Photo: Mary Dyer, a Quaker
who was hanged in Boston

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77 Do not kill unbelievers

You already know this

This is self-evident:
Appropriately withholding belief is an act of generosity:

Mixed belief

Years ago, my friend completed an opinion survey by rating some common sales slogans. The interviewing company questioned him afterward for marking every statement “completely false.” He was a professor; “partially true” was not his familiar ground. I was surprised that he had responded at all to the survey, because those slogans create moods and are not intended to be measured as truth. Many feelings are preferences, neither true nor false.

Certain institutions are symbolic or metaphorical. Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Jack Frost are all concepts that invoke thoughts or feelings different from the literal meanings of the words. These entities are not physical persons, but as representations they convey specific meanings. There are many expressions that I can respect while not believing them literally. I respect the people to whom they have meaning, although I do not support the literal statements. The Bible provides many similar examples.
Despite my deep reverence for people’s beliefs, dogmatic religiosity calls me an unbeliever. My mixture of values and reality honors humanity without the structured dogma of organized religion. This does not equate God and Santa Claus. I study the classifications separately: traditional religion, myth, and human future godhood (article 52), applying appropriate tools in each area.

Is imagination true? Another classification is fantasy, much of which is not true yet. From Buck Rogers to the jet engine to the lunar landing module, there is a progression of ideas that the faint-hearted were unable to believe. These are thoughts with intrinsic value that are not descriptions of existing things. I am that kind of believer!

It matters

This article pleads for calm, rational thought and action. The opening describes frustration and deadly hatred. While all too familiar with anger and unkindness, I have never suffered deadly hatred like that against science or race. Those who have felt like killing me have always expressed that thought with forbearance, never with intent. I am blessed with friends who can talk through their feelings. That’s probably why I have no enemies.

Here is an important call to action. Readers value free expression. We are tolerant and peaceful. We must also be mindful of those who do not believe us! Even in the political space of polite discussion, I cannot fight for peace. I must practice it along with my fellow believers. In doing so, I must relate graciously to those I see as unbelievers.

After all, we have seen the safety in unbelief; it keeps us out of the extremes. We remain believers in invention and unbelievers in dogma.

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