Tolerance vs Acceptance

Religious tolerance. What does this mean? Does it mean that we tolerate other religions while practicing our own? Does it mean that we acknowledge to some degree that other religions have some truth? If so, does that detract from our own belief? Is there a way to do both? Is there a way to tolerate other religions by acknowledging that there is truth to all religious practices without taking away from our own? And what exactly do we mean by taking away from our own? Could that be a negative thing? Like pieces of a pie is truth dolled out to each religion? If you give a percentage of truth to one then you take that much away from the rest? Or can they all have an entire pie of their own? Perhaps the only thing we take away from our own belief system is the dogma. The dogged fight for the entire pie of truth that causes casualties . . . people pushing away from the table wanting no piece at all.

So what then is religious tolerance? When I think of the word tolerate a feeling of annoyed cooperation comes to mind. A sort of arrogance where you think, “well if I must”, and grit your teeth while deciding not to condemn the other to death for not believing in your God. But that is just me. Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines the word tolerance in a few ways including, “sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with ones own”, and “ the allowable deviation from a standard”. Some synonyms of the word indulgence include extravagance, immoderation, and permission to name a few. Is it really so extravagant to merely allow permission for others to practice their own religion? Religious tolerance is easy. After all it only requires you to mind your own business while the next guy minds his. So what is the big deal? What are we really striving for from our neighbor?

Lets look at another word; acceptance. The word “accept” is defined as, “to receive willingly”, “to regard as proper, normal, or inevitable”. Would you rather be tolerated or accepted? I would rather be accepted. So lets change the term we are talking about. Lets talk, religious acceptance. How do we strive for that? How do we get to the point where multiple different religious practices are regarded as proper, normal, and inevitable? At this point I am sure we all know it is inevitable. But have we arrived at proper and normal yet? Do we receive willingly the doctrines of those of different religious and spiritual upbringing? When you were a child could you picture your father allowing a Muslim to come to the dinner table, quote the Koran, bless the food, and commune with this man or woman? How about at a prayer to Allah at baseball game? Anyone? Me either. Once I picked up a Jehovah’s Witness pamphlet and I got a stern talking to. Now my family was very tolerant, but regarding the beliefs of others as proper and normal, not so much. . . . . . TBC


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