Crossing the Threshold: Towards a More Tolerant Future While playing basketball in my yard at five feet eleven inches tall, I pondered on the word “threshold”. I had read about reaching a height threshold for basketball players, but how would I know that a threshold for religious tolerance had been crossed? I do not think this concept can be measured as easily as people being able to vote after their 21st birthdays, travelers crossing a geographical border, or players being at least six feet tall to play great basketball. Also, a religious threshold cannot be quickly identified visually like boiling milk that overflows from a heated pot or a seesaw that tips when unbalanced. Some thresholds are not very clear because crossing them is subjective and not clearly identifiable. Such boundaries either exist only in one’s mind or are fluid and constantly changing, such as market shares of various brands of cell phones or computers. I view the threshold for religious tolerance similar to this latter category. Just like an operating system controls a computer, religious background and viewpoints control a person’s mind, emotions, and actions. Furthermore, just as several computer companies compete in the marketplace for the largest market share, various religions compete in today’s world for the biggest collective mind share. However, the level of emotion involved in these two competitions is vastly different. During television advertisements, when the marketers at Microsoft, Apple, or Amazon openly ridicule the lack of features in their rivals’ products, supporters of these competing devices generally find the advertisements harmless or even humorous. Conversely, if a similar rivalry among religions is broadcast or published by the media, supporters of the rival religions become infuriated enough to launch weapons at each other. Even in today’s technologically advanced world, this contrast in emotions is understandable, because, even though a person’s computer is
immensely useful for nearly all daily tasks, it can never connect to that personâ€™s chosen deity, which can only be achieved via religious beliefs. Considering the inherent competitive nature of human beings, it does not seem possible for all followers of one religion to ever willingly cross the tolerance threshold and accept that the qualities of other religions are on par with those of their own. There will always be some fanatics and power-hungry leaders with selfish motives who instigate the general public, find flaws in othersâ€™ religions in order to discredit those religions, create yet another wave of emotional campaigning to defeat other religions, and establish their own religion as the only right path to reach God. This pattern has been repeated several times in human history with various religions taking turns in different regions, becoming dominant either by appealing passionately to the human soul or through conversion enforced via the power of the sword. Therefore, crossing the threshold to achieve universal religious tolerance is not as easy as some other current paradigms such as numerous languages coexisting peacefully with English as the dominant language and several currencies coexisting harmoniously with the US Dollar as the most popular currency. Multiple languages and currencies can thrive simultaneously because people use them by translating or converting them without becoming overly egoistic or emotional, unlike in the case of religion. In view of the above situation, it might initially seem impossible for the threshold of religious tolerance to ever be crossed; however, a silent revolution is currently underway that might make achieving this goal of universal tolerance a very real possibility. Easier access to information through the Internet is helping to spread knowledge and educate the next generation of children at a pace much faster than any other ever before. If governments around the world choose to place more emphasis on science education and collaborate to generate interest in all Rishi Wagle Â
studies related to biological evolution on earth, their actions would help continue the nascent trend towards secularism that is taking hold in many nations. It will then be a distinct possibility that secularism will win over the hearts and minds of a critical mass of the population sometime in the future, resulting in a stronger alternative to multiple brands of religion. I am very optimistic that in a few centuries down the road, demographic surveys might indicate that more people subscribe to secularism as their faith rather than any specific religion. That will be the day we will know that the threshold for religious tolerance has conclusively been crossed. I expect that the benefits of crossing this threshold will easily match or exceed the favorable effects of other major events such as the victory of capitalism over communism and the Allied victory in World War II. Widespread tolerance would effectively lead to the end of religious warfare and achieve lasting peace via a heightened sense of universal brotherhood. It will result in increased level of economic prosperity around the world by promoting trade and cultural exchange among formerly hostile nations. Enhanced mutual trust will also help several developing countries to channelize the vast sums they currently spend on defense and weapons manufacture towards economic growth instead. In my opinion, the human race is not too far from crossing the threshold of religious tolerance, thanks to the younger generation being exposed at an early age to scientific knowledge and various religious faiths due to the globalization of our world. I believe that one day in the near future, our dream of nurturing tolerance among people of all or no faiths will be fulfilled and will lead to very positive consequences.
Rishi Wagle Â
Published on Apr 2, 2014