May 31, 2007, on this blog: Totalitarians vs. pluralists
About here, inevitably, someone will chime in with what they seem to think of as the trump card for the religious totalitarian perspective. Aha! they will say, so what you’re saying is you’re all for tolerance, except when it comes to people who are intolerant!
Well, yeah. And also, duh. Antonyms are incompatible. Opposites are opposed. That’s not a particularly noteworthy observation, so I’ve always been baffled as to why this bit of adolescent wordplay was regarded as meaningful.
Here again, though, I think Patel’s terminology is helpful. Intolerance is, necessarily, totalitarian. So when I say I favor freedom — whether freedom of conscience or of any other sort — then, yes, what I’m really saying is that I’m all for freedom except for when it comes to people who want to impose totalitarianism. This exception does not, as the JV sophists would have it, negate the claim that “I’m all for freedom.” It simply demonstrates that, unlike them, I’m aware of what words like “free” and “tolerant” — and their opposites — actually mean.