m a r k a n d e y a

Tolerate Intolerance?

Posted by Brian on March 22, 2007

After reading Chris Hedges’ American Fascists and Michelle Goldberg’s Kingdom Coming, two books about the militant Christian Right and its efforts to expand its political reach, I find myself genuinely frightened by these people. They really are out to take over this country, and would no doubt gleefully take over the entire world if they could somehow get their hands on a super-powered pagan-busting bomb. They really are the American Taliban.

Hedges raises the interesting philosophical point, via a quote from Karl Popper, of whether or not there should be any limits to what is actually tolerated in a society that prides itself as “tolerant”:

Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them… We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.

As a proud liberal, I consider tolerance to be a first-order virtue, but should my commitment to tolerance be unlimited and unconditional? Will I “tolerate” myself right into being a persecuted minority in some near-future dystopia run by Christian fascists? It’s a tough question.

Hedges gives the following bit of advice for dealing with these people:

“Debate with the radical Christian right is useless. We cannot reach this movement. It does not want a dialogue. It is a movement based on emotion and cares nothing for rational thought and discussion. It is not mollified because John Kerry prays or Jimmy Carter teaches Sunday school. Naive attempts to reach out to the movement, to assure them that we, too, are Christian, or we, too, care about moral values, are doomed. This movement is bent on our destruction. The attempts by many liberals to make peace would be humerous of the stakes were not so deadly. These dominionists hate the liberal, enlightened world formed by the Constitution, a world they blame for the debacle of their lives. They have one goal – it’s destruction.”

Especially scary is that these people vote, and that the Republican candidates actually bend over backwards to appeal to these types.


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