John Scalzi posted his seven Maxims for Non-Believers and they struck me as so well-crafted, I immediately wished that I was a non-believer so that I could use them:
- Being a non-believer does not mean you have to be intolerant of those who believe.
- Being a non-believer does not mean you have to be ignorant of the beliefs of those around you.
- Being a non-believer doesn’t mean you need to keep your children ignorant of the beliefs around you either. Withholding information from your children is a very bad way to help them make responsible decisions.
- Being a non-believer does not mean you can’t empathize with the religious impulse in others.
- Being tolerant of belief, knowledgeable about beliefs and empathetic toward the desire for belief does not make one less of a non-believer. It makes one tolerant, knowledgeable and empathetic.
- I believe that my tolerance, knowledge and empathy makes my own non-belief stronger, because I know why other people believe, and why I don’t.
- I believe that in being tolerant, knowledgeable and empathetic toward believers, I encourage those who believe to be tolerant, knowledgeable and empathetic toward me.
Then I began to wonder what a corresponding set of Maxims for Believers would look like. Here’s my stab at them:
- Being a believer does not give me cause to be intolerant of those who do not share my beliefs.
- Being a believer does not make it acceptable to be ignorant of others’ beliefs or lack thereof.
- Being a believer does not make it acceptable to keep my children ignorant of the beliefs around me, nor do I need to hide from them the fact that many choose not to believe. My beliefs are not as valuable as I think if I can only successfully pass them by encouraging ignorance and committing acts of omission.
- Because I am a believer who values my ability to choose my beliefs, I should empathize with the beliefs or lack thereof in others.
- Being tolerant of, knowledgeable about, and empathetic towards the beliefs or lack thereof in others does not make me less of a believer. It makes me tolerant, knowledgeable, and empathetic.
- I believe that my tolerance, knowledge, and empathy make my own belief more personally genuine because I know why I believe and why other people do not.
- I believe that in being tolerant, knowledgeable, and empathetic toward those who do not share my beliefs, I encourage them to be tolerant, knowledgeable, and empathetic toward me.
It was surprisingly hard to put these into words, even with the framework of John’s example staring me in the face to
copy from inspire me. Picking the right phrasing is key to ensuring that these guidelines themselves exhibit the tolerance and empathy they endorse without being so gently worded as to be useless. I hope that John is not offended by my derivation; it’s been churning around in the back of my head for most of the day.