Intolerance of the Intolerant = Hypocrisy?

So, I recently subscribed to the Answers in Genesis magazine, a publication dedicated to spreading the creationist and Bible-literalist viewpoints, and refuting new evidence that comes to light that supports the evolutionary standpoint. I’ve done this because, being a former Bible literalist and creationist myself, I was shocked to discover the degree to which information was carefully filtered, and evolutionist arguments were twisted or removed from context, in order to bring me to the desired conclusion: that (macro-)evolution is a hoax, and creationism is the only standpoint that makes any sense.

So now that I’ve come to see just how contrary to the truth creationism actually is, I’m trying to keep myself abreast of current thought and misinformation that is spread from some of the major sources of creationist propoganda, so I can research them properly, and compare them with the actual information they purport to be refuting (strawman arguments seem to be the most common way to argue against evolution—that is, refuting positions that the opponent isn’t actually arguing—so the easiest way to discredit many of the arguments is to actually look up the original sources, verify quotes, and put them in their context).

Anyway, I just received a copy of Answers Update, a “monthly newsletter equipping Christians to uphold the authority of the Bible from the very first verse,” and I started reading the very first article, Goose-stepping to Zion?, which defends the Answers in Genesis organization against direct attacks from a new book, American Fascists: the Christian right and the war on America, by Chris Hedges, who, according to the article, draws comparisons between Bible literalists and Hitler-era Nazis. But, I couldn’t believe my eyes as I came across this passage:

Who are the people manifesting fascist tendencies 60 years after Nazi Germany? It’s those who, in the name of tolerance, will refuse to tolerate those who are perceived as intolerant (i.e., those who hold to absolute standards, such as Bible-believing Christians).

In fact, Hedges quotes (sympathetically) the late philosopher Karl Popper, who once wrote that we can “therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to be tolerant of the intolerant” (p. 1).

The inconsistency is so glaring to us. Hedges’ self-proclaimed open-mindedness and tolerance absolutely falls apart when he attempts to rationalize his (clearly obvious) hypocrisy.…

He also does not appear to understand that while he howls at Christians’ attempts to impose their views on society, Hedges wants to see that it’s his views that should be imposed.

Now, it may be that Hedges’ viewpoint is on the extreme-side: some of the quote that I’ve elided with an ellipsis includes the claim that Hedges has “publicly chastised liberal humanists who believe in inclusiveness and who express any willingness to dialogue with evangelicals,” which, if true, would be a rather extreme viewpoint.

However, I’m simply amazed that someone could find “intolerance of intolerance” to be hypocritical; there’s no such thing as “absolute” tolerance. If one were tolerant of intolerance, that one would in a very real way be passively approving the intolerance, and therefore not a true tolerance at all.

Moreover, it’s abundantly clear that even the most tolerant of people cannot tolerate every viewpoint: it would be insanity to call it hypocrisy for one to simultaneously claim tolerance and yet at the same time refuse to tolerate child molestation.

How unfortunate that they choose to attack Karl Popper’s conclusion, without bothering to even mention his very reasonable supporting arguments, in apparent violation of the popular evangelical exhortation, that in Biblical studies, “whenever we see the word ‘therefore,’ we should check to see what it is there for.”

You can read the full article online at AnswersInGenesis.Com, which was co-authored by the founder and CEO of Answers In Genesis.

6 thoughts on “Intolerance of the Intolerant = Hypocrisy?

  1. jay

    Interesting read. I think the conservative view that being intolerant of racism/sexism/etc makes someone intolerant ultimately comes down to fun with semantics.

    My friends and I are taking a road trip to the new Creation Museum that Answers in Genesis opens this May. We’ve been flip flopping on whether we should wear Darwin shirts, hold hands with same sex friends, or just try to integrate and not stand out. The first options sound hilarious to me but I can’t help but fear doing something to upset fundamentalists on their property.

  2. Micah Post author

    Hi jay, thanks for the comment!

    If it were me, I’d just blend in (but I’m a largely non-confrontational kind of guy, anyway). I’m thinking you may not get to enjoy/appreciate the trip fully, though, if you’re getting hassled by a bunch of people. If it were me, I’d definitely want to see as much of it as I can, to see exactly what it’s all about.

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  4. Chris

    You make an excellent point that nobody can truly be tolerant of everything, but the problem is that there is an imbalance of where the line is drawn. Many who wave the flag of tolerance for various beliefs are very intolerant of Christian beliefs. Many who are quick to commend the efforts of extremist animal-rights activists are quick to deride anyone who holds a pro-life view. In actuality, though, it’s probably less an issue of tolerance versus intolerance than it is of popular bias.

    As for some of the questionable practices of Answers in Genesis, I’ve become increasingly aware of some of these less-than-honest representations. There are a few very unfortunate factors that play into this, but the two biggest problems are these:

    1. The primary purpose of organizations like AiG is not to defend the scientific truth, whatever that might be. Its purpose is to defend what they’ve already decided is the truth, and built an entire organization upon.
    2. They have a regular newsletter/magazine to produce, which means they have to have content, even when there isn’t really much to talk about.

    The latter problem is similar to the “24-hour news cycle” syndrome that the news media has, where they present a story because they HAVE TO and not because there’s necessarily an actual story worthy of reporting. The combination of these two problems (especially the former) leads to an almost “Watchtower Society” situation, where they have trapped themselves into a corner where they don’t really have any ability to say “turns out we were wrong about some major stuff here” or “there is some stuff we don’t really know” because doing so would be to admit that they don’t have the whole picture.

    Since I myself am a Christian, none of this is stuff I like to admit, but the truth is what it is. In my case, I’m starting to realize that whether evolution is correct or not is less paramount than I used to think. Whether one believes that the 7 day description is accurate to the last detail or is a more figurative/simplified description doesn’t actually change whether God created all life or whether man is in need of salvation. The message of the Bible is spiritual, and I think it can be a problem if we invest too much energy on making it about something else.

    My point isn’t to say whether or not evolution is correct (I admittedly haven’t done enough research into the pro-evolutionary side to adequately defend or deny it), but just that Christians need to be more careful about choosing our battles… And, as you have pointed, we should be even more careful about ensuring that our purpose is truth.

    A good friend of mine is both a devout Christian and strong believer in evolution. You might be interested in checking out his website:

    Reformated very slightly by the admin for easier reading.

  5. Micah Post author

    Hi Chris. It was great talking with you last night (of course, it being a conversation about one of my passions didn’t hurt 😉 ).

    I think this was a fairly honest and interesting comment you’ve written, and I don’t think a thought-by-thought response to it would serve a purpose. I’ll just respond to one thing that stuck out at me.

    (I admittedly haven’t done enough research into the pro-evolutionary side to adequately defend or deny it).

    It may be undiplomatic for me to say this, but my experience is that this is true of 99.999% of anti-evolutionists, as well. I’ve literally never encountered someone—and I’m not just talking about physically meeting someone, I’ve never even read anything written by such a person!—who disbelieved evolution, while actually knowing what claims are actually made by evolutionists. Anti-evolutionist literature invariably argues (very successfully, of course) against things that are barely even a caricature of evolutionary science. Against claims that no one is attempting to make. It’s very easy to make the opposing side’s position look ridiculous, when you are allowed to invent what that position is (straw man arguments). When I was an anti-evolutionist, I felt quite firm in my position because of these very undeniable and airtight arguments, and believed myself informed on the subject, though I’d never read more than a word or two written by the opposing viewpoint. Why should I, when I’d already been told what their claims were? Obviously, my side was made up of Men of God, who wouldn’t lie to me about such things (…).

    You’ve indicated that you’ve come to recognize that evolution’s truth or otherwise is no longer of any real bearing on your belief in the essentials of Christianity, which might make you less inclined to investigate the matter further, since regardless of the results your essential beliefs will not be affected; but I’d urge you to look into it more if you have the chance. Really, the best place to start as far as I’m concerned is this index of creationist claims from the old archives. It was the first place that I actually found to be helpful once I began to be interested in examining what the arguments for evolutionist actually are. I suspect that you’ll be able to find virtually all the arguments that you’ve heard against evolution, on that page or somewhere near it, and you can examine for yourself what the responses of evolutionists are, and whether they’re as preposterous as they’ve been made out to be.

    I also find that Richard Dawkins’ books are a wealth of useful information, once you’ve learned a little about the difference between the claims of evolution, and the “claimed claims” of evolution. He is, of course, an unapologetic atheist, and this shows in his books. I got a lot of value from The Selfish Gene and, especially, The Ancestor’s Tale; I actually didn’t care as much for The Blind Watchmaker and The Greatest Show On Earth, which are the books that he actually wrote specifically for theists and anti-evolutionists, respectively (neither of which did I manage to finish), although I might point out that The Blind Watchmaker actually starts out spending several chapters on emphasizing his agreement with certain often-repeated arguments that are supposed to be refutations to evolution—particularly, the argument that the odds against various complex mechanisms coming into being out of pure random chance are too great by far to be accepted by any reasonable person—just one example of the many claims that are frequently argued against by evolution’s opponents, but have never actually been made by evolution’s proponents (though of course random chance undeniably has an important role to play for evolution).

  6. Chris

    I haven’t really accepted evolution to be true, but have come to the realization that I’m more ignorant of the topic than I’d like to admit.

    The friend whose website I mentioned earlier was probably my first interaction with an evolutionist who was also a dedicated disciple of Christ (he’s also a member of Mensa, for what that’s worth). I don’t know very many people who are as motivated by truth as he is. My friendship with him has helped me to be more open-minded about an issue that was previously divisive to me.

    I definitely intend to research the issue further at some point. Although it’s not AS imperative as I used to believe, it’s still important, and I don’t really like not knowing (or being unable to support) where I stand.

    “To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.” – Benjamin Disraeli

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