Tolerism: What it is and the dangers it presents

What is tolerance?

I looked it up: “A fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race  religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry; sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own; the capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.”

I never liked the word tolerant. It has about it an aura of begrudging acceptance rather than inclusion or accommodation or adaptation. Now tolerance has taken on higher powers. It is now the only correct response to all beliefs, rituals, customs and behaviours from around the world. We have accepted cultural relativism: no one culture is better than another; perhaps from collective white guilt over colonization that took place hundreds of years ago.

Like anything else taken to an extreme, tolerance has taken on some traits of fundamentalism. Ideologies that become sacred in and of themselves are dangerous for liberal democracies.

September 10, 2006 the former President of Iran, Muhammad Khatami, a man who tortured dissidents and denied freedom to his people, gave a lecture at Harvard titled “Ethics of Tolerance in the Age of Violence.”  He called the West “the greatest victim of over-reliance on reason.”

This is the absurdity of Tolerism as discussed by Howard Rotberg in his book Tolerism: The Ideology Revealed.

Rotberg, a lawyer by vocation, a practitioner of tikun olam by avocation, the child of holocaust survivors, has dedicated his writings to the defense of Western culture and its foundation of ethical monotheism, what Thomas Cahill referred to as The Gift of the Jews, and Winston Churchill called

“a system of ethics which, even if it were entirely separated from the supernatural, would be incomparably the most precious possession of mankind, worth in fact the fruits of all other wisdom and learning put together on that system and by that faith There has been built out of the wreck of the Roman Empire the whole of our existing civilization.”

Rotberg is defending this ideal from Tolerism and its path into the moral abyss.

Rotberg takes us on an Alice in Wonderland ride through the hypocrisy of what he calls “the scourge of Western civilization/culture;” tolerance-tolerance of behaviours that are anathema to liberal democracies.  How else could a prestigious university like Harvard ever consider inviting a leader from Iran to speak about ethics, tolerance and violence to America? After 9/11? On the evening before the 5th anniversary of that act of Islamic terrorism in America?

He takes you by the hand down the rabbit hole and step by step explains how we allowed the left wing ideologues to resurrect a new kind of anti-semitism, while undermining and demonizing Israel and democracies around the world, by elevating moral and cultural relativism.

He attacks feminism for its lack of backbone, its shunning of those like Phyllis Chesler who choose to peel back the veil on the abuse of Muslim women by Islamism. Ms. Chesler, a Jewish woman, fell in love and ended up in Afghanistan but escaped to tell the story. Unfortunately, her story about the abuse of Muslim women wasn’t championed by the feminists. They weren’t interested. They remain silent, today. I have yet to hear a justification for their ignorantia affectata regarding the lack of human rights, let alone civil rights, of Muslim women.

We are taken on the  journey of the development  and repercussions of Islamophobia and its companion, the censorship of free speech, by the politically correct. They have no problem with Zionophobia, a word coined by McGill University professor Gil Troy which:

“singles out the Jews, holding Israel to an artificially higher standard, while ignoring Israel’s unique blend of liberal democratic and Jewish values…This double standard marks Zionophobia as a strain of a broader disease, the modern tendency to judge all western nations harshly…while absolving Third World nations of  wrongdoing…”

Deborah Lipstadt in her book Beyond Belief wrote about the many ways anti-Semitism was delivered through the culture in Europe prior to WWII: movies, books, music, the media, symbols used to incite hatred of Jews, but it never occurred to me that this was happening here, in the West. It’s all around us. And this is where, in my opinion, Rotberg shines.

Rotberg opens your eyes to the many layers of anti-semitism delivered through the abuse of language and symbols in movies and books that encourage Jew hatred and negative views of Israel, to the ever-so-gentle-so well-intentioned seconding of the lesson of evil of the Holocaust. And he leaves no stone unturned in his evisceration of the President of the United States and his advisors and their role in increasing the temperature of Jew hatred including the bestowing of The Medal of Freedom on Mary Robinson who chaired the Durban Conference which became a place of active Jew hatred.

We have become infected with the ideology of tolerance to the point that we are tolerating those who wish to destroy us, in the name of tolerance.  Robert Spencer, a man Rotberg considers one of the best students of Radical Islam wrote: “The strangest effect of 9/11 has been on balance, an accelerated campaign of accommodation  of Islam’s law in the West.” Tolerism?

When you finish reading this well researched and surprisingly easy to read book, you will know the answer to the question Howard Rotberg poses at the very beginning:

“How did we get into the mess that so many people think that Tolerance is a more important value than Justice?”


About the Author
Diane Weber Bederman is a multi-faith, hospital trained chaplain who lives in Ontario, Canada, just outside Toronto; She has a background in science and the humanities and writes about religion in the public square and mental illness on her blog: The Middle Ground:The Agora of the 21st Century. She is a regular contributor to Convivium: Faith in our Community. "