Friday, February 27, 2015


Tolerance is the appreciation of diversity and the ability to exercise a fair and objective attitude towards those whose opinions, practices, religion, culture differ from one's own. Genuine tolerance is respect for the dignity of others. It focuses more on our common humanity than on our differences.

There are many good, moral reasons to be tolerant. (1) We are all susceptible to ignorance and prejudice, which make us inclined toward hurtful behavior.  Where ignorance and prejudice cannot be corrected or eliminated, we ought to try at least to minimize their severity. Working on our own tolerance training is an effort to achieve for our selves the least-worst problem.

There are many situations where tolerance needs to be exercised: parents tolerate their children’s behavior; friends tolerate others’ weaknesses; governments tolerate dissent; a religion tolerates homosexuality; a state tolerates a minority religion; a society tolerates abnormal behavior.

One can only address tolerance when it is practiced voluntarily and not compelled; otherwise it would be a case of simply suffering or enduring things that one rejects but against which one is powerless.

Roots of Intolerance

In the absence of their own experiences, individuals base their impressions and opinions of one another on assumptions. These assumptions can be influenced by the beliefs of those who are most influential in their lives, including parents or other family members, colleagues, educators, and/or role models. (2)

Individual attitudes are influenced by the images of other groups in the media. Sometimes school curriculums and educational literature provide biased and/or negative historical accounts of world cultures. Education or schooling based on myths can reduce tolerance for diversity and differences.

Religious Tolerance

Most people have difficulty being tolerant to those that follow a different religious or spiritual path than their own. They continue to focus so much on differences that they lose sight of where values are the same.

Three-quarters of the world's human population of seven billion live under government curbs on religion, or among serious "social hostilities" involving faith issues. A 2012 Pew report shows the stark picture of a "rising tide" of intolerance and government restrictions on religious matters. It cites evidence of "crimes, malicious acts and violence motivated by religious hatred or bias, as well as increased government interference with worship or other religious practices". (3)

Despite the high ideals of its constitution, America has struggled with religious intolerance since its early colonial days. The story of religious intolerance in America’s past is awkward and embarrassing and occasionally bloody. (4)

Racial Tolerance

In different parts of the world, ethnic or racial intolerance varies – from offensive or thoughtless remarks, to efforts to exterminate specific ethnic or racial groups as national policy. 

The world’s religions have rarely been helpful in opposing ethnic intolerance. While it is true that some individuals have heroically opposed oppression, religion as a whole has all too frequently sided with the oppressors. (5)

America as a nation applauds its ability to move beyond race or ethnicity. But in a 2012 survey, 51% of Americans expressed explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48% in a similar 2008 survey. When measured by an implicit racial attitudes test, the number of Americans with anti-black sentiments jumped to 56%, up from 49%. (6)

For politicians, it is political suicide to openly profess racial bias. After election of the first American president who is half-black, and record levels of voting by people of color, reactionary politicians are erecting more barriers to voter registration. Today for millions of poor, black Americans voting freedoms of are unduly burdened or denied. (7)

That is the dilemma of racial tolerance today. We have hints, suggestions, and indications of racial bias all around us. But it is typically unspoken, if not altogether invisible, most of the time. And where it's not invisible, there is often a plausible cover story that can be told as to why racially differential treatment was somehow justifiable or legitimate. (8)

All of this makes waging the fight against racial intolerance much tougher. It is now quiet, or rationalized and thereby hidden in plain view.

Cultural Tolerance

Culture is defined by a set of practices followed by a group of people. Not all culture is definitive. Culture can be extremely generalized, and the lines between cultures quite gray. Every country may have its own culture, and then every part of that country may have its own culture. Every city may have its own culture, and then every neighborhood within that city. Some cultures can have members scattered around a country or even the world. (9)
The general thought is that we live in a time of “global monoculture”. It would seem that in such a world, coercion is absent, many languages are tolerated and multiculturalism is officially extolled. But, the power of dominant global cultures is such that they tend to overwhelm all local cultures, or reduce them to a status of inferiority.

Today, there is increasing awareness of cultural diversity, which threatens established cultures. The resulting rising number of terrorist groups and extremists increase the intolerance of the cultural diversity. Today we are seeing the effect of globalization and the Internet on long-simmering cultural and religious intolerance, and the conflagrations are growing.

The media should use positive images to promote understanding and cultural sensitivity. The more people are exposed to positive media messages about other cultures, the less they are likely to find faults with one another.

Educators are instrumental in promoting tolerance and peaceful coexistence. For instance, schools that create a tolerant environment help young people respect and understand different cultures.

Solutions for Intolerance

Individuals should continually focus on being tolerant of others in their daily lives. This involves consciously challenging the stereotypes and assumptions that they typically encounter in making decisions about others and/or working with others either in a social or a professional environment. (10)

The media should use positive images to promote understanding and cultural sensitivity. The more people are exposed to positive media messages about other cultures, the less they are likely to find faults with one another.

The most effective ways to solve the intolerance problem is education. It begins in childhood. It’s important to teach tolerance at home and in school. If parents are intolerant, then they raise intolerant kids. To help this, the educational system needs to focus on imparting tolerance. It is imperative that new generations learn to be tolerant.

There’s a piece of tolerance inside all of us. It’s important to try to find this little piece. Everyone faces a lot of problems caused by intolerance everyday, even inside the home and workplace is where we need to begin to practice tolerance. We ourselves should work to not make the problem bigger. (11)

Let’s Engage:

For this blog, I’m asking you to engage! Don’t just read passively. Write your views on tolerance directly on the blog! Here are some questions to get you going:

  1. Any discussion on Tolerance is not complete without addressing behaviors and actions that are NOT tolerable. Can anyone be expected to accept direct violence or physical threats without fighting back? Can one simply “turn the other cheek”.
  2. Do you consider the current Middle East conflict a religious war? Or radical extremists?
  3. Do the police shootings in Ferguson, Missouri demonstrate racial bias?
  4. What are the root-causes of ethnic or racial intolerance? How can we ourselves avoid having it, or showing it?
  5. Today, in your own city, state or country, is the problem of tolerance getting better? Or worse?
  6. Has the Internet affected religious or racial tolerance?
  7. Is it reasonable to hope that someday all religions and races will co-exist peacefully? Is that simply a pipedream?

  1. Is Tolerance a Virtue?
  2. Religious intolerance on the rise worldwide:
  3. Our History of Religious Intolerance Must Come to an End:
  4. America's True History of Religious Tolerance:
  5. Guardian: America is still a deeply racist country:
  6. 2012 AP poll: U.S. majority have prejudice against blacks:
  7. 11 Facts About Racial Discrimination:
  8. Cultural Intolerance:
  9. 8 Habits of Intolerant People:
  10. Intolerance in all the world – problem-solution essay:
  11. Excellent essay on Tolerance:
 Jim Pinto
Carlsbad, CA.
27 February 2015


  1. On Religious Tolerance.

    Frankly, tolerance is something we require only for people we disagree with. No tolerance needed between like-minded people. It’s a tall order for anybody with a strong conviction to be ‘tolerant’ in the extreme sense of the word. Tolerance implies a degree of self denial to allow the “other” person to get away with saying or doing things that you (strongly) disagree with. It’s easy to be ‘tolerant’ if you really don’t care about what the other person says or does – you don’t care, hence it’s not worth even blinking an eye. But when the words or acts cut into your own strongly held position, you can either bite your lip and let it pass, allowing the ‘opponent to win’, or you can react against that condition, and earn the title of ‘intolerant twit’.

    Almost by definition, disagreement spawns intolerance. Of course there are degrees to which one can react, and words can be wrapped in honey, however tolerance as often demanded on religious grounds is really a request to give in and accept a religious dogma.

    As an atheist, (and maybe a cowardly one), I often hope that religion is not brought up in a manner that indicates a presumption that my silence would signal acquiescence. If and when it does, my nature (as with many atheists, I suspect) is to respond as silky smooth or coarsely as the situation, in my opinion, demands. It appears to me that the time that atheists would just ‘let it pass’ and quietly let religious people monopolize the conversation unopposed, has passed. Religious people must become used to the new reality that religions are no longer exempt from criticism, and atheists must accept the task of bringing reason to the conversation. That is not intolerance – that is a balanced approach. It’s just that it’s relatively new to religious people, and they cry ‘persecution’ and ‘intolerance’ too soon and too loud.

    So tolerance may be described as a position of reasonableness, and intolerance as a position of unreasonableness. I beg to differ. I posit that misplaced tolerance equals weakness and cowardice, and appropriate intolerance equals intellectual honesty and refusal to yield to unreasonable positions. Of course, that can be taken too far as well...

    Following this view, it's clear that those who cry "intolerance" may need to look in the mirror and contemplate whether perhaps their words or actions may be "intolerable" to a **reasonable** other person. This sword cuts both ways. It's not always incumbent on the listener to be the only one to display "tolerance".

    1. You're making some very GOOD points here: Few people will admit to being intolerant. And like-minded people quickly agree. Yes, it's easy to be tolerant if you "don't really care" and tolerance often implies a lack of "caring".

      How well you have put it: " You can allow the ‘opponent to win’, or you can react against, and earn the title of ‘intolerant twit’.

      You have many good points that deserve to be repeated:

      * Disagreement spawns intolerance.
      * Tolerance as often demanded on religious grounds is really a request to give in and accept a religious dogma.
      * Religious people must accept that religions are not exempt from criticism. Bringing reason to the conversation is not intolerance is a balanced approach.
      * Open discussion of different points of view is relatively new to some religious people, and they cry ‘persecution’ and ‘intolerance’ too soon and too loud.
      * Tolerance may be described as a position of reasonableness, and intolerance as a position of unreasonableness.

      Trying to highlight your key points, I find myself highlighting everything. Thank you for your thoughtful, helpful and insightful comment! Bravo!

  2. In trying to understand my own intolerance I find it difficult to discuss this with other people because, often, they will not tolerate my probing. They will tend to immediately put a 'label' on me if I differ from their view. Whether it is religion, race, government policy or other issues, it is very difficult to have open discussions.

    So, I do my best to tolerate others but shy away from discussion. Also, there is no way I would attempt to offer an opinion on your questions because I would just open myself to attacks for being intolerant. I don't want to be attacked even if I publish anonymously.

    1. Seems very reasonable. Similar behavior here.

    2. Good point - it is often difficult to have open discussions about tolerance. Many people think you are too aggressive of you point out intolerance. So many, like you, simply shy away from discussion. Whatodo?

  3. Just a question - Why are people who belong to a discriminated group (racial, religious, ethnic, belief) so intolerant of others outside their own group?

    1. Dick :

      Good question. I think many religions claim to be the "one, true religion", which means all others are false. Some Catholics still believe that those who are not baptized will be excluded from eternal salvation (go to Hell). Other religions also preach this "exclusivity" that makes them sorry (at best) or intolerant of non-believers.

      The Crusades were a series of several military campaigns against Islam, sanctioned by the Papacy, that took place during the 11th through 13th centuries. Today's Islamic extremists sometimes point that out as justification for their modern day fights against the "Christian West".

  4. Having being raised in a country with legal intolerance, one views the world with different lenses. Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where one race or religious persuasion is legitimately favored over another. (typically for historical reasons). Is this upside down tolerance?

    1. Yes, there are many countries in the world today that openly favor one religion, which means open discrimination for others. The same is true of race or culture - witness the racial wars in Africa, still ongoing. And ethnic tensions are once again running high in Europe. Race is often linked to Religion.

  5. I do agree with your point about tolerance but I also feel that we need to find a way to go beyond just tolerance or acceptance. Our ability to openly debate the issues while maintaining mutual respect will help us refine our views and opinions this in turn will make us all better human beings by being able to adapt best practices from each other without being dogmatic or being polarized. Current version of tolerance seems to ignore those whom you disagree with and to isolate yourself which doesn't help build bridges and foster intelligent understanding.

  6. Dear Jim,
    Some thoughts on the questions you posed:
    1. Perhaps the issue of what is not tolerable is separate from responses to what is perceived by the beholder as not being tolerable. The former will be conditioned by the culture in which the beholder is surrounded, modulated by life experiences. I imagine that responses are of a more visceral nature, with a measure of what an acceptable response is in the prevailing culture.
    2. The Middle Eastern conflict has raged largely unabated for over two millennia. Religion and extremism are only labels.
    3. More likely a function of the local human bias; attributing it to racism elevates the behaviour to a plane it does not deserve.
    4. Intolerance frequently arises from an unarticulated sense of self-preservation. It is much easier to be tolerant when well insulated from competition for scarce resources.
    5. Tolerance in Ireland has increased as the populace has decoupled itself from the hitherto all-embracing Catholic Church. The taboos of the past can now be discarded. It is debatable whether any value system now exists to replace that which is lost. As society loses its moral rudder, the protection of its weaker members is diminished; whilst intolerance is not visible, other, nastier facets emerge in its place.
    6. The internet has provided a forum for unchecked religious and racial intolerance. This can only be exacerbated by instant delivery to mobile devices. Instant gratification is the antithesis of contemplation and measured behaviour.
    7. We must hope that someday all religions and races will co-exist peacefully. The alternative is accepting that humanity is of such a base nature that we cannot aspire to enlightenment.
    Nigel de Haas
    PS Please do a visual check on the blog – formatting characters are displayed at the start of most paragraphs (Viewed in Internet Explorer).

    1. Thanks for your comments on all the questions to engage.

      1. Yes, Tolerance is conditioned by the culture and modified by life experience. When one responds to the question, the answer is always tempered by expectations.
      2. Yes, religious conflict has continued for millennia in the Mid-East. Centuries ago, Christians were the aggressors. Today the Christian West is horrified.
      3. Tolerance is indeed a function of individual bias.
      4. You make an interesting point about intolerance being "sense of preservation" and "competition for scarce resources."
      5. The conflict in N. Ireland appears to have subsided. Your point about the changed value system and other "nastier facets" is good.
      6. Indeed, the Internet provides a forum for unchecked intolerance. The speed does not allow careful, considered behaviors. Anyone can insert anything, without too much thought.
      7. Co-existence is just a HOPE. CS Lewis wrote, "Give us time. Humans are a young species".

      PS: Irregular formatting does not occur on most screens. That's a function of text-encoding used and how its viewed. There's not much I can do about it.

      Jim Pinto

  7. The definition of tolerance is the tough bit. Do ALL religions qualify when it comes to exercising tolerance? Some religions could be perceived as outright evil by most of "civilized society”. I mean, should ALL things become acceptable?
    Just recently I was watching video clips on YouTube telling us all about "death boats" that are frequently trying to reach the Greek isles. These unstable, overloaded little boats are packed with desperate families that are only trying to find a place where they can simply have the right to exist. Tens of thousands have died trying to escape  across the water into a country that allows people to pursue a peaceful existence. Their place of birth has become a living hell, with death constantly hounding them - simply because they will not align themselves with the dominating system of belief that has taken over their lands.

    In many other countries thousands are slaughtered every year by proponents of this same system of belief.

    This particular has a doctrine that works in two stages:

    Stage 1: It is benign, encouraging its adherents to live in peace as exemplary citizens, showing love to their neighbours even though they may secretly detest them. 

    Stage 2: The moment this belief system has a power advantage in a land (majority vote - or sufficient firepower), it switches to stage 2, where no other system of belief is tolerated. 

    There is a growing tendency to stand by and do NOTHING - while civilisation is consumed in the conflagration that is left to spread, largely unhindered.

    Leaving that worrisome thought aside, let's do some logical thinking:

    The fact is that the beliefs held by different religions frequently contradict each other. It is therefore illogical to believe that they have equal validity – unless they are ALL complete nonsense and NONE of them are true?

    Lest the atheists leap up and say “amen to that”, I should point out that atheism/humanism is certainly also a religion – so in this regard ALL humans are “religious” in some manner and there is no escaping this fact. It is something that humans have that other animals don’t.

    Even saying that we should afford dignity to other’s beliefs is a religious statement. Believing that we should all be “tolerant” of other’s religion is fine - until your own beloved daughter gets led off and sacrificed on the altar of some scary cult.

    WISDOM is needed - sometimes too much tact gives the bad guys all they space they needs to lord it over those who are more mild-mannered.

    The concept of “tolerance” wants us to ignore the "herd of elephants in the room”. Tolerance is happy to pretend that there is no such thing as objective and absolute truth that stands in and of itself.

    It is impossible for the logical mind to accommodate the beliefs of others when this brings about severe and unavoidable cognitive dissonance. Tolerance in this context is intellectual dishonesty. It demands pretending everything is just fine when you may have just witnessed the most terrible horror.  

    While there are certainly times when action demands to be taken, different beliefs will have their own ideas about just when and how action should be taken.

    So WHO determines where those lines are? THIS is the problem.

    How can you know for certain whether you are being appropriately wise and tactful – or you are being careless, foolish and negligent, when all boundary lines are pretty much... forbidden? Who has the right to decide? If tolerance is the blanket rule then anything goes and we are POWERLESS against evil.

    Why do we have laws and police? Tossing the law and getting rid of police will certainly not bring about a Utopian society. I know that here, in South Africa, the shops would all be emptied in one afternoon if it weren't for police and private security companies.

    To be continued...


  8. Answers to the questions listed:

    1.       Turn the other cheek? Actually, don’t pursue revenge. This doesn't mean you can’t defend yourself or your loved ones. Revenge begins a tit-for-tat vendetta that can span generations.

    2.       Middle East: Simple: Jewish people want to exist peacefully in their only historical tiny patch of land. It seems that many people don’t want the Jews to exist at all. Why on earth is there a growing hatred for the Jews? You get good and bad in all race groups.

    3.       Police shootings in Missouri racial? Can’t comment. But, I think the ruin of South Africa’s once first-world infrastructure and services has been the result of losing a wealth of skills and experience through nepotism, “reverse” racialism and corruption.

    4.       Racial intolerance is due to a perverted conditioning of people’s minds, usually inculcated during the impressionable period from toddlerhood to adolescence. It is as daft as taking issue with all folk who have blue eyes – or a freckle on their left buttock. Parents need to ACTIVELY encourage their children to see individuals on their individual merit and not to harbour preconceived notions.

    5.       Most of South Africa is black – apartheid is long gone, but it is looking like our leadership will be blaming apartheid for all their own glaring shortcomings for the next 200 years. Affirmative action is now turned against the minority. Discipline is sometimes unfairly dealt out at (previously white-only) schools, with instances where blacks are given more leeway than whites – because the blacks now have friends in high places and the whites are often perceived as more compliant. Parents of some black kids have been known to “lean” on teachers if they don't go easy on their misbehaviour. I grew up in a South Africa where there was firm discipline in schools – and we respected our teachers. School was safe. We listened with wide eyes to the stories of the wild nonsense that went on in "American schools". Now that nonsense is here too! Our (black) government is making noises about relieving our successful commercial farmers of their land (because they are white), chopping this strategic national asset in into little bits and sharing it out among the black to use for subsistence farming. The thinking person sees this as an incredibly destructive move for our food industry. Most white South Africans are fearful that the present government is hell-bent on destroying South Africa in the same manner that Rhodesia became the wreck that is now called Zimbabwe. From a productive exporter to plundered economic ruin. Many hope that the growing number of black middle class South Africans (who don't want the country to fail) will put their weight behind preventing such foolishness from continuing. We can but pray - we are hopelessly outnumbered by a multitude of easily misled people, who have almost nothing to lose.

    6.       Internet affected racial/religious tolerance: Well, the web has been a catalyst. In some cases people flock to sites that fan their passions and they have only become more extreme; in other cases it has allowed a great many people to broaden their views and develop a deeper understanding of humanity. The Internet is a double-edged sword, allowing the very best as well as the very worst to hone its mettle. It has raised the capability and usefulness of anybody who can “Google” with some measure of discernment. For the gullible and weak minded it a dangerous place to go. I believe that averaged out, the Internet has made an overwhelmingly positive contribution to humanity.

    7. Is it REASONABLE to hope for peaceful co-existence of all religions? Only after an intellectual frontal lobotomy - in other words a logical impossibility. The best that it can ever be is cease-fire scenario as religions clearly contradict one another.

    More coming...


  9. Jim Pinto note:
    John's comments are well-considered and I'm happy to publish them on this blog. Because of blog-comments length limitations, they are published in 3 parts.



    Clearly we simply CANNOT be tolerant of ALL beliefs – because the wolves would quickly devour all the sheep. (Some religions are far less “gentle” than others.)

    So what exactly do we tolerate? Do we take a vote? (Picture wolves and sheep voting on eating arrangements - picture the intimidation, picture the "death boats")

    As an advocate of tolerance, as soon as you start being even slightly selective, you undermine your own rights to pursue your own beliefs. A breakdown of logic is the result. Logically there can only be one truthful and correct world view – the one that has really, actually unfolded, despite what many may BELIEVE happened.

    As soon as you align yourself with what you are convinced is true, you become somebody’s target – so there is absolutely nothing you can do to get all beliefs to live in REAL peace. The best you will ever have is an awkward cease-fire, which is bound to break down at some stage.

    Tolerance is a bit like blocking the overflow on the toilet cistern instead of changing the washer in the float valve. It’s all very sweet and fluffy and full of rainbows, but it ignores real the problem - change the washer!

    Sadly, the problem of religious intolerance will remain until the end of life on our planet. Racial intolerance will probably come and go, but will always exist somewhere.

    Humanists say that you should not execute murderers - but it is acceptable to "terminate" healthy pregnancies for social and economic convenience. Biblical Christians believe that babies are a blessing from the Lord and are to be loved and protected as such, but that murderers should be executed. Both groups see each other as "murderous" in nature - how is this supposed to be "tolerated”? How on earth do your "tolerate" a murderer? Only through intellectual and logical frontal lobotomy!

    I think the world is heading towards some far less "graceful" times...


  10. Is it acceptable to be intolerant with intolerance? e.g. how does one
    deal with religious extremism that is determined to eradicate all other
    beliefs or non-beliefs? Is violent/non-violent eradication of this
    intolerance acceptable? With military action? With opposing religious

    Personally, I find all forms of religious intolerance odious (at best).

    But I also have to ask, "How would Gandhi or Mandela have dealt with
    religious extremists?"

    1. Clearly you are somewhat concerned about how tolerance affects
      militant extremism.

      Yes, it MUST be acceptable to be intolerant with intolerant extremism.
      Today, religious extremism is causing BIG turmoil in the Mid-East,
      and its threats to world peace are expanding ominously. It seems
      to me that no one can be tolerant about this type of extremism.

      Your question, "How would Gandhi or Mandela have dealt with
      religious extremists?”

      Gandhi famously could NOT deal with it. He was killed by a Hindu extremist - (his own religion). I’m sure Mandela would have been equally incapable of dealing with extremism of this kind. Pacifism is incapable of dealing with militant extremism.

  11. David Brahms - B. Gen. USMC (ret)March 31, 2015 at 3:24 PM

    All of the content found in this blog posits that intolerance is learned behavior amenable to change, if only we try hard enough.

    What if that premise is wrongheaded, viz. that intolerance is an autonomic process? Merely our amygdalas reacting to perceived danger grounded in difference - a flight-or-fight reaction to such. What do you do with that nugget?

    Lest you think I am merely being a wag, note the references that follow:

    There are scores of articles that suggest intolerance is a natural reaction to difference. Thus, evolution, surgery, operant conditioning or aversive conditioning are the only possible vehicles of change. The latter three require informed consent - a highly unlikely occurrence, the former generations. Posters that say: "Be nice!” can’t work.

    Given the foregoing, is intolerance simply a current reality of human existence, a condition not amenable to change?