Tolerance is Never Tolerance: A Lesson from the Saint of Common Sens


“Modern toleration is really a tyranny. It is a tyranny because it is a silence.”  

G.K. Chesterton

Tolerance as we are told from its proponents is not what it seems.  The great lie about tolerance is that it is not tolerance. It is not even acceptance. These might seem to be semantics to some but it is essential to understand the following.

1.) what tolerance really is and what is not

2.) the difference between tolerance and acceptance.

To get some much-needed insight on this I will get some help from a man who has a huge impact and influence on my life. Gilbert Keith Chesterton.

What would G.K. Chesterton say on the matter?

Well he was a master of wit and was far above his time in understanding not only the dilemma of what would now be known as neo modern/post modern thought, but also in giving the right answer to it.

I have decided this will start new series of blogs dedicated to the wisdom of G.K. Chesterton.


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Chesterton was an English writer, poet, thinker and theologian. Chesterton was born in 1874 and his birthday is next Monday.  After his death in 1936, Chesterton was given the moniker “The Saint of Common Sense”.  Chesterton often debated high-profile atheists like George Bernard Shaw and Clarence Darrow. His most famous works are Orthodoxy, Heretics, & The Everlasting Man


In a short story entitled The Conversion of the Anarchist. Chesterton deals with the issue of tolerance among others. Below is a skit based on that story. Please watch before reading more.



Chesterton’s genius is really simple, he shows that tolerance has its limits. Chesterton knows that the people who claim to be the most tolerant are in fact the least. Tolerance is really nothing more than tyranny according to Chesterton.

So what do we see from this?

1.) That there is no freedom, equality, love and peace in tolerance. Something its defenders suppose but is not true.

2.) That in order to have tolerance you must seemingly deny the people the right to not only voice their opinions but the thoughts themselves.

So Chesterton is right in thinking of it as tyranny. There is however more to it than that. To him tolerance and tyranny are really relative to each other because they are both attributes of indifference.

To him (Chesterton) the indifferent man only claims tolerance because they are without deep-rooted convictions and as such think anyone that has them is immoral. That however is the kicker that those who suppose not one set of values is greater than another is in fact doing claiming the opposite. Chesterton probably understood this inconsistency and hypocrisy when writing this story.

When it comes down to it the man who seems to be impartial is the most avid   dogmatic and rigid one in the room.

It is in this religion of indifference that we see the problem. This consistency not only makes these values irrational but also hypocritical. The one who suggests tolerance never really wants tolerance but rather tyranny.

The one who demands equality and acceptance is usually willing to strip that from another. Indifference is really just hate and anger towards those who suppose objective truth.

Indifference takes aways any real convictions to replace it with tolerance.

Chesterton tells us what he thinks of this:

“Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.”

Tolerance is nothing more than a means to defend in a very lazy way any view found ‘acceptable’ enough to ignore. Really tolerance is nothing more that ignoring the credible ideas of others and suggesting that they will tolerated until one is done with them.  To be indifferent really is to not understand why someone views the world they do because in order to do that you must have acceptance.

Chesterton says this about that:

“Impartiality is a pompous name for indifference, which is an elegant name for ignorance”


Tolerance grants permission to ‘accept’ other views but only so far as to limit others.

In much the same manner the equality movement is the same. We are told that not one group of people is better than the other or less deserving of the same things but that some deserve special treatment.  This is just absurd as tolerance.


I hope you have seen the word acceptance a few time in previous section because it was leading to this. Tolerance is not acceptance and Chesterton tells us why.

“Impartiality means at best indifference to everything”

As already established tolerance is way to establish indifference which some might think means acceptance but that is not the case. You cannot have acceptance of anything and yet seemingly embrace everything. Usually to accept one idea is to then to automatically give it more credence. To give it more relevance than anything in contrast to that idea.

So where does this stem from?

The reality is that many want to do what feels good and often take aim at people who might feel different.

I know this might upset some and this itself might come of as intolerance but this is what I have come to believe is true. People wanting tolerance think that means they get acceptance this is not true.  These two things are directly opposed.

To say I am tolerant of others means to say, I am indifferent about them and their life and views until I am unconvinced by it. Until their ideas interfere with my lifestyle and attitude.

So then what is acceptance?

Whether or not you see this, tolerance is tyranny and social engineering. It is the placing of the collective over the rights of the individual. Further more it is not sane to suppose your ideas are less because someone else says. Unless they have taken the time to objectively convince you with solid arguments.

Here is the big lie, that tolerance is acceptance. This is simply not true.

Acceptance requires that we become objectively evident of people’s lives and ideas. I can accept you don’t believe as I do. I can accept that your life is not mine. I can accept that my religion is right and yours is not  and that you will disagree.  To accept that I will be given the right to speak to the truth I see and visa versa. To accept that you have a reason for what you do and think even if I think it is flawed and visa versa. To never equate the different values as the same. You see that is real love and peace.  Tolerance really is a word that has been used in a very Orwellian way.


It is usually the bigots and tyrants that use soft language to do hard and forceful things. It is usually people who use harsh language who do things out of well intent. Speaking of bigots Chesterton also gets that right too. In his book Heretics he says:

“In real life, people who are most bigoted are the people who have no convictions at all.”

“Bigotry may be called the appalling frenzy of the indifferent. This frenzy of the indifferent is in truth a terrible thing; it has made all monstrous and widely pervading persecutions. “

Chesterton’s ideas about bigots relates to tolerance because it is the bigots who cause the problem due to their indifference. The idea of tolerance being indifference is huge. The modern idea of religious right-wing folks being the harsh people going after other groups has been way to long overused and exaggerated. Last time I checked it was not those people shutting down other people’s businesses because they would not serve them. Words like bigotry and hate are usually used to make one’s beliefs seem upright. It is a tactic done by tyrants who want to shut people up but cannot do it with good objective arguments.

In conclusion

So why do people want tolerance? Well actually they want indifference ( if not their false idea of ‘acceptance’) of others for the sake of having to be never told what to do or how to live. The illusion is that somehow the ‘bigots’ are trying to interfere with their lives. When really it is their conscience that is afflicting them. I believe all people deep down are rebellious sinful children and when ever God’s Law is presented we try to hide. We know what will happen if we see in the light. Tolerance is just a tactic to at best silence and at worse brain wash people into changing what they believe. Tolerance is never the kind of tolerance that people believe in. Tolerance is not tolerance that is evident.

“Our real error in such a case is that we do not know or care about the creed itself, from which a people’s customs, good or bad, will necessarily flow. We talk much about ‘respecting’ this or that person’s religion; but the way to respect a religion is to treat it as a religion”

In truth if people want what they think is tolerance than they have to be willing to accept someone might disagree and further more might tell them as much. What do people have to fear from hearing other’s ideas if they confident in theirs. This reveals the problem. Deep down it is fear of hearing something that might change us. Who is really afraid of other people’s thoughts and words? Who might thing they were the most dangerous things?  The answer is in the original quote above:

“Modern toleration is really a tyranny. It is a tyranny because it is a silence.”  

So in other words, tyrants.


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