‘What part does toleration play in these twin developments of large centralized states and the isolation of the individual?’ A.J. Conyers wondered.1 ‘Is it merely coincidental that wherever highly organized industrial powers with a central bureaucratic government is found anywhere in the world, one also finds the presence of a strong ‘ethos of tolerance’?’2 For Conyers, ‘it [was] no coincidence [that] as the world continu[d]s to appear a dangerous place in which to live, and as we rel[ied] on political power (that is, violent force) to meet crises, that there [was] a continued emphasis upon what we have learned to call toleration.’3 If people tolerated one another, it is often claimed, there wouldn’t be terrorist attacks, tribal warfare, tensions between China and Tibet, social anxiety between Muslims and others in France, and so on: it is the lack of toleration that makes the emergence of violence possible and even likely. Additionally, as there is a perceived increase in danger, there can be increased support of a growing State — both in terms of military and police — to counter that threat, increasing the power of the State over all other “social arrangements.”
‘The greater the population, and the more diverse, the greater is the threat to a nation’s unity.’4 As a population grows and diversifies, this too increases the emphasis on the need for toleration (and multiculturalism, as will be discussed), and also legitimizes (to most) the growth of the State in order to assure that groups are treated justly — a State which hopes to establish a needed ‘bureaucracy that can deal directly with individuals and not be hindered by the competing loyalties and authorities that create groups within the populations.’5 Considering this, there is close relationship between the size of the State and what Charles Taylor calls “The Nova Effect” — the ever-multiplication of modes of belief and the communities that organize around those beliefs. Interestingly, though “The Nova Effect” leads to the inflation of communities (which contributes to their inability to provide many with a sense of “rootedness”), this inflation doesn’t reduce State growth, for “the potential threat” — even if it is less likely that threat will manifest — is enough to justify State growth and emphasis on toleration. Hence, communities are losing authority and power from two fronts simultaneously: their own inflation due to the ever-multiplication of communities, and the transfer of authority to the ever-growing State. But again, if this reduces the probability of “the banality of evil,” perhaps it is worth the cost.
‘The doctrine of toleration, while preached sincerely and not at all for the purposes of [S]tate, neutralizes […] inconvenient distinctions, eroding the capacity to draw groups together for purposes other than those of the central government.’6 How does this work? To help explain, let’s make an example of Christianity and controversies over LGBT marriage. For many Christians, marriage is between a man and a woman, and they believe this because of how they interpret the Bible. To many, this view is discriminatory, especially if it is believed that a group doesn’t tolerate another unless it agrees with and/or accepts the practices of the other: there is an extraordinary difference between “tolerance of disagreements” and “tolerance as acceptance” (the latter of which seems to help State growth). Through Obergefell, the Supreme Court of the United State ruled LGBT marriage legal and illegal for States not to acknowledge it. This has put some religious individuals in opposition to the State, which necessarily draws into question the authority of these communities as compared to the authority of the State. Since the State has the power of law on its side, it is hard (in practice) to believe the religious communities have more power, especially if in resisting they are arrested or penalized in ways that bankrupt them — acts which very well prove that the State is in control, perhaps weakening the degree people view these communities as carrying meaningful authority.
Thanks to the Supreme Court, opposition to LGBT marriage has become an “inconvenient characteristic” of some Christian communities (perhaps rightly), one that State authority is forcing communities to “play down” or risk having themselves come in opposition to the State. Perhaps this is a good thing — most LGBTs certainly think so — and do note that I am not interested in arguing against Obergefell. My point is only that as religious communities stand up for or change their views on LGBT marriage, their authority is gradually brought into question. If some could (mis)interpret the Bible to be a source of “discrimination” (as defined by the State), this draws into question the value of the Bible itself, and if this is undermined, so too is weakened the foundation of biblical communities (if not destroyed). Even if religious communities successfully interpret the Bible in a manner that permits LGBT within their theological framework, the very fact that communities carry out this “neoreading” (as discussed in “What is a Judge to Do?” by O.G. Rose) will probably be due to State pressure, providing evidence that it is indeed the State which is in control, potentially weakening communal authority, but arguably for the just end of ending discrimination against LGBTs. Lastly, it should be noted that State pressure leads to a “Nova Effect” in Christianity as groups splinter off into fractions that support LGBT marriage and those that don’t, contributing to an inflation and weakening of Christianity’s overall authority, and providing further evidence that the State is in control. But again, perhaps this is what justice would demand.
Conyers wondered ‘[w]hy is it so often true that those who defend the individual against all sorts of infringements — by the family, the church, the local community — seem to have little passion for securing them against an imposing government bureaucracy?’7 Considering the above example, we can grasp where these people are coming from (people who are likely Cosmopolitans and/or Progressives). For them, it is the more-neutral State that can “force out” the oppressive and bigoted dimensions of communities into which people find themselves “thrown” by birth. It is remarkably unjust to them that an LGBT who was “thrown” into a Christian community would have to grow up feeling rejected, confused, alienated, and alone for having a birth-caused sexuality (even if the sexuality wasn’t innate, people’s personal choices should be respected). For supporters of LGBT marriage, it would be unjust not to reduce the authority and power of religious communities, as it would be unjust not to pursue a kidnapper or to allow States to decide on slavery.
Are Progressives correct on the matter of LGBT marriage? Perhaps they are — that question exceeds this work though is taken up in other papers — what I am focused on here is how the State comes to exercise more authority over local communities, (perhaps unintentionally calling their very existence into question). No, I don’t believe the State should never exercise authority over local communities: groups that sacrifice children should be done away with; groups that enslave should be disbanded; and so forth.8 My point here is only that whenever the State intervenes over communities, it necessarily risks undermining those communities and increasing its power and authority over them. Perhaps this is sometimes worth it, but we should never fail to realize that the choice to involve the State entails both risks and rewards. Growing the State may stop “the banality of evil” but may also increase its horror if it were to ever happen again.
For one, if a group is forced to cease doing what others perceive is bigoted versus come to organically change on its own, we never know for sure that the group has authentically changed, resulting in dangerous existential anxiety (as descried in “Equality and Its Immoral Limits” by O.G. Rose) — anxiety that very well might result in populist backlashes as seen in the election Trump. In appealing to the State, we also increase the rationality of appealing to the State to stop what we believe is unjust bigotry, increasing the probability of more existential anxiety in the future and further State growth (and all the perhaps-worth-it-problems of rootlessness and Cosmopolitanism mentioned earlier). It is always unjust to stop an injustice tomorrow that we could stop today, and where waiting for communities to organically change on their own can take years, convincing the State to force the communities to change will force change immediately. For those who believe communities are permitting and even encouraging an injustice like opposition to LGBT marriage, it is both irrational and immoral not to appeal to the State immediately (do note that what one believes is just to do is necessarily also rational to them). As the State is increasingly appealed to, it becomes increasingly just and rational to appeal to them, hence also making just and rational the diminishing of communal authority and all the risks and problems such entails.9 ‘In a world where power inevitably finds its place and seeks to expand its authority, the [S]tate eventually proves to be the only legitimate authority to which the increasingly isolated individual can resort.’10
We set ourselves up for deception if we believe totalitarianism can never be appealing.
1Conyers, A.J. The Long Truce. Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Company, 2001: 6.
2Conyers, A.J. The Long Truce. Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Company, 2001: 6.
3Conyers, A.J. The Long Truce. Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Company, 2001: 7.
4Conyers, A.J. The Long Truce. Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Company, 2001: 8.
5Conyers, A.J. The Long Truce. Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Company, 2001: 44.
6Conyers, A.J. The Long Truce. Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Company, 2001: 7.
7Conyers, A.J. The Long Truce. Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Company, 2001: xii.
8This leaves open the question of which “injustices” should the State intervene to stop and which supposed “injustices” are allowable, and this points to the need for society to discuss morality, which if Alasdair Macintyre is correct in his After Virtue, we no longer can.
9If justice leads to a growth of the State, which leads to the possibility of “the banality of evil” happening on a larger scale, this threat will likely be hidden behind a sense that justice has increased. Justice might lead to a kind of “evil justice,” as rationality could lead to a “evil rationality,” per se.
10Conyers, A.J. The Long Truce. Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Company, 2001: 190.