TOLERANCE – power OR WEAKNESS?

It is generally recognized that humanity lacks tolerance, or, more simply, a mutually respectful, benevolent and tolerant attitude of people towards each other. There are many troubles going on because of this deficit. It would seem so simple – live and let others live, have your own way of life, believe, express your worldview privately and publicly, recognize the right of others to the same, and everything will be fine. But for some reason it does not work. Obviously, the problem of tolerance and intolerance affects some deep level of the subconscious, and no rational arguments of reason often work.

There is a “golden rule of morality” known from ancient times: “do not do to others what you would not like to be done to you.” If you think over all the consequences of the practical implementation of this rule, then it is easy to see that it is to a large extent the basis of all modern legislation, which, of course, covers not only interpersonal relations. This rule also implies the need for a tolerant attitude towards other people, towards the diversity of cultures, religions, nationalities. “If you don’t want to be brainwashed, then don’t do it in relation to others”, “if you don’t want to be gagged, don’t gag it by others,” “if you don’t want to be persecuted for your faith, don’t drive others away ” etc.

The matter becomes much more complicated when we move from interpersonal relationships to the relationships between the impersonal structures of religious, social, political and economic organizations, as well as to their relationship to the human person. In this case, it is very easy for a person to sacrifice any group, political, etc. expediency. In modern society, there is a constant struggle between the expediency so understood and the dignity of the individual human person. By its nature, the state always tends to manipulate society, people, i.e. to totalitarianism, to seeing people as cogs of a great Leviathan. Civil society, human rights organizations especially methodically oppose this tendency, defend the right of an individual not to be just a cell of a large whole, defend the rights of an individual.

Figuratively speaking, tolerance is a fragile flower in the political culture of modern society. The Western concept of tolerance is the result of a long development of socio-political thought and its difficult assimilation by public consciousness. Tolerance is possible only in a society where, as a result of social and political development, glaring forms of injustice and poverty no longer exist. But the opposite is also true: without tolerance, recognized as a value in public consciousness, it is difficult to build a civilized society. You can always find many reasons for “tightening the screws”, restricting any freedoms in the name of “putting things in order.”

What is tolerance? According to the definition given in the “Declaration of Principles of Tolerance” (signed on November 16, 1995 in Paris by 185 member states of UNESCO, including Russia), tolerance means “respect, acceptance and correct understanding of the rich diversity of cultures of our world, our forms of self-expression and ways of manifesting human individuality. It is promoted by knowledge, openness, communication and freedom of thought, conscience and belief. Tolerance is freedom in diversity. This is not only a moral duty, but also a political and legal need. Tolerance is a virtue that makes it possible to achieve peace and promotes the replacement of a culture of war with a culture of peace. ”

If we turn to the semantics of the term “tolerantia” (lat.), Then there are three overlapping meanings: 1. stability, endurance; 2. tolerance; 3. tolerance, permissible deviation from the norm. Of particular interest is the range of meanings of the translation of the term tolerance (English), found in the English-Russian psychological dictionary: acquired stability; resistance to uncertainty; resistance to conflict; resistance to behavioral deviations.

These definitions imply a tolerant attitude towards other nationalities, races, gender, age, disability, language, religion, political or other opinions, national or social origin, property, etc. But it would be wrong to reduce tolerance only to tolerance, which is of a passive nature. Tolerance is also love for the diversity of this world, manifested in cultures, religions, anthropological types. There is only one limitation here: it is necessary that this diversity does not go beyond the generally recognized norm of humanism. And this presupposes a certain consensus of mankind regarding this norm. Tolerance involves compromise, but not unscrupulousness. I recall the words of Augustine: “in the main thing – unity, in the controversial – freedom, in everything – love.”

The norms of tolerance, although without mentioning this word, are fixed in many constitutions, including the Russian one. Without tolerance, human rights would be impossible, which, first of all, affirm the right of an individual to external and internal dissimilarity: to others, to the majority, to those in power, to the “native collective.” If you think about it, then there is something incredible , but this is precisely what distinguishes man as such from animals. Only man can access the idea of ​​universality, i.e. common human ethics. Let’s think about the reasons for causing intolerance of people towards each other:

  1. Psychobiological basis of intolerance
    Man, as you know, with one of his half is completely material, has, along with the spiritual principle, biological, in many respects he has in common with the animal world. If we take a close look at our “smaller brothers”, we will notice that things are not very good with their tolerance. Simply put, black crows peck at a white crow. A weak nestling is deprived of food by its brethren in the nest, pushed out of the nest, etc. In general, the so-called “natural selection” reigns in nature. complete intolerance and even aggressiveness towards the weak. Somewhat different (even within the same population) or simply the weak in this world does not survive. Of course, the picture in the animal world is somewhat more complicated, there is also some cooperation and symbiosis of different species, and all kinds of parasitic additions, but let us pay attention here nevertheless to the prevailing fierce struggle for existence, which is constantly being waged in nature. see daily on a human level? Violence, robbery, xenophobia, racism, nationalism, discrimination of any minority are not uncommon in our world. There is a deficit of tolerance everywhere.
  2. The mental-rationalistic reason for intolerance
    This is a consequence of the monological, egocentric type of consciousness. At the same time, a person feels self-sufficient, capable of assessing all the phenomena of the surrounding world, possessing, as it were, a monopoly on truth. The “you” in dialogue for this type of consciousness often simply does not exist. The scientific rationalistic type of thinking contributes to this very much. In this case, man puts himself in the place of God. Rationalism, consistently thinking through its foundations, can realize the limitations of its methodology. God’s question to Job can also be addressed to a rationalist: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me if you know ”(Job 38.4). From this, of course, it does not follow that one should fall into the extreme of irrationalism. But one can speak, therefore, about the non-rational aspect of life. This includes conscience, feelings, human dignity, freedom.

In man, along with the material, there is a spiritual side, which, contrary to “natural selection”, instructs him to take care of his weak and sick fellows, and not only about his relatives and compatriots, but about all people. And not from utilitarian motivations, conscious or unconscious. Humanity is more theoretically than practically, but nevertheless overcame the clan pagan social ethics and developed the most important concept of universal social ethics: “justice” – that is, that ideal to which all people should strive. The basic commandments of world religions also call for moral purity and justice. The universal principle of justice, overcoming national, social, economic, educational and other differences of people is the basis of “natural law”, which in the course of historical development sometimes supplants “natural selection” in the human world. The spiritual power of law must replace the biological “law of power.” This no longer fits into any livestock natural expediency, although materialists have made attempts in terms of social Darwinism to explain the universal of justice, its regulatory function, and then to adjust practice to the theory.

Much depends on where the will of a person is directed: to the material or spiritual side of being. The first side encourages selfishness, the second – to altruism. “Caring for bread for oneself is material concern, caring for bread for another is spiritual concern” (N.A. Berdyaev). The main difficulty is to help those who are not like you in faith, in worldview, in social status, in skin color. It is at this point that a person manifests itself as a person, and not as an animal. Here, of course, many questions arise: what is the spiritual principle, what incentives can there be for the conscious self-sacrifice of one person for the sake of another, for the sake of which one should daily “endure” completely different from oneself people, how to turn tortured patience into joy from the diversity of this world?

Trying to answer these questions, we inevitably come to philosophy, religion, anthropology (religious and philosophical doctrine of man). Entering this area, we lose most of the measuring instruments suitable for the material world. There remains only one discrete visible reality – an act that is evaluated within the framework of the traditional binary opposition of good and evil. Eternal questions continue to exist: what is good and evil? What is Truth? Is there an objective criterion for evaluating these concepts, or are they themselves this criterion? Today we should firmly say: universal human values ​​exist, but they are not sufficiently manifested. In these concepts, figuratively speaking, there are two dimensions: vertical and horizontal. The first is related to the absolute, the general. The second is with relative and private. The first dimension is associated with the transcendental principle, with God, whose will is expressed in the scriptures, in the commandments, which are generally identical in all world religions. The second dimension is associated with specific historical and economic circumstances that determine people’s ideas about good and evil, about justice. The first dimension is not obvious, but the second is quite perceptible.

In history, an attempt was made once to abandon the first vertical dimension altogether (associated with God) and concentrate entirely on the second – earthly. The well-known “historical materialism” served as the theoretical basis for this. This experiment was carried out in Russia, how it ended is well known. The cultivation and deification of matter led to the disappearance of matter in the form of goods. This happened not because someone “overlooked” something, but because the communist political system had a false anthropology, assuming that life and the crown of creation, man, originated by themselves from dead matter. The word “God” was simply replaced by the word “self.” The rationalistic claims of the “only correct doctrine” to the truth of a new clan of dedicated priests-ideologists, who have arrogated to themselves a monopoly on truth, led to a monstrous ideologization of the political system, to the creation of a pseudo-religion. This is, along with the biological, the second important source of intolerance: monological rationalism, which is a consequence of the new anthropocetric (godless) worldview.

A distorted understanding of monotheism (monotheism), a claim to a monopoly on absolute truth can also give rise to intolerance towards “heretics” and “sectarians.” All dissenters and dissidents (dissidents) are subject to simple elimination in this case. There can be no talk of any tolerance here. With this approach, tolerance would mean unprincipledness, indifference to the truth. One might ask: “Isn’t there one truth? Why support all the variety of lies? ”Biblical tradition says that a person is reasonable, but his mind is partially damaged. The Savior Himself shows extraordinary tolerance, entering, being God (!), Into free discussions with people, giving commandments about love for all people, about their repeated forgiveness. He proposes to resist evil not by external means, but by spiritual ones from within.

In modern times, after a long tragic experience of “trial and error”, it was nevertheless recognized that there are issues in the solution of which no one among the people (damaged by original sin) can be a judge. This applies to some aspects of religion, convictions, worldview, orientations in private and public life (these are the rights of the first generation – liberal). There is only one limitation here: the similar rights of other citizens, as well as the rights of a material order, should not be infringed upon: the right to biological life, the right to security in old age, the right to property (these are the second generation’s social rights), etc. rights enshrined in the Constitution and detailed in other legal documents. The state must keep a watchful eye on the inadmissibility of such violations. Monological rationalism in its development comes to the conclusion about the limitations of its methodology. Church organizations in the course of history, due to the sinfulness of the clergy, have committed many abuses. Christian monotheism has often driven immature heads into the struggle for a monopoly of truth. After all, if there is only one truth, then does not tolerance mean simple lack of principle and indifference? The difference between Christian monotheism and philosophical monism was understood by a few.

In modern times, the judicial and political functions were largely removed from the Church. But the principles of biblical anthropology and natural law (Rom. 2: 13-15) in twisting ways, sometimes passing secularization (not always godless), were nevertheless assimilated by European humanity, entered into its humanistic worldview. The modern concept of human rights, which has a deep biblical basis , penetrated into the Constitution of the Russian Federation. The second article of the Constitution expresses the idea that a person does not exist for the state, but the state exists for a person. (Compare: in the image and likeness of God, man was created, not the state). This reminds us of the Gospel saying: “the Sabbath is for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). It took centuries before this idea, which affirms the true hierarchy of values, was embodied in a constitutional norm. Articles 13 and 14 of the Constitution denies the possibility of establishing state ideology and religion. In these areas, uncertainty is deliberately left, figuratively speaking, the possibility of a person’s meeting with God, with his conscience. The state refuses the monopoly in this sphere, here it shows tolerance to citizens who themselves can decide on ideological and religious issues. In this area, a person is not subject to human judgment.

Let’s summarize. The religious and philosophical basis of tolerance is the following statements:

  1. Equality of all people in their dignity and freedom, as created in the image and likeness of God. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights speaks about this without mentioning God). Therefore, everyone has the right to their opinion, i.e. to be different from others. No one but God has a monopoly on truth and the right to special closeness to it. This relative autonomy of each person is determined by the possibility of his direct conversion (without intermediaries) in his Prototype-Creator. It is very important that it is not the state or society that endows a person with these qualities (although they develop during life in society), therefore society has no right to alienate them.
  2. The biblical tradition claims that a person is damaged by original sin. Collectives of people, collectives, ruling structures, the state are also not guaranteed against mistakes. No one should have a monopoly on truth. Remembering this teaches a person political modesty. This also leads to the theory of the limited state.
  3. There are generally binding norms of behavior, fixed in world religions (do not kill, do not steal, do not harm, etc.), the violation of which should not be included in the sphere of tolerance. It is no coincidence that many of the commandments are negative (prohibitive). You cannot demand love, but you can demand the prevention of the practical expression of hatred.

More conclusions:

  1. Control over compliance with generally binding norms can be entrusted to a state that has a monopoly on the use of force regulated by law. But here, too, one should distinguish between the sinner and the sin he has committed. The criminal’s rights are subject to limitation, but not annulment.
  2. The presence of diversity in opinions, convictions and beliefs speaks both about the diversity of paths to truth, and about possible delusions of the human mind, which can be overcome in free discussions. The peculiarity of a high worldview truth is that it can only be comprehended freely. The psychological atmosphere corresponding to this state of affairs is described in the terminology of tolerance.
  3. Genuine tolerance, which presupposes a compromise within the framework of humanism, has nothing to do with any lack of principle or indifference to the truth. On the contrary, tolerance reveals respect for the Truth that can only be perceived freely. In relation to himself, a person can be arbitrarily intolerant maximalist, but in relation to others, he must be tolerant. Social life is impossible without a generally recognized norm of tolerance. The ideology of tolerance allows you to determine the measure of a reasonable compromise.
  4. The atmosphere of tolerance should not lead to any permissiveness, disorder, anarchy, because the rule of law is obliged to be not tolerant towards violators of state legal laws who guard the safety and dignity of other individuals. But the state’s violence against lawbreakers should be of the minimum necessary nature, not turn into revenge.
  1. State laws should not be of a total nature (regulation of the entire spectrum of relationships between people), should respect freedom of religion, thought, human rights and protect them along with ensuring elementary security.
  2. The political regime most appropriate to the atmosphere of tolerance is liberal democracy. Democracy is etymologically the power of the people. This power is manifested primarily through the participation of all citizens in elections and in the institutions of civil society. Liberalism is a political culture of respect for the dignity and freedom of the individual human being. Liberalism (human rights) allows you to protect a person from collectives, from “demos,” from the state. Liberalism does not allow democracy to become totalitarian. It is unnecessary to talk about all the abuses (where there are none ?!) generated by liberal democracy (freedom is generally a dangerous thing, but you cannot live without it). What is important is the correct principle, the ideal to strive for. The alternative to liberal democracy is totalitarianism, which, as you know, is even worse. Of course, intermediate political regimes are also possible. Much also depends on the moral state of the people. General education, raising the general culture, travel also contribute to the development of tolerance.
  3. Three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam (the order of listing is chronological) have one Abrahamic basis, are closely related to the Old Testament, which contains the doctrine of the high destiny of man, his God-given freedom. These three religions confess one God, the Father of all people, a God of goodness, love and justice. It seems that these world religions bear a special responsibility: they can demonstrate to the whole world the unity of ethical values, common human ethics. It is only necessary to think at the rational level of the ethical applications of faith. The universal of the common good will never become obsolete, and reverence for life remains the original value.

Hegumen Benjamin Novik