What is Tolerance?

September 5, 2008
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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.

What Tolerance Isn’t

It is unfortunate the the word “tolerance” is in the process of no longer meaning “to tolerate” something. Instead, we regularly tell people they are being “intolerant” if they disagree with us or if we don’t like what they are saying. This new and growing definition of “tolerance” literally removes all virtue from the word and concept, for if we are labeled intolerant for doing nothing more then disagreeing, then unfortunately someone’s beliefs are going to “win out” while the others are forced to shut up. What a sorry state that would be. Indeed, it would be a form of tyranny.

Along those same lines, “tolerance” seems to also be used to mean “don’t offend me.” But I’m afraid “inoffensive” and “tolerance” may at times be worlds apart. Yes, intolerance is always offensive. But tolerance is often offensive at well. Why? Because offensive isn’t a description of some innate property of an item or idea, it’s a description of how someone else reacts to it. Thus if we use “offensiveness” as a basis for tolerance or intolerance, the word becomes 100% subjective and has lost all meaning.

Even taking the word to mean “what the average person finds offensive” is problematic. In the south back during segregation, the “average person” found it offensive to have unsegregated water fountains or to have Caucasians have to be around African Americans. Was that tolerant? It is if we decide that tolerance is based on majority rules.

It’s hard to imagine how the word “tolerance” could ever be useful at all if we base it on the idea of “offensiveness.” Clearly the majority view on everything would be “tolerance” and the minority view (that the majority of people don’t like) would be “intolerance.” Not a very useful definition.

So Then What is Tolerance?

Okay, wise guys, I can hear some people say: It’s easy to state what “tolerance” isn’t. But give me a definition of what it is.

While I think this is a tall order, I think it’s entirely possible to come up with a workable and useful definition/description of what tolerance is.

Tolerance Level 1

I believe there are two types, or degrees, of tolerance. The most basic one is the most important one. Tolerance level 1 is nothing more or less than legally allowing people to express their beliefs and views without fear of violence either illegally or from the government – that monopoly on legal violence.

This first definition of tolerance deals only with the governments and lawbreakers, not private law abiding individuals.

Why limit this view of tolerance to violence and government only? Because this is where the biggest dangers lies.

Examples:

  • Jim Crow laws disenfranchising certain races
  • Segregation laws that favored certain races over another
  • State religions being favored to the exclusion of other religions
  • The law looking the other way while hate groups (this might be the KKK or Missourian mobs) use illegal violence to control an undesirable group
  • Not enfranchising women
  • Disenfranchising women as a way to control juries or the vote of the territory.
  • Requiring a religion to have to live in certain places or counties
  • Legally requiring a group to not live in certain areas or states
  • Court systems refusing to apply the law to undesirable groups
  • Defining a Church as not a legal charity because of their offensive beliefs
  • Prosecuting polygamy, even if handled in private only, but not prosecuting private adultery
  • Outlawing private religious practices or beliefs

These are all obvious examples of government intolerance or intolerance though use of illegal violence. These will always be the worst kinds of intolerance.

I think it’s important to separate degrees of intolerance for another reason: intolerance level 1 is the only type of intolerance we should ever make laws against. Intolerance level 2, which I will now describe, should be a matter of conscience alone.

Tolerance Level 2

The problem that I see with tolerance level 1 is that it’s not as useful a definition modernly because we rarely speak of tolerance in such a limited way. Under tolerance level 1 a modern skin-head group – so long as they don’t break laws – is “tolerant” because they aren’t in the government enacting laws nor breaking existing laws. But is this really what we mean when we speak of “tolerance” today?

As I mentioned before, all too often what we mean by “tolerance” today is some fuzzy undefined feeling. And all too often the word “tolerance” is really just hiding it’s own form of “intolerance” because it’s being used to shut down a minority view through it’s own form of hate and public humiliation. I think it would be tragic to let “tolerance” come to mean “intolerance towards disliked minority views.”

So I propose this list on what “tolerance” should mean today. This is the best list I could come up with so far, though it’s probably incomplete.

Tolerance Does Not Mock Other People’s Beliefs

One of the most obvious examples of this for me, as a Mormon, is when various Christian denominations intentionally take things sacred to my own LDS religion, such as our temple, and show them in public in mocking ways to get people to laugh at them.

On the other hand, there is an old joke told by Mormons about “what would catholics do if Jesus had been killed by stoning.”

There is simply no place for mocking in tolerant conversation. Instead, choose to disagree with others respectfully and civilly.

I need to make a dividing line here between mocking a belief or belief system and being a “harsh critic” of a belief or belief system. The first is always intolerance but the second could be tolerance if handled civilly. “Harshness” is not intolerance in and of itself.

Tolerance Does Not Misrepresent, Lie, of be Deceptive about Other People’s Beliefs

Clearly tolerance allows no room for lies – even of the half-truth variety. Now of course it’s not always possible to get your facts straight, so you may inadvertently say something untrue about another religion. (I’m guilty as charged.) But once you find that what you are saying is not true, do not continue to spread the lie because it supports “the cause”? Do you find a way to justify the lie? Also, ask yourself, “do I at least make an attempt to confirm information I hear about other religions or am I so anxious to spread something bad about a religion that I’d rather not know if it’s true or not?”

I’ve known many people that claim that Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that only 144,000 people will be saved. This is a half-truth meant to deceive. I’ve known many people to say that Mormons worship many gods. This is not really true either. The list could go on and on.

I think the single most common example of this tactic is the one where a Christian of a more orthodox denomination calls a Christian of a non-Orthodox denomination a “non-Christian.” If a person knowingly chooses to label a group in a way that causes people to misunderstand what that group really believes, it is deception.

Tolerance Does Not State Other People’s Beliefs in Ways Meant to Get a Negative Reaction

This is related to mocking, but is a lighter form of it. It’s also related to deception.

Again, we need to give some latitude to people as they may honestly not know how to best state the beliefs of another religion. But all too often it’s clear that people state other people’s beliefs in a negative way simply to deceive, mock, or scare others.

Here are some real life examples:

  • An atheist stating that Christians are American’s second and Christians first so they can’t be trusted politically.
  • Referring to the Christian communion as “ritualistic cannibalization” of Jesus.
  • Muslims commenting that Christians are polytheists because they believe in the Trinity. They also like to claim that Christians believe God had sex with Mary because Jesus was begotten of God.
  • Protestants claiming that Mormons believe in merit for their works because Mormons don’t believe that salvation was a transaction that happened once and for all upon accepting Christ.
  • Claiming that Mormons believe Jesus and Satan are brothers.

These are all examples of taking a true belief of one religion and twisting it until it’s no longer even recognizable. We must do better than this form of misrepresentation of other’s beliefs if we are striving to be tolerant.

Tolerance is Being Respectful and Civil in Your Communication to People of Another Belief

Treat people as you want to be treated yourself. Yelling and screaming is never tolerant. Talking down to people and calling them stupid or childish (or implying as much by saying something like “you need to use your brain.”) isn’t tolerant either. Any form of name calling or disrespectful labeling is intolerant.

A common example of this is the use of the word “cult” amongst some Christians. The word cult literally would encompass every religion in the world, if properly understood. Yet it’s well known that people take it as an insult, which is how I imagine it’s intended. One poster on the Internet pointed out that if you neighbor only referred to you as an “animal” they would be both technically correct and intentionally insulting you.

Tolerance Does Not Use Stereotypes

This is another hard one, because sometimes there is truth in a stereotype. The problem with stereotypes isn’t that they are universally false, but that they are not universally true. This is precisely why we must avoid stereotypes.

Now we are getting to the essence of what “prejudice” is. The word “prejudice”’s root is to “pre judge.” It’s to assume something about an individual because he or she is part of a group rather than judging the individual on their own actions and merits.

I would submit that spreading stereotypes about a group at all is intolerant because of the damage it does to individuals, even if the stereotype has some truth to it. We all know that often the stereotypes end up having little or no truth to them; but even if there is truth to them, it is still intolerant to spread or use stereotypes.

Examples of this are abundant:

  • Assuming a member of one race is less smart than another
  • Assuming that a member of a group is more violent than average
  • Assuming that a member of a group is more likely to steal or shoplift
  • Assuming that a member of a group is sheep-like
  • Assuming that all members of a religion believe the same
  • Assuming that a member of a group will say or do stupid things

I think a great recent example of this form of intolerance in it’s most ugly form was those that claimed Mitt Romney was incapable of being President because only an idiot would believe in Mormonism. I see no difference between such a view and the most vile forms of racism. Please note, this would not exclude people from thinking Mitt Romney was incapable of being president on other grounds based on things actually known about him personally rather than assumptions about him based on a group he was a member of.

To use a real life example, it would be intolerant for me to say that “Evangelical Christians are all bigots.” That’s a stereotype and it’s unfair. But it’s not intolerant for me to raise the issue that many self identified Evangelical Christians I have met –- but not all of them or even most of them –- misrepresent Mormon beliefs in deceptive or bigoted ways and often do so after learning what to say in classes supplied by their ministers. The first is a stereotype, the other is a legitimate issue that needs to be raised and discussed even though it’s uncomfortable. Tolerance is never a reason to not address real issues.

Tolerance Allows People to State their Own Beliefs; It Does Not State it For Them

It’s amazing how often we violate this rule of tolerance. I was once discussing religion with a Protestant that clearly hated me for being LDS. He told me that I didn’t believe in hell. I told him I did. He then –- in an amazing display of arrogance –- claimed that I didn’t know what I believed because he had a book somewhere that quoted Brigham Young saying that there is no hell. (He didn’t have the quote handy, but presumably he was using a quote that really just stated there was no traditional hell of fire and brimstone. But of course, regardless, it hardly matters what Brigham Young said or didn’t say if we are talking about my personal beliefs and I personally believe in hell.)

I asked this Protestant if he he’d studied LDS beliefs as long and as much as I did. Of course not. I explained that I had numerous statements, yes, even from Brigham Young, about the reality of hell. Did he budge? Nope. He didn’t want to talk about what I believed in, only in what he thought I should believe. It was somewhat humorous and very scary. If only this had been an isolated event for Evangelical Protestant Christians.

The truth is that we’re all the worldwide experts on our personal beliefs. If I believe in hell, then that means I do. Period. He is being silly to tell me what I believe. On the other hand, he did have the right to give me the quote and let me explain how I fit it or don’t fit it into my beliefs. But due to his lack of interest in doing that, we never went there.

Not allowing people to state their own beliefs is so common that I’m willing to bet every single one of us has violated it as some point. It’s almost comical how often this rule gets violated. For some reason, this rule is really hard to recognize in our own selves but easy to recognize when someone does it to you.

That being said, it’s not the most common form of intolerance I’ve noticed. The most common form would be:

Tolerance Does Not Use Dual Standards

This one is the most difficult of all, because no one ever believes they are using a dual standard. No matter how much of a dual standard you support, you’ll always deny that you have a dual standard at all. So unlike the rules above, which are generally obvious and very straight forward -– at least in retrospect -– this one is extremely difficult to live. Thus we need to cut people some slack over this rule.

A real life example of a double standard was when some non-Mormon Christian demanded to see the Gold Plates that the Book of Mormon was translated from and had a good laugh over an angel having taken them away so that there was no proof. To them it was obvious that God would never do such a thing. But then why didn’t Jesus just show himself to the world today and end all doubt about his resurrection. What we have here is a dual standard.

Atheists seem particularly susceptible to dual standards because they prefer to think of their beliefs as “not a religion” and thus they think it correct to silence other belief systems in politics while allowing their own to be discussed.

One poster on Yahoo Answers said of “people with religions” (excluding himself from this category): “Christians and people of all religions needs to stop making policy and political decisions based on their religious beliefs.” Apparently it’s okay to make political decisions based on the morality and ethics of atheists, but not for people who believe in God.

Another poster suggested that perhaps if every country in the world were “secular” that maybe atheists and Christians would not be at odds. He asked, “are you opposed to religion or people who use religion to dominate politics?” The “best answer” he choose said “People should be free to believe in whatever faith or religion they choose to. Trouble only arises when they try to insist everyone else should believe the same way–or when their way of thinking actually affects the rest of society–like lobbying politicians to enact laws based on the religious superstitions–like blocking stem cell research.”

Clearly these atheists believe that if Christians just left their religion (i.e. system of belief and moral compass) at home when voting that things would be better. But it doesn’t occur to these atheists that they themselves are a religion that contains at least one member: themselves. Should they also leave their beliefs and their moral compass at home when they vote?

Let’s take the example of stem cell research. Some Christians, but by no means all, believe that a fertilized egg is already equivalent to a human being. Some atheists, but by no means all, believe that until the unborn child breathes it’s really just part of the woman’s body. Who’s right? Are they both wrong? And how can well tell?

The frank truth is that science can’t help us here. The egg and sperm cell are alive even before they join and then there is a gradual but steady process of formation into a baby. So does an unborn child deserve some or all legal protections of a born child? Why or why not? Is there really no moral difference between cutting your hair and aborting a baby? Why or why not?

These strike me as very obvious and very legitimate political issues. I see no alternative to working out societal standards on a divisive issue like this but through the political process. In short, I encourage everyone to use their set of beliefs and moral compass and vote their conscience. The suggestion by these atheists that Christians are some how forcing their beliefs on others misses the point that frankly the reverse would be atheists forcing their beliefs on Christians. Do atheists really expect Christians to stand by and watch human life be killed (as some Christians believe –- rightly or wrongly) and do nothing at all? Accepting this is nothing short of asking the political system to favor one religion over another by allowing one to speak up and the other stay silent.

Is Tolerance Always a Virtue?

One word of caution about tolerance. It may sound like I think tolerance to be a universal virtue. I’m not sure it is.

Charity is an example of a universal virtue. There is never a time or place to be uncharitable. Conversely, it is not hard to think of cases where we should not “tolerate” at all. Should we be “tolerant” of child pornography? I would suggest that we shouldn’t. Not every thing should be tolerated.

Tolerance is a very important virtue when it comes to freedom of beliefs and religious practice but it may not be a virtue in all circumstances.

Conclusions

In reality, all these “rules” on how to be tolerant are very straightforward. They could be boiled down to this: Tolerance is treating others how you want to be treated.

Or to put this another way: Tolerance is being consistent. Indeed, “inconsistency” and “intolerance” are very nearly the same thing when it comes to discussing beliefs.

While this is easy in principle, it’s difficult in practice due to the prejudice that lives in all of our hearts. Only actively working against our prejudices can allow us to overcome them and to be tolerant in our actions and words.

And perhaps this is the most important point I can make. We all practice intolerance. I do it all the time. It’s nearly impossible to be perfectly tolerant even in situations where you believe you should. So don’t make the mistake of labeling yourself as “tolerant” as if it’s something you either are or you aren’t. Instead work at being it.

Questions

So what do you agree or disagree with? Can you advance your own contrary definition of tolerance? Do you disagree with any of my examples? Would you add anything to my list? Would you remove anything?

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15 Responses to What is Tolerance?

  1. Just for Quix
    September 5, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    You’ve really dug in and fleshed this out. Thanks.

    I like what you said about double standards. It is a very common mistake. I wish I remembered all my latin labels for critical fallacies but there’s a kid brother to the error of double standards. It is that while there can be different perspectives that could each be criticized from the same or similar angle, it is a fallacy to treat those differing perspectives as equal. It is still possible (and likely) some options are better than others. I agree that we should undertake the process to weigh that out with charity yet not dismiss the effort as merely relative because of what seem similar flaws or qualities. (For example to claim that because Moses is a flawed character and still accepted as a prophet, that it is not fair to weigh whether the flaws of Joseph Smith do or do not disqualify him from consideration as a prophet.)

  2. Bruce Nielson
    September 5, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    “(For example to claim that because Moses is a flawed character and still accepted as a prophet, that it is not fair to weigh whether the flaws of Joseph Smith do or do not disqualify him from consideration as a prophet.)”

    This is a good point, JFQ. However, I would only agree with you if we then look at specifics. If the whole of the argument is “Joseph Smith had a flawed character and thus can’t be a prophet” then the counter argument “so did Moses, but you believe him to be a prophet” is logically sound until we get more of a basis for how one weighs evidence of what flaws matter to the calling.

    In other words, I agree you can’t logically dismiss the argument just because they are both flawed — for one might be more flawed than the other for flawed in a way that matters more to the calling. But I do believe a completely fair question would be “how do you see them as different?” and to expect a thoughtful detailed reply or else likely the person really is just using a dual standard. God is in the details, yes? :P

    (I do not want to turn this thread into that comparison, btw. We already went through that.)

  3. Rigel Hawthorne
    September 5, 2008 at 7:10 pm

    I’ve thought about this from the perspective of being “open-minded”. We had a course in my medical training on human behavior and development which was intended to give us exposure to behaviors/lifestyles/life changes in order to prepare us for dealing with others in the future who may be identified in the same way. Some of these involved lifestyles that conflicted with the morals of the individuals in the class. One classmate was particularly out-spoken. In the smaller group break outs, he continued to voice his opinion and the group facilitator seemed shocked at his persistence. The next group meeting, the facilitator had brought in a “re-inforcement” to “break” this stubborn way of thinking. He then decided it was time to shut-up and silently endure the required line to tow in order to get through the class.

    Was he “closed-minded” because he did not agree with the lifestyle presented as moral? Were the facilitators more “open-minded” by persisting in their shocked determination to drive acceptance of a lifestyle that had moral repercussions to this individual’s spiritual beliefs?

    As Mormon’s its not unusual to mingle and work closely with individuals who think that we are going to hell. We hope that as those individuals get to know us, they will change their mind, but nevertheless, we tolerate the knowledge that they believe we are going to hell. Is it then intolerance for Mormons to believe that individuals will go to the Terrestrial or Telestial kingdom for other actions? Remember the Seinfeld episode where Elaine was upset because Putty didn’t care that she was going to hell, even though she didn’t believe in hell in the first place?

  4. September 6, 2008 at 9:29 am

    Thank you for this post. It’s stunning.

  5. Velska
    September 6, 2008 at 9:39 am

    I liked this post. I’m mostly a lurker, but I decided to offer some input.

    I am LDS since I was 19 almost 30 years ago. I live in a European country that has a state religion, and religion classes are taught in school (freedom of religion is in the constitution, everyone just assumes that you are a member of the sate church and that there is something wrong with you if you’re not). I had a religion instructor who held every other religion in derision and expressed her opinions with relish. I was so repulsed by that that I quit the state church.

    Now whenever I hear LDS people belittling other people’s beliefs or accepting someone else’s statements as the truth about their beliefs, I have to bite my tongue not to lash out; then I try to kindly remind them how many people look at us. There is no place for that kind of intolerance in Christ-like living.

    To fly off on a tangential issue, I wish that we LDS would not be so eager to look like the Evangelicals who form the religious right. That just associates us with something that is strange to our principles and they’re hardly our friends – although we certainly have more in common with them than with the atheists.

    We need to remind ourselves that the idea that tolerance=condoning sin is false or at least oversimplified.

  6. Bruce Nielson
    September 7, 2008 at 8:15 am

    #3 – “Is it then intolerance for Mormons to believe that individuals will go to the Terrestrial or Telestial kingdom for other actions?”

    Ironic, isn’t it. Darkly humourous even. By the same person, I have been told I’m going to hell and accused of starting the fight because I believe God said creeds are an abominiation without the slightest realization that condemning to hell just might be considerably worse. (To say nothing of the moral problems of implying they only believe I’m going to hell because “I started it” vs. “because we religiously disagree.”)

    Rigel, I also agree with you on the whole open-minded vs. closed-minded thing. I do not think these words mean what we think they mean (said in Spaniard accent.) In fact, I’m not entirely sure why open-minded is considered “good” and closed-minded is considered “bad.” Wouldn’t it depend on the subject? I’d want to be closed-minded on all topics where I know the truth for certain (say whether or not cold blooded murder is good) and I’d want to be open-minded on topics where I’m not sure what the real truth is. The problem is that once we acknowledge this, we can see that both groups you mention are both equally open and closed minded: they just disagree on what “truth” is.

  7. Bruce Nielson
    September 7, 2008 at 8:22 am

    Veska in #5: “We need to remind ourselves that the idea that tolerance=condoning sin is false or at least oversimplified.”

    I agree Veska. Tolerance, if defined how I just defined it anyhow, is never condoning sin. The problem is that “tolerance” often is condoning sin if defined in other popular ways. (As I tried to outline in my post.)

    So I believe that when Church leaders say things like “tolerance shouldn’t be an excuse for condoning sin” that they are correct.

    I don’t know that we’re ever really going to get rid of the idea that “tolerance” somehow means you shouldn’t disagree or offend people. That such a definition immediately becomes one sided is beyond doubt. (i.e. See Rigel’s #3 for an example of this. In the name of tolerance we act intolerant.) If I were to count the number of times people use the word “intolerance” or “tolerance” in such an unjust way, I’m pretty sure it’s the more common usuage now. The upshot of this is that those that preach “tolerance” the most are often the most intolerant and so it gives “tolerance” a bad name and starts to be associated with condoning sin.

    I was hoping, with this post, to present a way of look at tolerance that allows all sides to use the word equally and to treat each other as they want to be treated.

    Veska, I also enjoyed your story about religious freedom in your country being preceived as assuming everyone was the state religion or something was wrong with you. Made me laugh (or would have if it wasn’t so serious a problem.)

  8. Bruce Nielson
    September 7, 2008 at 9:02 am

    One more comment on: “To fly off on a tangential issue, I wish that we LDS would not be so eager to look like the Evangelicals who form the religious right. That just associates us with something that is strange to our principles and they’re hardly our friends – although we certainly have more in common with them than with the atheists.”

    On the one hand, I completely agree with you on this. We Mormons in the USA live in a very Protestant culture and we pick up a lot of Evangelicalisms by accident. (Does anyone else remember when Mormons started reading “Left Behind” and wondering if we taught this too? Or when Mormons started deciding D&D was of the devil because Evangelical’s thought so?)

    On the other hand, there are so many legitimate similarities between Mormonism and Evangelicalism that I have to reject the claim that Mormons intentionally try to act like them to try to win them over. I guess I just can’t think of any Mormon anywhere — ever — that wanted to win Evangelicals over or was intentionally trying to act like them. The truth is that more often than not we associate Evangelical Christianity with anti-Mormon hate groups. (And this association in our minds is at least partially true.)

    So, Veska, I’d like to know what you specifically had in mind with this comment. I agree with your point, but can’t point to that many examples of what you are talking about.

  9. Just for Quix
    September 7, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    Bruce (2): Thanks for the thoughtful reply. Agreed. Details matter a lot, as does the charity by which we discuss different perspectives. Wasn’t my intention to derail — only to highlight how often we as people like to overlook the details for sake of appearing to win an argument. Unfortunately on the subjects of tolerance, for example, the PC “rules of engagement” often try to end the discussion before the question is even considered.

  10. Ray
    September 8, 2008 at 12:01 am

    “Unfortunately on the subjects of tolerance, for example, the PC “rules of engagement” often try to end the discussion before the question is even considered.”

    AMEN! That frustrates me more than just about anything, especially when stereotypes and labels are used to avoid or end a discussion. Unfortunately, it happens equally on both “sides” of any spectrum.

  11. Bruce Nielson
    September 8, 2008 at 9:03 am

    “Wasn’t my intention to derail — only to highlight how often we as people like to overlook the details for sake of appearing to win an argument.”

    Actually, I thought you were right on topic, JFQ.

    “Unfortunately on the subjects of tolerance, for example, the PC “rules of engagement” often try to end the discussion before the question is even considered.”

    Yes, you are right.

    “Unfortunately, it happens equally on both “sides” of any spectrum.”

    Yes. Actually, I am not so sure there is a “spectrum” so much as a multitude of points of view that all would prefer to be right and end all discussion. I think this is the “natural state of things” so to speak.

  12. Ray
    September 8, 2008 at 9:11 am

    “Actually, I am not so sure there is a “spectrum” so much as a multitude of points of view that all would prefer to be right and end all discussion. I think this is the “natural state of things” so to speak.”

    Very well said, Bruce. It probably is so general that it transcends “sides”.

  13. September 24, 2008 at 7:37 am

    I really like what you wrote about tolerance. I’m living in Estonia where people aren’t very tolerant, especially in matters concerning religion. But I try to be tolerant myself and hope that it will affect others. Trying to be a good example. :)

  14. August 7, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Your definitions seemed to be defined more by what offends you as as a LDS churchgoer than focusing on the other direction. I came to this article hoping it would be primarily about ways for LDS people (like myself) to become more tolerant, or help other people in the church to become better in that way. Instead it seemed to just be focused on what offends us and your beefs with people saying we’re intolerant. Sure there are plenty of things that offend me as a Mormon, but people tend to avoid church and religion because of PEOPLE – not just doctrine. And your article doesn’t seem to address that very well. The truth of the matter is – we as Mormons are very intolerant people. What can we do as a churchgoing people to be more welcoming and accepting of others? How come we don’t see people come to church in more diverse situations? Perhaps the girl with less modest clothing showing a tattoo? Or someone who smells like cigarette smoke or alcohol? Or someone who visits wearing biker jacket and drives up with his loud Harley? These people do not feel comfortable coming to church not exclusively because of our doctrine – but because we do not accept them at church culturally. We don’t like seeing them. We are offended by them coming in and looking different than the norm. And that’s not what church should be. Sure we should never be pressured to change our doctrine just to make people feel more at ease, but NO ONE should ever feel that they are SOCIALLY not welcome at church, regardless of the wrong they have done or lifestyle they live. Too often this is not the case. SO how do we fix that?

    Unfortunately your article doesn’t really address this completely – and instead focuses on the wrongs we have witnessed as Mormons.

    Oh and your needed definition of tolerance? I would say although this definition will only work for christians, the best idea is probably just to think of how Jesus would act. If you do that, you’re probably covered in terms of tolerance.

  15. Niya
    October 28, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    Why should I tolerate something I hate so much? Why should I tolerate something that should be intolerable?

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