Why “Tolerance”? Isn’t that an outdated term? Is tolerance enough?
Occasionally, people ask us why we prefer to use the term tolerance in our title, while some have decried it as antiquated or simply insufficient to convey what the interfaith movement is trying to accomplish. Some have suggested that the term tolerance conveys a connotation of muted exasperation, with associated eye-rolling, as if one “merely” tolerated the presence of a pesky neighbor. Why, then, do we not focus on going beyond mere toleration, and prefer more positive and proactive terms for our endeavors? These are indeed valid questions. Our answer is multifold.
Some missionizing religions do not want to collaborate or to accede to the possibility that their faith is not the absolute truth, or to concede to the possibility of multiple valid paths. We do not have the right to convince them otherwise, but we still feel the need to work with them. Simultaneously, some groups are downright hostile to other faiths, and in light of this, until we have accomplished universal toleration, there is no possibility of going beyond that and establishing more profound and collaborative relationships. And rather than trying to spend time and energy to find a more suitable term that everyone can agree upon, we choose to focus on the task at hand, finding common ground rather than arguing over nomenclature. For while those who occupy their time with such arguments have every right to do so, there are extremists and bigots laughing at us for our preoccupation over these things that divide us. We would rather present them with a model for positive human interaction and just get to work. When universal tolerance has been established, we can revisit the issue of a more appropriate term moving forward.