Humanist Voices in Verse: Tolerating the Tolerant by Neil Doherty

This week’s poem is by Neil Doherty. Neil is an economist and Professor Emeritus from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He has recently moved cross country to Bainbridge Island where he indulges his passion for poetry, hiking and a 1951 Morris Minor car.

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Tolerating the Tolerant

Suppose that I say that I believe “A”
and all but the credulous see it my way.
But you, in your witlessness, still credit “B”;
and each view, the other never can see.

Now we each assume we monopolize truth
and thrust on the other the burden of proof.
But I ask if you think we should both get along,
and cede to the other, the right to be wrong?

“A” is for atheist and I confess
that I hold it quite dear, your right to profess,
and practice without any hindrance or let,
beliefs of type “B”, (though by reason beset).

For I freely concede, (though you reason distain),
you raise up my brow, but cause me no pain.
And I hope you agree, though mistaken, my view
will barely diminish the options for you.

But I ask in return you not seek of the state
to favor alone what your conscience dictate;
I ask you forbear to sanction in laws
the wrong of my cause and the rightness of yours.