrong. I believe that abortion is murder, and that it goes against the rights of the child for the baby to be executed. In a sense, this doesn't affect me. I'm a guy, for one thing, and even if I weren't, I wouldn't have to ever choose to get an abortion. And because I'm already born, nobody can abort me. In the same way, under the earlier example, I don't have to choose to murder anyone, and nobody can murder me. But it's not that simple. It's not a matter of whether it forces me to change my ways, it's a matter of whether it's good and just. Abortion violates the rights of the child, and therefore, I must speak out against it.

In some situations, it's not my place to offer an opinion. But in others, I must speak out. Gay marriage and abortion are only two examples. Two large examples, yes, but there are many more situations where we're told that we shouldn't talk about something because it doesn't affect us. But just because something doesn't require us to change our actions doesn't mean that we shouldn't speak out. Just because something doesn't affect us doesn't mean that it's okay.
"No cause occurs without effect, and no effect occurs without cause. No unjust action goes without penalty, and no action or thought flows unnoticed throughout the universe."
-Suzy Kassem