Tolerate the Intolerant

"Tolerance isn't about not having beliefs. It's about how your beliefs lead you to treat people who disagree with you."
-Timothy Keller
I had a difficult time finding quotations for today's post. Hopefully the ones I've found are adequate. However, in searching for quotations, I did find a fair number of quotations that I couldn't use, including one that I almost considered using for the sake of contrast. It described the paradox of freedom, and I found it to be a rather interesting perspective. So I'll be going over that in today's post. Today's post is, of course, about tolerance. Tolerance is often, I believe, a good thing. However, in today's society, it has been elevated above all else, while simultaneously being twisted and distorted so that it is no longer good. This is what I hope to bring to light in today's post.

In my hunt for quotations I found a piece from Karl Popper's book, The Open Society and Its Enemies. "The so-called paradox of freedom," he wrote, "is the argument that freedom in the sense of absence of any constraining control must lead to very great restraint, since it makes the bully free to enslave the meek." To put it another way, let's say that a country has a law against opposing anyone. The problem with this is that if a criminal does oppose somebody, you have no way of stopping them, because the police force would have to oppose the criminal, and thus, would be themselves breaking the law. Karl Popper compares this paradox to the paradox of tolerance. That is to say, if you tolerate everything, you must also tolerate intolerance.

The obvious point of this paradox is that some restrictions must be in place. For example, in America, we have freedom, but we do not have freedom to murder, as this would infringe upon the rights of another. Likewise, we do not have freedom to enslave another human, as that would take away his freedom. So while we do have freedom, we have limited freedom- we are free, so long as our freedom does not remove another person's freedom. However, Karl Popper's application of this scares me. He writes, "I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force ... We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal."

There are two things that he could mean by this. He could mean that intolerance should be treated as a crime. This is a very scary thought. The second, and (hopefully) more likely, is that intolerance should be treated with intolerance, just as your freedoms are removed when you take another's freedom. Intolerance would be restricted by force in this case only when the intolerance demonstrated itself with force (which would, of course, violate various other laws). On the surface, this is a logical argument. However, because of the way that tolerance has been twisted, I believe that there are some more questions that need to be asked, and some more angles that need to be looked at.

Can tolerance be compared to freedom? In our culture, "tolerance" has become another word for "approval." This is where the issue lies. We no longer desire tolerance. We desire approval. This is why so many people are labeled as sexist, racist, homophobes, islamophobes, and any number of other degrading terms. For example, the Christian faith says that homosexuality is wrong. Christians do not go around beating up homosexuals, but also are not willing to violate their beliefs (note the first amendment of the United States constitution). But Christians are still labeled as homophobes for saying that homosexuality is wrong. So what tolerance is really saying is, "You must approve of the same things I approve. You must support the same things I support. You must accept the same things I accept. If you disagree with something, then don't talk about it."

People are no longer allowed to say that there is objective good and evil, or that there is right and wrong. Much less, that there is only one God and one way to heaven. You must accept other beliefs as valid. Which means that you really can't believe what you want to believe anymore. You can believe what you want, if what you want to believe is that there are many roads to heaven and each person's beliefs are equally good. But if each person's beliefs are equally good, then this must apply to the Christian as well, and the Bible rather clearly indicates that there is good and evil, right and wrong, and one way to heaven through the Lord Jesus Christ. If you truly believe in tolerance as it is preached today, then you must be willing to accept other people's beliefs, even if you disagree with them. That includes a belief that one know the only true path to heaven.
"Tolerance only for those who agree with you is no tolerance at all."
-Ray A. Davis

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