It seems the very definition of religion would deny tolerance. What are some words that are synonymous with religion? Superstition? Superhuman? Faith? Grace? Devotion? Ritual? Or phrases: Fundamental set of beliefs? A Particular set of beliefs? Ritual observance of faith? Strict faithfulness? Deep conviction? Which of these words or phrases represent tolerance? None!
The inherent virtue of religion is the inherent virtue of intolerance. Every religion draws the line in the sand somewhere. Some religions may be more tolerant than others – but all are essentially intolerant. If not – what is the basis of the religion?
Religion and government alike have boundaries. No society based on anarchy has long existed. We call the United States a ‘free society.’ Is that so? Yes, with qualifications. We define freedom in the context of the individual – and protect the rights of the individual – thus requiring restrictions on others. Your rights end where mine begin. And each religion has similar rights – limited only by the intrusion on other religions. Fundamentally – this is the only justified intolerance.
Some Muslim in New York had a bright idea – let’s build a mosque within spitting distance of the 911 attack on New York. “Whoa now,” some Christians shouted, “you are infringing on my right to spit in your direction. If you build within spitting distance then expect to be spit on.” But the Muslim replied, “We can spit too!”
And so we have the classical spitting contest between religions. By taking no position the governments of New York City and the Federal Government are accused by the Chief Spitters of defending the Muslims. The government is concerned with building safety codes – not spitting contests. If the design of the tall building demonstrates the capacity to withstand the impact of a fully loaded 747 then the permit to build is issued.
Some of the anti-Mosque folks claim the virtue of patriotism – but patriotism itself has become a religious ritual. Patriots across America have divided into separate denominations – each claiming the rightful heritage of the Declaration of Independence. There are Patriots For Jesus, The Patriot Guard, Military Patriots, the ACLU, the NRA, and NPR. By framing their intolerance in the context of the one true United States Constitution they justify their bitter outlook on humanity.
One was overheard at a Manhattan Protest Rally, “We have to work on these problems else they might go away. Then what would we do?”