Of Socinians and Homosexuals: Trust and the Limits of Toleration

In Russel Hardin, Ingrid Crepell & Stephen Macedo (eds.), Toleration on Trial. Lexington Books. pp. 85 (2008)


The limits of toleration are at the limits of trust. Without a minimal level of trust between different groups, any accommodation will quickly break down (Dees 1999). In many ways, the point here is obvious: people have to trust one another enough to make toleration possible. In other words, they have to feel that their fundamental moral interests are not threatened if they accept toleration. If that trust breaks down, then civil war—in either the hot or the cold variety—will break out. A society built on toleration, then, requires a delicate balance between the practices within it that sustain toleration and those that build the trust between disparate groups. I explore these issues by looking at two groups--the non-Trinitarian Socinians in the 17th century and homosexuals in the 21st--to understand where those boundaries should be.

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Richard Dees
University of Rochester

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