Monday, March 3, 2008

Really Free Thought

I wrote the following and submitted it to the Daily Bruin Viewpoint section on Thursday, February 28. It was not published.

Reading the article by Ms. McGough entitled "Class doesn't preach, stresses the literary," on February 27, I really started thinking about the state of affairs at UCLA. The article discussed a class I was enrolled in about the Bible as literature. The professor has asked us to assume, for the sake of the class, that the Bible, "…was written by human beings in a specific historical context for human-driven purposes."

I have been successful at adopting that assumption and have done rather well in the course. I am a Christian, and I affirm that the Bible was written by humans who were inspired and guided by God; taking on a contradictory assumption has been an intriguing experience, particularly because of my familiar with the text before the class.

As a religious person, I took it upon myself to seriously investigate another viewpoint; I have chosen to think and argue like an Atheist in my papers for the course. I can read the Bible as an Atheist reads the Bible. I can argue like an Atheist. And I can do it well enough to get A's in a UCLA English course that demands it. I have done this so that I can better understand Atheists.

Thinking from another's perspective is something that I have always striven to do; it shocked me to realize that my efforts were rare enough to be newsworthy.

We like to think of ourselves as open-minded and free-thinking. We speak often of the virtue of tolerance and the goal of coexistence. I hate tolerance and I reject the notion of coexistence.

Tolerance has come to mean a cessation of fighting and an end to disagreement by means of disengagement. We can accept that those people believe differently, and we have made it our goal not to do them violence. I have not been tolerant of Atheist views of the Bible; I have become an Atheist. I have not coexisted near them; I have lived with them.

It is tragic that we have settled for tolerance and not sought understanding. We ought to do the work of engaging with others' ideas and learning exactly what it is they think. And it is hard work. It hard to honestly get to, "We agree to disagree;" it requires that you understand the other, and know precisely where and why you disagree.

Christians, have you ever thought about the world like an Atheist? Have you ever considered the vast age of the universe and the unstoppable march of the blind watchmaker, Evolution, by means of the Selfish Gene? Muslims, have you ever meditated on the wonderful love of God in his sacrifice of His incarnated Son? Atheists, have you ever stood in awe of the beautiful sunset, a precious gift from an almighty and loving Father to you?

Have you ever cared enough about another group of people to do this seriously? I'm not talking about a 5-minute thought experiment, but a serious engagement with another viewpoint. Have you ever really immersed yourself in another's worldview?

This is free thought. Coexistence is fine for warring tribes to settle on, but for the future intellectual leaders of this world, we can do better. As leaders, we should contend for intellectual integration and fight against "tolerant" attempts to keep ideas separate but equal. We ought to be an epicenter of liberal thinking and intellectual understanding. We should be open-minded enough to actually and truly open our minds to others' beliefs.
I hope that one day such intellectual maturity will be so commonplace that it will be unworthy of the front page.

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