The myth of religious tolerance
As a recent incident in Olympia, WA shows (see article below), the belief that American is a place of religious tolerance is in some aspects a myth or perhaps even ideology. Despite the imposition of more generalized Christian holidays in public schools, the pledge of allegiance, and the colloquial invocation of Christian beliefs (love thy neighbor for example), we can also find that religious tolerance only encompasses a very particular definition of religion. It is clear from the dozens of hate crimes and everyday discrimination faced by non-Christian groups that religious tolerance is the exception and not the rule. In this sense “tolerance” is acceptable only if and when other religious beliefs do not affect, impinge on or even assume a public face. Just imagine the outcry if there were menorahs, Hannukah sweaters, and dreidels in every store window and on every commercial? In Gramsci’s work on hegemony and ideology we can see how the phrase ‘religious tolerance’ has been used itself as a tool of religious domination. What religions do we tolerate? Certainly not Wiccan or Candomble. The definition of religious tolerance itself is centered on a Christian model. Is this what we mean by tolerance?
Missing Atheist sign in Olympia, WA