Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Carson, 2012. Chapter 4, “Worse than Inconsistency”

Chapter 4, “Worse than Inconsistency” (Loc. 880)

Carson observes that having multiple definitions of “tolerance” can be a problem. “We flip back and forth between the two uses of tolerance and fail to perceive that we have done so. What is worse, these two meanings are not absolutely disjunctive: there is a nasty area of overlap that magnificently muddies the discussion” (Loc. 883). He goes on to describe the progressive accusation of intolerance against the religious right. The accusations are almost invariably applicable to both the old and new definitions of intolerance.

In this chapter, Carson’s goal is “to document that the new tolerance, while making its claims to be free from any ethical, moral, or religious system of thought, is in fact hugely inconsistent” (Loc. 905). The truth, Carson would say, is that the new tolerance insists others who disagree should embrace certain ideas. When that fails, the others are branded as intolerant. Carson illustrates this principle with examples from Stanley Fialis’ 1999 book, The Trouble with Principle. There is, again and again, a selectivity in tolerance and inclusion which deliberately excludes some, refusing toleration.

What is the root of this activity? Carson views it as a secularism which is assumed to be neutral. Yet Carson adduces many examples of the supposedly neutral secularism being intolerant of persons with religious convictions. There is, then, an underlying agenda which is not neutral, but has a distinct slant. This is not tolerance.

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