Tolerance thrives on the wings of an open mind. It chokes on rigidity. Tolerance has wiggle room for different perspectives and answers. Tolerance is a direct and proximate result of the just and merciful nature of a supreme being.
To the fundamentalist Christian (Biblical literalist), the non-literalist Christian is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He believes it impossible for science and theology to peacefully coexist within the same being. He believes that God cannot be the catalyst for the creation of all if creation has and continues to naturally evolve.
To the fundamentalist, the literal interpretation of the word is finality, and there is no room for the premise that we are charged with using our brains to ferret out a message. (not interpret, but discern).
To adherents of Islam, anyone who does not accept the literal arabic translation of the Qu’ran is a heretic. I regularly espouse that the Qu’ran is basically a message which relies heavily on Judeo-Christian theology with a twist, but is primarily a document of peace. Unfortunately, it is often taught by non-peaceloving men. (I believe the exact accusation hurled at me when trying to point that out is that I am a prostitute in my hut in America).
To the Jew there would be many quite the tolerant and acceptable adherents (that is, if they didn’t believe that Jesus Christ was God manifest on earth, who died for their sins and was resurrected), but they still are less judgmental than the fundamentalist Christian, or the committed Muslim.
To adherents of eastern religions, the vision of the monotheist is too narrow. They are, however, generally non-accusatory when they find tolerance in other belief systems.
To the agnostic and atheist, theists are deluded (although some are more accepting if they find an open mind.) To the non-believer, the failing of the theist is that he chooses to allow faith to supercede empirical data.
To all of the above, at one time or another, I have proposed that “religion” is a creation of man, and that the universe and eternity are the province of God. I believe that different roads can converge at the same destination.
Tolerance is tricky business. One can be tolerant of a belief system without being tolerant of singular behaviors within that system. One can be tolerant of cultures and ethnicities without being tolerant of that which society (and common sense) has deemed oppressive. Tolerance makes room for change.
Tolerance is also the direct and proximate catalyst for improvement. Western arrogance nothwithstanding, it, like the constitution of the United States, is a living, breathing entity. Like lungs, it autonomically (or with help) can expand and contract. But even when it is depressed, it continues to be a lifeforce.
So…the question is: Does tolerance free us to thrive together in our respective belief systems, or does it doom us to strangulation because we make room for others, and therefore have none?