Religious Tolerance in a Comparative Perspective
This last chapter analyses the complex concept of tolerance and aims to do several things. It shows that the concept rests on certain assumptions and does not apply to societies where these are not met. In some societies, for example, every constituent community is believed to have a right to lead its own way of life and others do not pass judgement on it. People live the way they do, and the question of tolerating or not tolerating them does not arise. Furthermore, much of the Western discussion of tolerance largely occurs at first within the Christian and later within the secular Enlightenment traditions, and develops its own distinct theoretical framework, set of questions and vocabulary. Non-western traditions approach the question differently. Comparing these traditions helps us to appreciate their specificity, their strengths and limitations. Much of the traditional Western discussion tends to take too judgemental a view of others’ beliefs and practices, ignores the damage intolerance does to its perpetrators, and gives the tolerating person an unjustified moral superiority. In these and other respects it can benefit from a critical dialogue with other traditions.