Tolerance is often misunderstood, to tolerate something does not mean we must approve of it. I have always thought of myself as a tolerant person but increasingly find that being tolerant is not enough for to satisfy some people.
A good example from my personal experience concerns when the controversies over same sex marriage were going on a few years ago.
Long before the LGBT community made this a headline issue I believed we should get God out of our bedrooms. Let all weddings be civil unions to take care of the legal stuff and then if people are religious they can go off to church and have their relationship sanctified or whatever, was my attitude. Whatever private arrangements people make to shape their lives is fine with me so long as nobody is getting hurt or being forced to do anything against their will.
So having always argued FOR the right of same sex couples to be legally wed, I found I could not agree with campaigns to force churches to marry same sex couples. I have no religious commitment but I believe in respecting the right of those who do to practice their faith according to the creed of their church.
When I explained this in a long blog post on the topic I had one angry commenter accuse me of being intolerant of gays and wanting to put constraints on human love. Being an irascible little bastard I replied by reminding this person that up until a couple of hundred years ago, even in what we now think of as the liberal democracies, marriage was a system for trading daughters to gain financially or socially so why did the LGBT community, which portrays itself as liberal and progressive, want to associate itself with something so sexist and illiberal.
So long as people could be joined in law, I pointed out, they had no right to force their morals on people whose religious faith dictates marriage can only involve a man and a woman. If there are churches that will sanctify same sex partnerships, that’s fine with me, if there are churches that will not, then I defend their right to that. Nobody is suggesting that individual members opposed to that policy should be prevented from leaving and joining another church.
This started a shitstorm of course, with a lot of people suggesting that intolerance is evil and ‘the government’ should act to mandate tolerant attitudes.
I don’t think the people demanding that tolerance be legally mandated, and accusing anybody who disagreed of being a bigot, will ever be able to see what was wrong with their position.
In a liberal society we have a duty to be tolerant, but too many people seem to interpret this as meaning we have to kiss the arse of every member of every minority. More recently I have been accused of Islampohobia because I have criticized the authorities’ preparedness to give Muslims free passes on certain laws, mostly relating to the treatment of women. As Marcus Tullius Cicero said 2000 years ago, “Since our ancestors came down from the hills to live as civilised people, it has been understood there can only be one [system of] law and it must be applied to all.”
In fact I don’t like Islam, but I don’t like Christianity or Judaism either. The reason I openly criticize Islam is that it is intolerant of many aspects of British life. Until members of any religion start telling British people we must change our ways (stop displaying pork in shops as it is offensive to Muslims, for example) I am quite prepared to be indifferent to any religion.
Unfortunately many people now do not see indifference as tolerance, to satisfy them we must sing the praises of that which we really do not give a flying fuck about, because indifference might be interpreted as hostility.