This is a summary version of my last post, plus thoughts for a serious discussion on what ‘tolerance’ really is. I would really ask that people try to look at this ‘proposed definition of tolerance’ and criticize the heck out of it. However, remember the primary rule of rationality. Rationality is to advance a counter explanation, not to shoot holes in someone else’s.
Legal Tolerance is More Important Than “Everyday Tolerance”
When we speak of ‘tolerance’ there are really two kinds or degrees. The first is the more important: we must never make laws (or break laws) to force people to believe in ways we prefer. This is the single most important aspect of tolerance.  This form of ‘intolerance’ is therefore about violence or threat of violence, either in the illegal or legal variety.
Everyday Tolerance: Being Respectful in Disagreements
But legal tolerance is not what we generally mean when we speak of tolerance. If it was, then skin-heads that don’t break the law would be as tolerant as anyone else. So I would suggest that when we speak of “tolerance” we generally mean civility in non-violent conflict. This being the case, then I suggest the following “rules of tolerant behavior” for your consideration:
- Tolerance Does Not Mock Other People’s Beliefs
- Tolerance Does Not Misrepresent, Lie, of be Deceptive about Other People’s Beliefs
- Tolerance is Being Respectful and Civil in Your Communication to People of Another Belief
- Tolerance Does Not Use Stereotypes
- Tolerance Allows People to State their Own Beliefs; It Does Not State it For Them
- Tolerance Does Not Use Dual Standards
See my previous post for more detail on each of these.
Another reprint from Mormon Matters. This post was particularly important to me because I was (am) still struggling to take the concept of tolerance and change it from the weapon of intolerance it is generally used as to be the real deal. So, unfortunately, this post became long and unwieldy as I thought it all through with detailed examples and tried to find my own position. Unfortunately, even after doing all that, I continue to feel that there is something wrong – missing – in my attempt to define tolerance. I admit this near the end where I am forced to admit that tolerance must not always be a virtue. This bothers me that there isn’t a clearer definition between when it is and when it isn’t a virtue to be tolerance. For those disinterested in reading a long article like this, I will post a ‘summary’ version shortly, so I’m not going to open comments on this post. If you have comments on it, put them into the next post.
I wrote an article explaining how I become converted to “political correctness”. I was really talking about “tolerance.”
Tolerance: I hear that word a lot. Words are funny things because they often mean different things to different people. And sometimes (often? usually?) other people have little incentive to bridge any communication gap.
I would like to try to come up with a good working definition of the word “tolerance” to use as a way of guiding my interactions with those I disagree (and sometimes strongly disagree) with. But this definition shouldn’t just be a warm fuzzy. It should be a substantive and, as much as possible, objective basis for determining what is or isn’t tolerance.
But what is tolerance?
Tolerance means literally “to tolerate” something. This directly implies that the belief system (i.e. “religion”) being tolerated is one that a person, by definition, disagrees with and perhaps even dislikes. This might ease the burdens of tolerance to realize that it in no way implies you have to pretend to like something you don’t like or pretend to accept things you truly believe to be wrong.
So let’s start with this as the basis for our definition: Tolerance is to literally “tolerate” something, not to accept it or like it. In fact, as far as I can tell “tolerance” in no way implies not fighting against something you disagree with; it simply defines what fighting techniques are legitimate, fair, or just by asking you to treat others how you want to be treated as well.