Alan J. Levinovitz
The Limits of Religious Tolerance
Amherst College Press 2016
New Books in Big IdeasNew Books in EducationNew Books in LawNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Public PolicyNew Books in ReligionNew Books in Religion & FaithNew Books Network January 14, 2017 Marshall Poe
The Pope said that Donald Trump wasn’t much of a Christian if all he can think about is building walls. Trump replied that it was “disgraceful” for a any leader, even the Pope, “to question another man’s religion or faith.” I imagine that many Americans agreed with Trump on this score. But is Trump’s “radical tolerance” position really sensible? Can’t someone reasonably and respectfully say to another “Gee, I think you’ve got that particular point of scripture wrong” or even “I think your faith is, well, misguided for reasons X, Y an Z”?
In his thought-provoking book The Limits of Religious Tolerance (Amherst College Press, 2016), Alan J. Levinovitz argues that we can and indeed must question religion, both our own and everyone else’s. How else, he asks, are we to understand why we and our fellow citizens believe what we say we believe? To be sure, Levinovitz advises that we only engage in critical discussions of religion in certain, well-defined contexts: churches, synagogues, mosques and such are good places to practice religion, not debate it. In contrast, Levinovitz proposes, universities–places defined by rational investigation and (in theory) civil discussion–are perfect for debates about religion. And, Levinovitz continues, institutions of higher education should do everything in their power to encourage it.