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Saturday, April 13, 2013

The evil of tolerance

I watched a video by Penn Jillette about how tolerance is condescending. While I agree with his broader point that this should be a marketplace of ideas where flawed ideas are shouted down, he missed a different aspect, a different face of tolerance. Tolerance, boiled down to its most basic form, says "I may not like you that much, and I may find you and your life morally repugnant, but I still give you permission to exist." Imagine going to your child and saying, "I tolerate you, son/daughter." If he or she is old enough to understand, the child would be right to run out after bursting into tears. I don't like tolerance. I have no use for it, and no patience with it. I find it repugnant and anathema to any definition of decency. Instead, I prefer acceptance. Let's go back to that earlier example. Imagine going to your child and saying, "I accept you and love you just the way you are, son/daughter." There may be tears involved, but those will be of joy, of relief, of happiness.

I'm now in my mid 30s, and I still haven't come out of the closet as an atheist. I hope when that time comes, I will be met with acceptance instead of hearing my mother blame herself or ask me why I'm not a better man, simply because I no longer believe in some invisible being. It is a fear I've lived with every day for years. I want her to accept me and love me even though I no longer share her beliefs, beliefs I grew up with. Still, I'm thankful for this experience because it has taught me, in some very small measure, what it must be like to be a member of the QUILTBAG community: hiding who you are, fearing being ostracized, keeping inside your heart or on an anonymous keyboard exactly how you think and what you feel. It has made me a better, more compassionate person. It has also made me determined to spot bigotry and confront it when I see it. I have no tolerance for bigots of any flavor, because I refuse to negotiate with or accept evil. As we all know, evil is not just a religious term; rather, it is a moral one.

So yes, tolerance is evil. It is condescending, and it is wrong. Instead, accept people for being who they are and be decidedly intolerant of bigotry, hate, and those banal forms of human evil.