Tolerance

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Tolerance has two contrasting meanings in U.S. politics.

  1. respecting the right of others to hold differing beliefs
  2. accepting views that differ from one's own

As a value which supports our First Amendment rights of freedom of religion, freedom of press and freedom of speech, the civic virtue of tolerance requires us to grant to others the same rights we claim for ourselves. Each person is permitted to hold and espouse unique or minority views which may be obnoxious to others. "I may not believe in what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."

This sharply contrasts with the idea that we must respect, accept or agree with views we despise. For example, an employee of a company should not be required to attend a sensitivity training session and declare in front of other employees that he has no objections to homosexuality.

Many social reformers deliberately blur the distinction between the two types of tolerance and promote the usage of tolerance as a synonym for "approval".

The idea that "tolerance" implies accepting views that differ from one's own is anathema to U.S. tradition and is often used in the context of forbidding those with traditional religious views to express their disapproval of minority opinions. It turns the concept of tolerance on its head: it is intolerance in the name of tolerance.

One of the definitions of tolerance is "The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others." [1]

A better definition is "respecting the right of others to hold differing beliefs".

The concept of tolerance often applies to areas of politics, cultural differences, or religious practices.

Americans believe in free speech, but to be tolerant you should respect other people's beliefs. You can still disagree with someone's beliefs or practices.

All religions and their traditions deserve to be examined, but there is a difference between critique and slander. And certainly there is a difference between insightful observations and naive comments." [2]

References

  1. tolerance. Dictionary.com. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/tolerance (accessed: April 05, 2007).
  2. Tolerance Breeds Empathy
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