The other day my daughter invited me to join her on a trip to Babys R Us to shop for a new toy for her 16-month old son (my grandson). Of course, “Grampy” said “Yes!,” so off we went. During the ride my daughter quipped “What’s up with building a mosque near Ground Zero? How weird is that?” After mentioning that I thought it was more like a community center rather than a mosque, she responded with something like “Well, whether community center or mosque that is like America building a nuclear plant in Hiroshima or Japan honoring their martyrs with a community center near Pearl Harbor! Just a little insensitive don’t ya think!? It makes me think of that Coexist bumper sticker. So…how’s that coexist thingie work’n for ya!!?”
We did not continue the discussion since we pulled into the parking lot of Babys R Us and my grandson was ready to move on to more “important things.” But, I was thankful that my daughter was engaging the world around her with worldview thinking. She hit on some very important concerns about living in a religiously pluralistic society.
How exactly should we get along in a government that prizes religious diversity and insists through its laws that people of differing faiths may worship as they wish in so far as the worship practices do not violate the laws of the land? What precisely is the place of tolerance in such a society as ours? What exactly does tolerance look like? Consider the following (with special thanks to Frank Beckwith’s “A Critique of Moral Relativism” in Do the Right Thing: Readings in Applied Ethics and Social Philosophy.
- Tolerance can only be exercised in the presence of disagreement; I can only be tolerant toward views I believe are mistaken. Never to disagree with anyone is not the mark of tolerance but intellectual suicide.
- It hardly makes sense to tolerate things you heartily approve! Therefore, tolerance presupposes a negative outlook toward an opposing view.
- If tolerance means I cannot judge a view as morally wrong, then that is no different from saying that I must be either indifferent to the opposing view or embrace it, in which case “tolerance” has lost its meaning.
- Tolerance is not the same as acceptance. Tolerance does not mean accepting anything and everything. No culture, for example, praises the torturing of innocent people or killing babies for the fun of it.
- There is a clear distinction between accepting a person’s right to hold a belief and accepting the belief as true. Tolerating people and tolerating ideas are different.
- It is often the form or expression of a belief that is hard to tolerate rather than the belief itself.
- Surely the people we respect and treat fairly are not just those with whom we agree!
- Tolerance has its limitations. People may believe as they wish, but not behave as they wish.
- Much of what hides behind “tolerance” today is intellectual cowardice and laziness. It’s easier to hurl an insult than to engage contrary opinions with thoughtful dialogue.
Consider this definition and use of tolerance: “Tolerate all persons in all religions by showing them respect and courtesy. Tolerate (allow) behavior that is healthy for society and consistent with the laws of the land. Tolerate (accept) ideas that are intellectually faithful and reasonably sound.”