(CCU Faculty) As a professor of European history, I often travel to where tolerance supposedly reigns supreme. Many Europeans consider Americans to be very intolerant. During my last visit to Britain, while in the social hall of an Anglican parish, I endured over an hour long tirade on how ignorant and intolerant Americans were. The speaker was Laurence, a leftwing intellectual and lay leader of the parish, who decried Americans protesting against the mosque at ground zero. I found his arrogance extremely hard to tolerate, as he lumped all Americans together as ignorant bigoted tea partiers, who supported Sarah Palin, whom he equated with Adolph Hitler.
How much should we tolerate? Should I have tolerated Laurence’s tirade? I did. Should we tolerate the mosque at ground zero? I would. But how much do those supposedly tolerant people tolerate me? Do they tolerate those who smoke, those who wear fur, or those who voice their opinions on whether a mosque should be built at ground zero?
As a graduate student at the University of California, a seminal work in my doctoral research on toleration in late 17th century England was John Locke’s Letter on Toleration. A key quote from that book is Locke’s declaration that “Every man is orthodox in his own eyes.” Laurence is convinced that he is right, the protestors at ground zero are convinced they are right, and the Muslims wanting to build that mosque at ground zero are convinced they are right. Locke concluded, that the government has no right to persecute those who follow the dictates of their own conscience, but he never advocated that individuals be forced to abandon the dictates of their conscience, or deny others their right to peacefully criticize what they find objectionable.
At an interfaith gathering in a “progressive” church here in Colorado the topic was toleration. To the best of my knowledge I was the only conservative in attendance. At my table sat a Sufi Muslim, a new age guru, an openly lesbian clergywoman, and a DU professor of religion. The professor declared that toleration was insufficient. What was needed, he advocated, was something greater…affirmation. It wasn’t enough merely to tolerate another person’s aberration, we must affirm it. Those who refused to affirm the aberrant idea or behavior were considered intolerant. I responded, that I preferred the word “toleration”, for to affirm every aberration may violate certain values which I held. He was clearly uncomfortable with the fact that I even had values, at least any values that would not allow me to affirm the aberrant views of others.
I continue to prefer toleration to affirmation. I can put up with things with which I disagree, yet still wish to maintain my own values. However, when forced to affirm what violates my values, I lose my freedom to hold those values. Surely the value of freedom trumps toleration or even affirmation. I will allow others the freedom to be aberrant, but they must allow me the freedom to disagree. How ironic it would be for us to impose tyranny in the name of toleration.
Friday, 27 August 2010 08:53 by Admin
Freedom of religion settles it as far as building the Ground Zero mosque is concerned, says Susan Barnes-Gelt in the August round of Head On TV debates; so ignore the “dittohead” opposition and build it. Absolutely not, says John Andrews. “To erect a Muslim shrine on a Muslim killing field is just wrong.” John on the right, Susan on the left, tape five mini-debates each month for Head On which has been a daily feature on Colorado Public Television since 1997. Here is the script for their mosque debate:
Susan: This country is defined by commitment to freedom of religion. Siting of a Muslim community center two full blocks and around the corner from the 9/ll site in Lower Manhattan is a tempest in a teapot brewed by dittoheads. You can’t even see Ground Zero from the proposed Cordoba House.
John: The Ground Zero Mosque should not be built. Muslim holy warriors attacked on 9/11 in hope of destroying America. Muslim peacemakers, if they care about America, will join the vast majority of us who oppose this jihadist victory shrine on New York’s hallowed ground. This isn’t religious, it’s a political provocation.
Susan: John, you are too smart and too reasoned to mau-mau the dittoheads on this tough and emotional issue. There are no ‘but fors’ in the de facto motto of these United States is‘e pluribus unum’ - out of many, one. That means my people, your people and their people.
John: The Ground Zero mosque should not be built. Most New Yorkers and most Americans overwhelmingly agree. No one who understands America or loves America would set out to erect a Muslim shrine on a Muslim killing field. The sponsorship isn't identical, but the symbolism is just wrong. Put the mosque somewhere else.
('76 Contributor) We have been repeatedly and forcefully instructed to believe that, when the Left expounds the Muslims' right to build a mosque near Ground Zero, it's only about religious freedom. Those who want to build that mosque really don't seek to offend Americans nor to hurt the families of the thousands whom their Muslim brethren murdered there only nine years ago. It's only about religious freedom, see.
Okay, then I have a suggestion. To demonstrate their dedication to religious freedom, perhaps those mosque-builders could instead erect a non-denominational shrine where worshippers of all religions could celebrate their faith Muslims, Jews, Christians, Unitarian/Universalists, Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Taoists, Animists, Nihilists (do Nihilists celebrate?), everyone.
How about it, guys? What could more wholeheartedly reflect your fervor for religious freedom? Show us.