An interesting, but it seems, flawed arguement at A Commonplace Blog.  Or perhaps it is only my reading of it that is flawed.  The passage I take exception to:

Toleration, though, is always from a position of power. Religious opinions that differ from the established view (from my own religious commitment, that is) are granted the freedom to express and spread themselves, because they are not a threat. They are not a threat precisely because their arguments, spilling out from within a different circle, cannot serenade me with any degree of persuasion.

What I read here is that if one is not secure in one's religious conviction then no tolerance should be practiced because one COULD be wooed by the siren song of that other faith.  Having been a practitioner, or attempted to be a practitioner of a great many faiths, I can say, that I am wooed by reason and by the siren song of the truth that is central to the revealed faiths.  I would argue that toleration does not come from being comfortably nestled in one's own convictions but from being unafraid to change one's mind if the truth should be presented to one in a convincing fashion.  That is, rather than the courage of convictions, one has the courage to change in the face of the truth--one has the courage to be mistaken.  To my mind, that is the strength from which toleration can and should be practiced.  If shown to be wrong, one is willing to admit it and move to do what is right.

There is a good deal of question whether one faith can show another to be wrong.  My answer would be, that for me, at least, the conviction always comes from within.  In my Christian context I would say by the working of the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps it comes from a lifetime of being wrong and discovering, quite joyfully, the excitement of having discovered some little part of the truth.

Anyway, perhaps I misread or misunderstand the blog author, Mr. Myers.  However, I would argue that the position of strength is always the ability to say "I've been wrong, I want to be right."  It is in this light that toleration has meaning--the possibility of seeing.

The original post to which Mr. Myers's is a response. It sounds as though my view may be closer to this original.  But to be honest, when it comes to these matters I tend to be a very sloppy reader and interpreter, so I could be way off base.


  1. I don't think he is saying that one not secure in one's religious convictions should not practice tolerance but that one not secure in one's own religious convictions does not or cannot practice toleration.

    Only those secure in their religious convictions can really be tolerant.

    In the musical, _The King and I_, I think there's a brief song in which the King notices that he always shouts the loudest when he is the least certain of his views, for he really is shouting down his own uncertainties. I think that may be the point of that paragraph.

  2. Dear Fred,

    In which case, I would disagree. As I point out, it isn't security in your convictions (which can lead to arrogance and even violence) that promotes tolerance, but rather a security with oneself. That is regardless of my present convictions I am not threatened by Buddhism because if convicted of the rightness of the cause, I could adjust to this new cause. Would it take a tremendous, indeed overwhelming amount of evidence to convince me--absolutely. Is it impossible? Judging by my religious history, no.

    But if one reads the sentence above, it makes tolerance contingent upon security in conviction, and I'm not certain that that is true. The most secure people I know in their convictions are among the most intolerant in their approach to others. (Not all, never all, and perhaps not even a very big minority. My point is that an uninformed insistence on my convictions is more likely to lead to violence than it is to tolerance.)




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