Tolerance and Morality: Friends, or Enemies?

A friend posted this on FB recently — Question of the week: Can there be morality without absolute truth?…Why or Why Not?

I replied: I think that’s a very good question. Or how about this, can relativism be considered a true form of morality at all? Functionally, isn’t relativism ultimately self-defeating? Does the “slippery slope” of relativism really lead to constructive tolerance and human unity, or does it lead to chaos and a culture without any real morals? Hmmm….

Wouldn’t a relativistic and tolerant culture ultimately implode on itself much like the Roman Empire?

In reality, is relativism really an enlightened form of morality? Or is it actually the absence of morality itself?

Relativism makes the day-to-day, varying feelings or notions of humans the standard…a standard which is really no standard at all. And if there is no standard, can there really be any true morality?

Following this logic, then no…there can be no morality without absolute truth.

Here’s a follow-up question: Can one really live having tolerance and holiness as values at the same time?

Or put a more secular, non-religious way, can one really live having tolerance and morality as co-existing values?

Can these values truly co-exist, or are they ultimately mutually exclusive?

In essence, tolerance stands in opposition to having a standard, and morality implies the existence of some standard. (Are we drowning yet?)

At its very core, having tolerance as a stated value in an effort to be “politically correct” will inevitably undermine the moral foundation of a society or culture. This value for tolerance, if really examined carefully, leads to a de-valuing of city and state laws as well as a subtle (or even blatant) disregard for the Constitution of a country. “Tolerance,” taken to its logical extreme, makes the Constitution and other laws obsolete, unnecessary and irrelevant. Thus, government leaders find all kinds of ways to operate outside of these parameters. Judicial officers reinterpret the laws of the land to serve their own agendas if the laws as stated seem too intolerant.

Without standards of morality based upon absolute truth, I do not believe a society or culture can maintain a healthy, peaceful existence…or even survive. Tolerance claims to be an advocate for freedom, but freedom without responsibility and parameters is really no freedom at all. Sure, people can be “free” to do whatever their hearts desire, but this same freedom results in all kinds of fear, anxiety and disharmony if that freedom is not exercised within boundaries.

Freedom without restraint leads to a community filled with narcissistic individuals who care more about their own rights and pleasures than those of the community at large. Morality, standards, boundaries, etc., all remind us that life is not all about “me.” They allow us to experience true freedom…freedom of opportunity, freedom to trust those around us, freedom to live in peace, freedom to truly enjoy the people around us.

So back to the question: Is tolerance really a healthy value? And can it co-exist with a value for morality? I don’t think so. For society to be healthy, productive and truly free, not every behavior and belief can be tolerated. A standard must exist, one which finds its roots in more than just the day-to-day whims of fickle, selfish humans. I believe the standard must find as its source absolute truth.

To be continued…

3 responses to “Tolerance and Morality: Friends, or Enemies?

  1. From a reader of these comments on Facebook:

    Tolerance doesnt mean the absence of morality, it is the epitome of it. We all were made by God, in his image, as free moral agents. We, as Christians, are indwelt with the Holy Spirit, which gives us the divine ability to choose to love others, which is way more than tolerance. When we attempt to impose, legislate, or otherwise force our “morality” upon others, not only will it never accomplish the end result, but is in direct opposition to agape.

    • Randy’s reply to these comments on Facebook:

      Interestingly, as Christians, God’s law is written on our hearts. He puts morality within us.

      Here are my questions:

      Does tolerance equal love (agape love)?

      Is it not possible to love unconditionally with agape love without being tolerant of everything?

      Could we say that Jesus exemplifies the value of unconditional agape love without embracing a value of tolerance?

      (Not defending…just thinking out loud…I learn this way.)

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