Monday, December 31, 2001

Unconventional thoughts on fundamentalism and tolerance

The German weekly newspaper "DIE ZEIT" had an excellent article recently titled "What is fundamentalism".

The basic messages of the article:

"What is worrying about the current debate on fundamentalism is an often almost irrational fear of any type of absolute truth and faith certainnesses. Often, people consider as a danger for the free society not only those who want to force their convictions on others, but even those who have convictions at all.

This is based on a misunderstanding of the term "tolerance". Tolerance is not a world view, which considers last questions unanswerable or senseless. It is rather a handling rule under/inbetween world views (Weltanschauungen), which give most different, each other excluding and perfectly seriously meant responses to the last questions.

Paradoxically, and for anti-fundamentalists particularly disturbing, the respect for those having different convictions does include the right to try to alienate them from their current convictions, i.e. to convert them. The general renouncement of this principle would degrade the other person and his convictions to a folkloristic or psychological phenomenon.

The history of martyrs advises us to be careful with the judgement that absolute truth convictions are necessarily hostile to liberty. They belong also to the strongest bastions against bondage. From the arenas of the Roman Imperators up to the concentration camps of the 20th Century it was often the believers which refused the claim for almightiness and absoluteness of the prevailing executive authorities."