At one time, people knew they believed in God. They understood that it was right and good to believe in God, and even discuss their beliefs. Then people forgot what it was like to think for themselves. They started being told what to think, not how to think. This meant that people then were told not to discuss religion and politics. One reason people could no longer discuss issues is they got into heated arguments, more resembling fights than debates, about what they believed. The same is true in political circles. (Get a blazing liberal and ultraconservative to be able to rationally discuss issues, and it will be two individuals that understand the why, not just the “what” of thinking).
So just what has changed? For one, most people no longer understand reason. Most people no longer understand logic. People have not been taught how to think in so long that they have forgotten what is important in how to think. People have a general idea of what is logical (what makes sense). But most people really do not understand how to tell when something is not logical, and they certainly don’t understand that a logical argument requires that there are assumptions that cannot be proven. The vast majority has looked at what is told them, heard, and processed what they were told through a filter that does not include knowledge of the base assumptions in the system of logic.
One such set is the “scientific fact” of evolution. First, let me say that I have no special knowledge of the meaning of Genesis 1, other than it says God created. That is not something I’m willing to debate—and it truly is outside the scope of this, it does not matter if God used evolution to create, or some other mechanism. In fact, if not evolution, some other mechanism should be discoverable. From a Christian perspective, science is the investigation into the “how” of the mechanisms of creation. If not evolution, then the Christian should work diligently to find the proper “how” that the Bible, not being a science text on creation, does not provide. What the evolutionist tends to insist upon is that they must come up with a natural mechanistic creation—they presuppose there cannot be any other then natural mechanical explanations. To them it is an axiom and is not open to debate any more than my statement “God created” is not open to debate.
Uh oh, I used the word axiom. What is an axiom, and why is it so important? This is where the discussion goes to the point of all this. All people, if we have a logical system of discussion, must start from a set of axiomatic statements. This is from the world of mathematics, and the starting point for logic. If we do not have axioms, we have no basis for what we conclude. It is much easier to view from a mathematics point of view; math is all about proving things true. But how can we prove anything? Logic is based on several laws and the axioms of the system. Everything else is falls into the things that can be proven (theorems).
A small example might be instructive. Euclidean geometry is based on a set of postulates (the axioms of geometry are called postulates) that include what has been called the parallel postulate. What it states is that if you have a line and a point not on the line, there is exactly one line through the point parallel to the given line. That works fine for the geometry we were all taught in grade school. What it doesn’t work for is the geometry used for flying around the globe. All the other postulates work but the parallel postulate is explicitly contradicted. Any two points can be connected by a line segment, a segment can be infinitely extended into a line, a line segment can be the radius of a circle and with one endpoint on the circle and the other at the center, and all right angles are congruent. But with one important difference: given a line, and a point not on the line, there are no lines parallel to the given line. In this geometry, the “line” is a great circle route (and all great circle routes intersect).
What does that have to do with Religion? The point is that all people have a set of axioms, unless of course they do not operate in the realm of logic. (Postmodernism rejects religion, science, logic and nearly anything having to do with thought in general, so a postmodernist would reject this, but that is because his axiomatic system rejects logic.) The atheist has an axiom set that puts everything as either he can verify it, or it doesn’t exist (or at least has no bearing on his world). The secular scientist also tends to state that anything that cannot be analyzed and duplicated (or a more radical version, anything that is not natural/mechanical) is not of interest. In other words, they reject the idea of a God that will not submit to human hypothesis testing. For those of religious belief, God does in fact exist axiomatically. There is no need to prove God exists, and asking for a proof is illogical in the extreme (you cannot prove an axiom, it is taken as true). Now that said, it is just as true that those that do not believe in the existence of God also have an axiom system that directly leads to that position. There is no way to prove there is no God, and stating that it needs proof is from the framework that God does not in fact exist (there is no logical middle ground.)
How does this lead to intolerance? Those that do not understand their own axiom system tend to see the logic of their own system, and discount any other system. If all you see are straight lines, and refuse to see great circle routes, then you certainly won’t see the logic in flying from Chicago to Alaska in order to get to Japan as being the shortest route. If on the other hand a person sees the underlying axioms of both systems, and understands there is no way to prove either (in fact neither can be proven) then it makes it much easier to understand the other. It even means there is reason to discuss the underlying axioms, which is more fruitful in understanding that talking past one another and showing how “illogical” the other is.