Toleration and tolerance are terms used in social, cultural and religious contexts to describe attitudes and practices that prohibit
discriminationagainst those practices or group memberships that may be disapproved of by those in the majority. Conversely, 'intolerance' may be used to refer to the discriminatory practices sought to be prohibited. Though developed to refer to the religious tolerationof minority religious sects following the Protestant Reformation, these I love men terms are increasingly used to refer to a wider range of tolerated practices and groups, such as the toleration of sexual practices and orientations, or of political parties or ideas widely considered objectionable.--(from reference.com)
The principle of toleration is controversial. Liberal critics may see in it an inappropriate implication that the "tolerated" custom or behavior is an
aberrationor that authorities have a right to punish difference; such critics may instead emphasise notions such as civility or pluralism. Other critics may regard a narrow definition of 'tolerance' as more useful, since it does not require a false expressionof enthusiasm for groups or practices which are genuinely disapproved of.
As a practical matter, governments have always had to consider the question of which groups and practices to tolerate and which to persecute. The earliest known example of ethnic and religious tolerance is found in the
Cyrus cylinder, which was declared by Cyrus the Greatafter he founded the Persian Empire. Similarly, the Edicts of Ashokaissued by Ashoka the Greatin the Maurya Empirealso declared ethnic and religious tolerance. The later expanding Roman Empirefaced the question of whether or to what extent they should permit or persecute the local beliefs and practices of groups inhabiting annexed territories. Jewish or Christianpractices or beliefs could be tolerated or vigorously persecuted. Likewise, during the Middle Ages, the rulers of Christian Europe or the Muslim Middle East sometimes extended toleration to minority religious groups, and sometimes did not. Jews in particular suffered under anti-Semitic persecutions in medieval Europe.Vartan Gregorian, "Islam: A Mosaic, Not a Monolith", Brookings Institution Press, 2003, pg 26-38 ISBN 081573283X] [ [http://jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=412&letter=G&search=Granada Granada] by Richard Gottheil, Meyer Kayserling, " Jewish Encyclopedia". 1906 ed. ] A notable exception was Poland, which served as a haven for European Jewry because of its relative tolerance - by the mid-sixteenth century, 80 percent of the world’s Jews lived in Poland. [ [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/Poland.html Jewish Virtual Library - Poland] ]
An early champion of toleration in Europe was
Pawel Wlodkowic, who at the Council of Constanceadvocated the pagannations' rights. [ [http://original.britannica.com/eb/article-28175/Poland#396759.hook Britannica Online - Poland: The rule of Jagielo ] ] However, the development of a body of theory on the subject of toleration didn't begin until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in response to the Protestant Reformationand the Wars of Religionand persecutions that followed the breaks with the Catholic Churchinstigated by Martin Lutherand Huldrych Zwingliand others. In response to the theory of persecution that was used to justify wars of religion and the execution of persons convicted of heresyand witchcraft, writers such as Sebastian Castellioand Michel de Montaignequestioned the morality of religious persecution, and offered arguments for toleration. By contrast, Poland, which had been uniquely tolerant and ethnically as well as religiously diverse, officially confirmed its status as "a place of shelter for heretics" in the Confederation of Warsaw of 1573, [ [http://portal.unesco.org/ci/en/ev.php-URL_ID=7748&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html Portal UNESCO, Poland - The General Confederation of Warsaw] ] the first toleration act in Europe [ [http://www.polityka.pl/archive/do/registry/secure/showArticle?id=945 Dzieje podzielone, Prof. Janusz Tazbir, Polityka 03-07-2004] ] .
A detailed and influential body of writing on the question of toleration was produced in Britain in the seventeenth century, during and after the destructive
English Civil Wars. John Miltonand radical Parliamentarians such as Gerrard Winstanleyargued that Christian and Jewish worship should be protected, and it was during the period that Oliver Cromwellallowed the return of Jews to England. These early theories of toleration were limited however, and did not extend toleration to Roman Catholics(who were perceived as disloyal to their country) or atheists(who were held to lack any moral basis for action). John Locke, in his Letter Concerning Toleration and Two Treatises of Governmentproposed a more detailed and systematic theory of toleration, which included a principle of Separation of Church and Statethat formed the basis for future constitutional democracies. The British Toleration Act of 1689was the political result of seventeenth century theorists and political exigency, which despite the limited scope of the toleration it granted was nevertheless a key development in the history of toleration, which helped produce greater political stability in the British Isles. The philosophers and writers of the Enlightenment, especially Voltaireand Lessing, promoted and further developed the notion of religious tolerance, which however was not sufficient to prevent the atrocities of the Reign of Terror. The incorporation by Thomas Jeffersonand others of Locke's theories of toleration into the Constitution of the United States of Americawas arguably more successful.
Though developed to refer to the
religious tolerationof minority religious sects following the Protestant Reformation, the terms "toleration" and "tolerance" are increasingly used to refer to a wider range of tolerated practices and groups, such as the toleration of sexual practices and orientations, or of political parties or ideas widely considered objectionable. Changing applications and understandings of the term can sometimes make debate on the question difficult.
For example, a distinction is sometimes drawn between mere "Toleration" and a higher notion of "Religious Liberty":
Some philosophers [. . .] regard toleration and religious freedom as quite distinct things and emphasize the differences between the two. They understand toleration to signify no more than forbearance and the permission given by the adherents of a dominant religion for other religions to exist, even though the latter are looked upon with disapproval as inferior, mistaken, or harmful. In contrast these thinkers recognize religious liberty as as the recognition of equal freedom for all religions and denominations without any kind of discrimination among them [. . .] in the case of religious liberty, no one is rightfully possessed of the power not to tolerate or to cancel this liberty.Zagorin, Perez (2003) "How the Idea of Religious Toleration Came to the West" (Princeton: Princeton University Press).]
Discussions of toleration therefore often divided between those who view the term as a minimal and perhaps even historical virtue (perhaps today to be replaced by a more positive and robust appreciation of pluralism or diversity), and those who view it as a concept with an important continuing vitality, and who are more likely to use the term in considering contemporary issues regarding discrimination on the basis of race, nationality, gender, sexuality, disability, and other reasons.
There are also debates with regard to the historical factors that produced the principle of toleration, as well as to the proper reasons toleration should be exercised, with some arguing that the growth of
skepticismwas an important or necessary factor in the development of toleration, and others arguing that religious belief or an evolving notion of respect for individual persons was or is the basis on which toleration was or should be practiced.
Tolerance and monotheism
One theory of the origins of religious intolerance, propounded by
Sigmund Freudin "Moses and Monotheism," links intolerance to monotheism. More recently, Bernard Lewisand Mark Cohen have argued that the modern understanding of tolerance, involving concepts of national identity and equal citizenship for persons of different religions, was not considered a value by pre-modern Muslims or Christians, due to the implications of monotheism. [Lewis (1997), p.321; (1984) p.65; Cohen (1995), p.xix] The historian G.R. Elton explains that in pre-modern times, monotheists viewed such toleration as a sign of weakness or even wickedness towards God. [ quoted in Cohen (1995), p.xix] The usual definition of tolerance in pre-modern times as Bernard Lewis puts it was that: Mark Cohenstates that it seems that all the monotheistic religions in power throughout the history have felt it proper, if not obligatory, to persecute nonconforming religions. Cohen (1995) p. xix ] Therefore, Cohen concludes, Medieval Islam and Medieval Christianity in power should have persecuted non-believers in their lands and "Judaism, briefly in power during the Hasmonean period (second century BCE) should have persecuted pagan Idumeans". Cohen continues: "When all is said and done, however, the historical evidence indicates that the Jews of Islam, especially during the formative and classical centuries (up to thirteenth century), experienced much less persecution than did the Jews of Christendom. This begs a more thorough and nuanced explanation than has hitherto been given."
Tolerating the intolerant
Karl Popper's assertion in " The Open Society and Its Enemies" that we are warranted in refusing to tolerate intolerance illustrates that there are limits to tolerance.
In particular, should a tolerant society tolerate intolerance? What if by tolerating action "A", society destroys itself? Tolerance of "A" could be used to introduce a new thought system leading to intolerance of vital institution "B". It is difficult to strike a balance and different societies do not always agree on the details, indeed different groups within a single society also often fail to agree. The current suppression of
Nazismin Germanyis considered intolerant by some countries, for instance, while in Germany itself it is Nazism which is considered intolerably intolerant.
John Rawlsdevotes a section of his influential and controversial book " A Theory of Justice" to the problem of whether a just society should or should not tolerate the intolerant, and to the related problem of whether or not, in any society, the intolerant have any right to complain when they are not tolerated.
Rawls concludes that a just society must be tolerant; therefore, the intolerant must be tolerated, for otherwise, the society would then be intolerant, and so unjust. However, Rawls qualifies this by insisting that society and its social institutions have a reasonable right of self-preservation that supersedes the principle of tolerance. Hence, the intolerant must be tolerated but "only insofar as they do not endanger the tolerant society and its institutions".
Similarly, continues Rawls, while the intolerant might forfeit the right to complain when they are themselves not tolerated, other members of society have a right, perhaps even a duty, to complain on their behalf, again, as long as society itself is not endangered by these intolerant members. The
ACLUis a good example of a social institution that protects the rights of the intolerant, as it frequently defends the right to free speech of such intolerant organizations as the Ku Klux Klan.
Followers of Ayn Rand tend to see tolerance as associated with the institution of objective law. [ [http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=education_campus_libertarians Ayn Rand’s Q & A on Libertarianism] ,
Ayn Rand Institute] Attempts to increase tolerance by applying different rules to different people would ultimately be self defeating.
Many universities, in attempting to enforce certain political and ideological viewpoints through means other than instruction and debate have been come to be viewed by some as intolerant. [ [http://www.townhall.com/columnists/MikeSAdams/2007/10/31/brave_newark_world Brave Newark World] , Mike S. Adams,
Historically important documents
John Milton, " Areopagitica"
John Locke, " A Letter Concerning Toleration" and the famous " Two Treatises of Government" (esp. the "Second Treatise")
Bill of Rights, the first ten amendmentsto the United States Constitution
John Stuart Mill, " On Liberty"
*Beneke, Chris (2006) "Beyond Toleration: The Religious Origins of American Pluralism" (New York: Oxford University Press).
*Budziszewski, J. (1992) "True Tolerance: Liberalism and the Necessity of Judgement" (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers).
*Cohen, A.J. (2004) "What Toleration Is" Ethics 115: 68-95
*Jordan, W. K. (1932-40) "The Development of Religious Toleration in England" (New York: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.)
*Kamen, Henry (1967), "The Rise of Toleration" (New York: McGraw-Hill).
*Kaplan, Benjamin J. (2007), "Divided by Faith: Religious Conflict and the Practice of Toleration in Early Modern Europe" (Belknap Press).
*Laursen, John Christian and Nederman, Cary, eds. (1997) "Beyond the Persecuting Society: Religious Toleration Before the Enlightenment" (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press).
*Mendus, Susan and Edwards, David, eds. (1987) "On Toleration" (Oxford: Clarendon Press).
*Mendus, Susan, ed. (1988) "Justifying Toleration: Conceptual and Historical Perspectives" (New York: Cambridge University Press).
*Mendus, Susan (1989) "Toleration and the Limits of Liberalism" (Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: Humanities Press).
*Murphy, Andrew R. (2001) "Conscience and Community: Revisiting Toleration and Religious Dissent in Early Modern England and America" (College Park: Penn State University Press).
*Nicholson, Peter P. (1985) "Toleration as a Moral Ideal" in "Aspects of Toleration: Philosophical Studies" ed. John Horton and Susan Mendus (New York: Methuan).
*Stetson, Brad and Joseph G. Conti, The Truth about Tolerance: Pluralism, Diversity and the Culture Wars (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, (2005)
*Ten, C.L. (Chin Liew) (2004) "A Conception of Toleration" (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish International).
*Walsham, Alexandra. (2006) "Charitable Hatred: Tolerance and Intolerance in England, 1500-1700" (Manchester University Press).
*Walzer, Michael (1999) "On Toleration" (New Haven: Yale University Press).
*Zagorin, Perez (2003) "How the Idea of Religious Toleration Came to the West" (Princeton: Princeton University Press).
Autism rights movement
Fat acceptance movement
Freedom of religion
Zero tolerance (schools)
Tolerance Monumentin Jerusalem
* [http://www.nationalheritagetriangle.com/ A proposal for a park and monument dedicated to toleration] to be located on
Governors Island. Proposal made by The Foundation for Historic New Amsterdam.
* [http://www.iamtolerant.com/ I Am Tolerant]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.