Scotland – the Most Tolerant Nation in the World?

The Manic Street Preachers – If you Tolerate this then your Children will be Next

Earlier this month The Scotsman and The Courier both carried articles which boasted about Scotland becoming a more ‘tolerant’ nation.   The Scotsman even ran an editorial which was as good an example of hubristic self-congratulation as one could wish for.  I wrote the following letter in response.  The Courier published it but The Scotsman refused – I suspect because I critiqued their editorial and one thing a tolerant society must not allow is for its chief opinion formers to be questioned!

Dear Editor, 

There is a certain degree of hubris in the self-congratulatory tone in the article and editorial about Scotland becoming more tolerant (Scotsman 1st October).  Apart from questioning the methodology of whether a limited survey of attitudes actually tells us what the practice is, the real problem is the definition of tolerance.  Whilst there have been positive and welcome changes in some attitudes I wonder if questioning whether Scotland is more tolerant, will itself be tolerated.

 I’m afraid I don’t buy into the myth of modern progressive tolerant Scotland. The recent referendums, the hate mobs on twitter if you dare to question any of the establishment liberal version of morality, the intolerance about the disabled in the womb, the stigma attached to mental health, a noted growth in anti-semitism, the hatred directed against the Catholic church and other Christians who dare to challenge the prevailing opinion,  and the growing gap between rich and poor are all evidence that we are not quite as tolerant and equal as we like to boast.  

 I can give numerous examples of those who have been discriminated against because they do not share the morals of the current zeitgeist.   The social work student who was told he would be failed if he posted anything on the internet stating he was opposed to same sex marriage, the nurses who were threatened because they opposed abortion and the politician who was told they would be de-selected if they mentioned what they really thought.    Only this week I was on my way to speak at a cafe in a well known supermarket when a phone call came saying that I was to be banned from speaking there because of the companies’ ‘equalities’ policy.  Ironically I was due to be speaking on whether religion causes strife and the role of tolerance and religious freedom.  It appears that some are more equal than others. 

It is all very well to boast of tolerance when it is your views that are being ‘tolerated’.  However real toleration is when differing views are allowed.  The evidence is that we are moving towards a more authoritarian intolerant Scotland where anyone who does not accept what our rulers tell us should be tolerated, will not be tolerated.  As the late great Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer warned decades ago –  ““If we as Christians do not speak out as authoritative governments grow..eventually we or our children will be the enemy of the society and the state.  No truly authoritarian government can tolerate those who have a real absolute by which to judge its arbitrary absolutes”.  

Yours etc 

David A. Robertson 

dept-of-tolerance


14 thoughts on “Scotland – the Most Tolerant Nation in the World?

  1. Wow and wow again. Where did you get that poster? Great letter. Is there any way you can widely name and shame the epitome of tolerance, the Scotsman?

    And thanks for that marvellous quote from Fancis Schaeffer’

    And for those who are spiritually incontinent, could I recommend his book, “True Spirituality,” if it’s still in print.

    The poster reminders me of this “prophetic” old poem (2004) by Steve Turner: ” Modern Thinker’s Creed.”

    We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin.
    We believe everything is OK
    as long as you don’t hurt anyone,
    to the best of your definition of hurt,
    and to the best of your knowledge.

    We believe in sex before during
    and after marriage.
    We believe in the therapy of sin.
    We believe that adultery is fun.
    We believe that sodomy’s OK
    We believe that taboos are taboo.

    We believe that everything’s getting better
    despite evidence to the contrary.
    The evidence must be investigated.
    You can prove anything with evidence.

    We believe there’s something in horoscopes,
    UFO’s and bent spoons;
    Jesus was a good man just like Buddha
    Mohammed and ourselves.
    He was a good moral teacher although we think
    his good morals were bad.

    We believe that all religions are basically the same,
    at least the one that we read was.
    They all believe in love and goodness.
    They only differ on matters of
    creation sin heaven hell God and salvation.

    We believe that after death comes The Nothing
    because when you ask the dead what happens
    they say Nothing.
    If death is not the end, if the dead have lied,
    then it’s compulsory heaven for all
    excepting perhaps Hitler, Stalin and Genghis Khan.

    We believe in Masters and Johnson.
    What’s selected is average.
    What’s average is normal.
    What’s normal is good.

    We believe in total disarmament.
    We believe there are direct links between
    warfare and bloodshed.
    Americans should beat their guns into tractors
    and the Russians would be sure to follow.

    We believe that man is essentially good.
    It’s only his behaviour that lets him down.
    This is the fault of society.
    Society is the fault of conditions.
    Conditions are the fault of society.

    We believe that each man must find the truth
    that is right for him.
    Reality will adapt accordingly.
    The universe will readjust. History will alter.
    We believe that there is no absolute truth
    excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.

    We believe in the rejection of creeds.

    Steve Turner

    Steve Turner, (English journalist), “Creed,” his satirical poem on the modern mind. Taken from Ravi Zacharias’ book Can Man live Without God? Pages 42-44

  2. Mmmm. There are times when crude hammers are used to crack little nuts. The social worker has free speech so should be able to state their views. The local authority has a duty of care for all people in its area. Some roles, roles that require people to work with, support, and care for others do require someone to demonstrate their commitment to equality. I worked recently with older LGBT people in Dumfries and Galloway and they report homophobic care workers, council staff concerned about care home places due to the couple being gay and housing staff struggling to recognise the fact that LGBT people have families as well. If you are a vulnerable person cause of health problems, how much confidence do you have in the care you get from someone who disagrees with pretty much everything you are? How does an employer balance the free speech of its employees with the effective care of those who need it?

    I thought nurses got a pass against having to support patients getting abortions?

    No sympathy for the politician though. They should be brave enough to seek selection on their (religious) views if thats what they want. The democratic process in all the main parties in Scotland allows for the members to decide who they want as their candidate. If the members of the democratic party do not want a candidate with views they disagree with it is their right to not choose them. Or not want them if the selected candidate wants to voice them in future. I really dont get why you think a policy position that local party members disagree with gets a pass against democracy because its a religious view. If parties and people want those religious candidates they will elect them. If the views are not popular then they wont. Democracy in action. Thought you liked that sort of thing?

    You do realise your views are tolerated? No-one is telling you not to have them. No-one is saying you cant blog here or write to the paper or appear on the radio or with Trump supporters on US radio shows. You are allowed to submit policy responses to the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament. You are allowed to send letters to the press (even if you sound petulant that one paper didnt print it – just so you know, we all suffer from that).

    Tesco made an arse of things to be sure but it didnt tell you that you could not believe what you want to believe. It faffed an explanation of saying that it didnt want to host those views on their premises. That is their right but it does look like they did it a somewhat discriminatory way.

    Just because people disagree with you does not mean you are not tolerated. Just because people have different ideas that you does not mean your are not tolerated. Just because people want to live lives in ways you dont want them to, get married to people you dont want them to, believe in things you dont want them to does not mean you are not tolerated. We do live in society that is more tolerant that it ever has been. It is not perfect as you noted, there is much more still to be done. There is more change needed but to claim that change, which promotes equality and removes privileged viewpoints from controlling others, is a removal of tolerance is to misunderstand the meaning of tolerance and looks like a persecution complex.

    1. Thanks for letting me know that my views are ‘tolerated’! Thats sweet…

      But there are different ways of suppressing views – mocking, blocking, marginalising etc.

      Is the Humanist view that people can ‘believe what you want to believe’ – its just that you are not allowed to express it in public?!

      And yep – you should know by now that I don’t count disagreement as intolerance.

      But I do count suppression of views, and exclusion of those who hold those views – as intolerance.

      1. I disagree that not being listened to by mocking, blocking, marginalising etc. Yes, there are people in social media and in the letters to the editor that are mocking. This is something that all people who state a view have to deal with. It happens on all side of the debate. But you are not mocked or blocked by MSPs, Civil Servants and other decision makers. Some of your views may be on the margin but you are free to give them. Around the world atheists, secularists, humanists and Christians and Muslims are not so lucky.

        Who said people are not allowed to express what they believe? I said politicians can but can also face a rejection of that.

        Suppression of views? You have been a go to person for journalists in local, national and UK wide publications.

        There is a freedom of speech discussion to be had somewhere in here for people, commentating on issues outside of work, to be free to do so. And how that affects those who receive services from them are affected (if at all) should be part of that debate. But that is a different (wider?) issue to tolerance .

      2. Douglas….how naive…I have been mocked and blocked by MSPs, civil servants and other decision makers.

        As regards the media I have been banned many times….only recently I was ready to record a programme which I had been asked to do and the plug was pulled ‘in the interests of diversity’….

  3. Where did you find the poster, David? It’s brilliant – scarily prophetic as Kenny says, and not nearly far enough from the reality for comfort… please tell us!

  4. Very sorry, This was missed off the end of Steve Turners poem, following directly from the last line quoted above:
    It brings to stark completion present times.

    “We believe in the rejection of creeds,
    And the flowering of individual thought.

    If chance be the Father of all flesh,
    disaster is his rainbow in the sky
    and when you hear “State of Emergency”!
    Sniper Kills Ten!
    Troops on Rampage!
    Whites go Looting!
    Bomb Blasts School!
    It is but the sound of man
    worshipping his maker.”

  5. With others, I love the poster. My only concern is that I had read half-way down before realising that it was a spoof. The problem is that it “rings too true”!

    Blessings, and shalom.

    Brian

  6. I see it’s one of Salvo’s “fake ads” 🙂
    – though for a nasty moment or two, when I discovered the “Ad CounCIL” is actually a real thing, I twas scared it must be genuine 😦

  7. Douglas,

    There is more to this than screening out personal views. There is more to a civilised society than that. It is the effect on humanity as a whole. Is 100% screening out of Downes Syndrome children, their irradication, extermination, in Iceland, as a result of personal opinion and choice, good or bad for humanity as a whole?

    In all your devotion to the goodness of all humanity, it would be good to have your opinion, particularly after watching the Sally Phillips BBC documentary, the subject, as you will be aware, of an earlier blog. I find it more than interesting that you have not commented before now on David’s blog.

    It is highfaluting modern day barbarism dressed up in a cloak of self righteous choice, if you want my opinion. It is the regression of “group think” pragmatism that led to disaster in one Space mission.

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