The tolerance myth

I’ve recently started following the story of the mosque that wishes to build in close proximity to Ground Zero. What caught my attention was the use of the term ‘tolerance’. Regardless of the debate itself, neither side is the epitome of tolerance. What they do is provide more anecdotal evidence for the myth of tolerance. In the case of the discussion of the mosque, neither side is tolerant of the opposing position. Both sides passionately argue the supremacy of one side against the other. Both positions cannot peacefully coexist because they stand in opposition to one another.

At it’s purest form, tolerance is best described as passive indifference. Others may exist with their views or world views as long as it doesn’t matter to us. Once a worldview interrupts our own we become active defenders of our own position. When our worldview is threatened by an opposing worldview then passive indifference (aka tolerance) disappears. Arguments for tolerance shift from that of a worldview of peaceful coexistence to a weapon of debate. Simply accuse your opponent of intolerance and you can assert your worldview over theirs.

At the core of the issue is the question of value. In the case of divergent world views, one must necessarily acquiesce to the other. One viewpoint must be of higher value than the other. It depends on the value system and perspective of each viewpoint. Differing world views come from unique perspectives and individuals within each worldview interpret their values accordingly. In many instances differing world views can never peacefully coexist unless some aspect of one worldview (or perhaps in both world views) is rejected and a new worldview is created and asserts it’s supremacy. Tolerance, then, has no place within this scenario either.

Once tolerance is understood to be a myth we’re left with difficult choices. Which worldview should assert it’s dominance? Is a tension of world views necessary and unavoidable? How can peoples with differing world views coexist in peace, if at all? The questions may be daunting, but it’s better to face reality than bury our collective heads in an irreconcilable myth.


About vanyieck

There is nothing about me that is more interesting than you. I am a man. I have a wife and family. I have a career. I have two dogs. I
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2 Responses to The tolerance myth

  1. I have to believe in the dignity of choice, which means that other worldviews are tolerated. I know that there is one Truth, and I pray for that to be revealed. Maybe I landed here because I grew up in a family which, although it was as hugely dysfunctional as the rest of the world, did believe in debate and freedom of expression and thought. And respect for others beliefs and opinions, even if we didn’t agree.

    • vanyieck says:

      I think that Jesus expressed it succinctly when he made statements like “blessed are you when people persecute you” and “when they hate you, remember that they hated me first” and “the world will hate you because of me”. In the case of disciples of Christ, then, tolerance is something too great to imagine. I wish it weren’t so, but I fear that it is.

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