religiously-motivated political strife
sjamar at law.howard.edu
Thu Aug 4 13:27:33 PDT 2005
off into semantic land . . . about the term "tolerance" . . . we
have been here before . . .
I would be delighted to see just the "benign neglect" or unthinking
acceptance of others or even better, thoughtful acceptance of others
and their beliefs, even if I think they are wrong. I would rather
see affirming, thoughtful acceptance of others than mere toleration
But I do not hold out a lot of hope for that, so I would be happy
with just tolerance of the "I'm write and you are SOOOO wrong"
version Frank describes. (emphasis mine, for emphasis to make the
point sharper) That sort of minimal tolerance is what is required
for a bare minimum of respect for the human dignity to which we are
all entitled from each other.
But Frank, isn't there a bit too much of the fallacious "law of the
excluded middle" reasoning in your piece? There is a range of
responses and judgments that can be made on which those responses are
One may think he or she is right about the nonexistence of god, or
the exclusivity of the way to god being through Jesus, or whatever
and still keep a bit of humility about the possibility that one is
wrong and that the billion Muslims or billion Buddhists or billion
Hindus just might be onto something -- even if I as an athiest or
Christian think I have it right. This humility about having a real
lock on the truth -- i.e., rejecting the idea that anyone has a real,
perfect lock on the truth -- leads to tolerance of a difference sort
than you write about, I think.
And I think in today's world we should not just look for neutrality
as a guiding principle, not just non-coercion, not any single rule or
principle, but rather a set of them, indeed, a shifting set of them
-- including requiring official tolerance and fostering civil and
civic and personal tolerance.
On Aug 4, 2005, at 3:15 PM, Francis Beckwith wrote:
> I think the real rub here is over what counts as “tolerance.” It
> seems to me that tolerance is only a virtue if you think the other
> guy is wrong, since one is not “tolerant” of what one agrees with
> or what one is apathetic toward. “Tolerance” without believing
> the other guy is wrong is like celibacy without genitalia. There’s
> a sense in which it is no longer a real virtue. I blogged on this
> several months ago. (see here: http://rightreason.ektopos.com/
> archives/2005/04/why_tolerance_r.html). I reproduce it below.
> Take care,
> Why Tolerance Requires Judgment
> In popular culture--and in columns penned by such liberal
> luminaries as Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, and the Daily Kos--one
> often hears a call for "tolerance" while at the same time offering
> a condemnation of social and religious conservatives making
> critical judgments about another's sexual preference or religious
> beliefs . My sense is that this prescription is a form of
> intellectual bait and switch, for tolerance, properly understood,
> requires judgment. Here's why I think this way.
> First, tolerance presupposes that there is something good about
> being tolerant, such as being able to learn from others with whom
> one disagrees or to impart knowledge and wisdom to that person. But
> that presupposes objective moral values, namely, that knowledge and
> wisdom are good things. Moreover, tolerance presupposes that
> someone may be correct about his or her moral or religious
> perspective. That is to say, it seems that part of the motivation
> for advocating tolerance is to encourage people to be open to the
> possibility that one may be able to gain truth and insight
> (including moral and religious truth and insight) from another who
> may possess it. If that is the case, then there are objective
> truths that I can learn.
> It follows from this that tolerance presupposes a judgment of
> another's viewpoint. That it to say, I can only be tolerant of
> those ideas that I think are mistaken. I am not tolerant of that
> with which I agree; I embrace it. And I am not tolerant of that for
> which I have no interest (e.g., European professional soccer); I
> merely have benign neglect for it. (That is, I don't care one way
> or another). Consider the following example. Suppose I tell a
> friend that I believe that homosexuality is immoral. And suppose my
> friend requests that I be tolerant toward homosexuals in my
> community. If I accept this advice, and choose to be civil,
> respectful, and gracious to gay men and women with whom I have
> contact, while at the same time judging their sexual practices as
> immoral, it seems that I would be truly tolerant. But suppose that
> someone says that my judging of homosexuality as immoral still
> makes me "intolerant." At that point, given my understanding of
> "tolerance," I have no idea what I am supposed to do. For if I
> change my view of homosexuality, and say either that it is not
> immoral or that I have no opinion (i.e., I have benign neglect),
> then I cannot be tolerant, for I can only be tolerant of that which
> I believe is wrong or mistaken. On the other hand, if judging
> another's position as wrong or mistaken makes one intolerant, then
> the person who judges my negative assessment of homosexuality is,
> by that person's own definition, intolerant. But that is absurd.
> For if "tolerance" means that one ought not to judge a view as
> morally wrong, then it seems to be consistent with either embracing
> the view or having benign neglect for it. If that is the case, then
> "tolerance" has lost its meaning and is simply a cover for trying
> to shame and coerce others not to publicly (and/or perhaps
> privately) disagree with one's controversial and disputed position
> on a variety of issues. This, ironically, is an example of
> intolerance (as traditionally understood). So, it seems to me, that
> the appeal to tolerance, once we have a clear understanding of its
> meaning, requires judgment and assumes certain non-negotiable moral
> On 8/4/05 10:04 AM, "Steven Jamar" <sjamar at law.howard.edu> wrote:
>> On Aug 4, 2005, at 10:46 AM, Rick Duncan wrote:
>>> The doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Christ is a
>>> doctrine of love and forgiveness. It is not an intolerant
>>> doctrine. It is open to everyone.
>> When people say that theirs is the only way and all others are
>> damned to hell, that is not exactly my idea of tolerance.
>> When a group says we are the only chosen ones, similar problem,
>> though less in-your-face.
>> When a group says this is the one true religion and we have the
>> last word from god and others are infidels, similar problem again.
>> The doctrinal exclusion of others who believe differently coupled
>> with political power is a real problem and a real problem creator.
>> The state needs to stay well away from giving its stamp of
>> approval to any religion lest others be thereby excluded for those
>> improper reasons.
>> Governmental positions of authority going only to people of the
>> right religious beliefs is one of the evils to be avoided, one of
>> the reasons for a wall of separation. The rhetoric and actions of
>> Santorum and Ashcroft others in official positions are the
>> antithesis of what separation should be about. This is not about
>> values per se, or about the source of those values, but about the
>> unwillingness and inability to separate the secular position from
>> one's religious fervor.
>> What causes me personal difficulty with this idea or model of
>> separation is that I personally do not think people should so
>> divide their lives and personalities. People should not pray on
>> Sunday and prey on Monday. And yet, we all have our internal
>> divisions -- our private selves, our family selves, our public
>> selves, and that is ok, I think.
>> And so back around to the problem of bringing religious beliefs to
>> be the basis of decision in voting in Congress, in deciding cases
>> as a judge, or in acting in the executive branch. There is no
>> bright line or set of rules that can be applied with perfect
>> consistency in this area of human endeavor.
>> Prof. Steven D. Jamar vox:
>> Howard University School of Law fax:
>> 2900 Van Ness Street NW
>> mailto:sjamar at law.howard.edu
>> Washington, DC 20008 http://www.law.howard.edu/faculty/
>> "Years ago my mother used to say to me... 'In this world
>> Elwood' ... She always used to call me Elwood... 'In this world
>> Elwood, you must be Oh So Smart, or Oh So Pleasant.' Well for
>> years I was smart -- I recommend pleasant. You may quote me." --
>> Elwood P. Dowd
>> - Mary Chase, "Harvey", 1950
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> To post, send message to Religionlaw at lists.ucla.edu
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> Please note that messages sent to this large list cannot be viewed
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> that are posted; people can read the Web archives; and list members
> can (rightly or wrongly) forward the messages to others.
Prof. Steven D. Jamar vox: 202-806-8017
Howard University School of Law fax: 202-806-8567
2900 Van Ness Street NW mailto:sjamar at law.howard.edu
Washington, DC 20008 http://www.law.howard.edu/faculty/pages/jamar/
"Politics hates a vacuum. If it isn't filled with hope, someone will
fill it with fear."
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