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Back to Paper Details

God bless tolerance?

Ruth Hadley
University of Manchester
Ruth Hadley
University of Manchester
Open Panel

Abstract

Conventional histories of tolerance begin with the end of the European Wars of Religion and the institutionalization of a political policy of toleration. If religion, or religious diversity, was the raison d’etre for tolerance, however, it has also been its severest critic. It is only in the last century that religious institutions have ‘gone to bed’ with the secular discourse of tolerance and the tolerance/intolerance dichotomy it presupposes. In response to the Swiss decision to ban the building of minarets pertaining to mosques, the expulsion of a large proportion of Roma people from France and the more recent terrorist bombing in Sweden....religious institutions have responded in critique with calls for a general policy of tolerance. The appropriation of a tolerance discourse is geared towards re-enabling religion access to the public political sphere it has previously been denied according to traditional liberal theory. Tolerance, however, remains a controversial practice. The criticisms levelled against it are generally sourced from similar areas - communitarian, feminist, multiculturalist... - in which case tolerance is typically viewed as either entailing too much or too little. Increasingly, however, dissenting voices from within the religious traditions currently espousing the virtue of tolerance have joined the critique. The paper will focus in particular on their concerns and desire to make a move ‘beyond tolerance’. Rather than rely on religion to appropriate an alien discourse of tolerance, it argues, the means to deal with religious diversity ought to be sought from within the religious traditions themselves.