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From elsewhere, is tolerance making us more uncivil?

January 11, 2013

Interesting and thought provoking piece from the Commentator Blog.  Simon Miller on the intolerance of certain types of tolerance.

“It is a curious thing to watch this government as it wends its way into the second half of its doomed relationship – both with itself and with the people. Some of what it is doing is undoubtedly good – such as Michael Gove and Ian Duncan-Smith’s reforms. But in other areas you just have to shake your head.

So wedded is David Cameron to the idea of gay marriage that he is willing to push even more people into the welcoming arms of Ukip. But it makes no sense. Why is Dave doing this? Why remove the bedrock of his party? He is not going to win over those on the left, so why bother?

Some have said that this is his “Clause IV” moment where he takes on the backwoodsmen and women in his party; but that is a flawed proposition. There is no electoral gain to be had by his actions; indeed it could harm him even further. Really, then, it is nothing like Blair presenting Labour back to the political centre.

I don’t really care about gay marriage one way or another. If a couple want to marry in a civil arrangement that is up to them, whatever their sexual orientation. But Cameron’s pursuit has thrown religiosity and a strange corruption of tolerance into sharp relief.

Essentially, religion in this country has been quiet. Despite its constitutional set-up, Britain had treated religion as something that consenting people got up to in private. A system that has seen church bells become a soundtrack for a Sunday morning rather than an order to pray.

I think the reason for this is essentially a cultural memory of the upheavals of the Tudors, both Catholic and Protestant, and it is also why Elizabeth I was considered a great monarch because, in essence, she
believed that as long as there was no danger to the State, then it wasn’t the State’s role in dictating religious beliefs.

But this has changed. The demands of toleration have seen evangelism, be it religious or atheistic, reach a cacophony, with ‘leaders’ demanding equivalency – usually at the expense of others. Tolerance has led to those who shout loudest being heard the most, even though I suspect they represent the least. And it has demanded that we accept women being dressed head-to-foot in burqas in the name of religious belief but not that someone could wear a cross around their neck in the workplace.

‘They’ say a cross is not fundamental to Christian belief, and ‘they’ are right; it is not a requirement, it is a cultural issue. But guess what? So are hijabs or burqas. Islam requires only that men and women dress moderately. Everything else is an interpretation based on cultural practices.

Just as positive discrimination is discriminatory against another person, tolerance has led to intolerance of others…….”

Read the full piece at:

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