Previously I wrote about a conversation where a friend and I were discussing matters of faith and religion, and we just kept running in circles. Maybe I am a little slow, but it occurred to me that it was mainly because we weren't even speaking the same language. Oh we both used the English alphabet and commonly used English words, but our definitions of those words were so polar opposites that we could barely have a conversation.
I've discovered that in many instances the confusion and debate around and about religious issues come from people fervently stating their argument with completely different definitions of common words.
Some Christians have had their trust in God and Jesus Christ shaken because they either have adopted the atheists' definitions or did not understand a different definition was being used.
Here are the 4 words I have seen used over and over which tend to automatically slant the "debate" on the side of atheists before the conversation even begins:
Tolerance, Atheism, Faith, Evidence, and Proof.
Being aware of these terms and how they are being used can clear up a lot of the problems, tension, and drama in a conversation. Whoever defines the terms tends to control the conversation. Since most of the time we are not debating people but having conversations, we don't want to "control" or "win". We just want to have a productive conversation. That can't happen if we are speaking different languages.
We need to be on the look out for these words and make sure how they are being used so that we don't accidentally walk into miscommunications or misunderstandings that can cause more harm than good.
There have been all kinds of people way smarter than I am addressing this one. It's a common, emotionally charged word tossed around now days to insult and silence opposition. Generally people mean that if you disagree with someone else's beliefs, views or behaviors then you are not being "tolerant."
No one wants to be the jerk, so we either just shut up or actually begin to doubt our own beliefs or positions.
But understanding the error in definition here is simple ... to "tolerate" someone you must first disagree with them. Tolerance by it's very nature requires that judgment and disagreement has taken place. When I would be a little nuisance to my older sister (and my parents were around) she had to "tolerate" me. She didn't like me. She didn't think I was behaving well. She would have loved nothing more than to stuff me into a very small container and toss me in the creek. She wanted me to shut up and go away. BUT, because of my parents' presence, she had to "tolerate" me. She had to act kind and civil to me. Her feelings and thoughts towards me were not required to change. But her behavior was one of civility and politeness.
We all know this. It is only in the realm of religious, political, social or moral issues that we use the term "tolerate" to mean complete acceptance and agreement with something. Simply disagreeing with someone is not "INtolerant". Don't let people get away with this one.
A discussion of this issue also took place at a Q&A event for local teens. Hear it discussed by a panel of youth pastors here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrUO3cxCWDU&feature=youtube_gdata_player
A look at "Atheism", "Faith", "Evidence", and "Proof" will follow.