Tuesday, November 12, 2013

On the supposed intolerance of liberals.

I don't consider myself a liberal. There are things I am liberal about and there are things I am conservative about; indeed the Left irritates me as much as the Right.

But we've all heard it. The 'tyranny of liberalism', 'biggoted liberal', 'iutolerant liberal' and, my favourite, the 'tyranny of  liberal relativism' (only a roman catholic could consider the inability to enforce their values onto others a tyranny). But is there a central contradiction within liberalism? If it is virtuous to tolerate alternative lifestyles and individual autonomy free from bonds of cultural conformity, are liberals not forced to tolerate everything equally to remain consistent with their believes?

I think it's silly to suggest tolerance must entail political quietism or a suspension of judgement over all political and cultural issues. Most reasonably intelligent humans are capable of dealing with different levels of abstraction. We can simultaneously promote and protect certain political values such as free speech and pluralism while fighting cultural wars against the spread of religious ideas derived from iron age tribesmen obsessed with controlling their genetic breeding. There is no contradiction in protecting the negative freedom of religious citizens to practice their faith while attempting to prevent the spread of religious faith through cultural points of contact like the media and Internet. Nor there is a contradiction between protecting free speech while refusing to allow religious organizations to control the language and means of debate within the public square.

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