The limits of tolerance

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A religious worldview cannot expect the same kinds of tolerance as racial, gender, or sexual identities. Here’s why

Paul Russell is professor of philosophy at the University of British Columbia in Canada, and professor of philosophy and director of the Gothenburg Responsibility Project at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. His latest book is The Limits of Free Will (2017).

Throughout the Western world, the political ‘Left’ is in disarray. It is fragmented, rudderless and lacks a coherent plan to stem the tide of ‘populism’, nationalism and xenophobia. Identity politics and questions of religion have done much to fuel both the Right’s xenophobic tendencies, and the Left’s fragmentation. The ‘Old Left’ embraced a simple Manichean worldview of good versus evil: the enemy was easily identified (the rich and powerful, who oppressed the poor and the weak), and its agenda was simple and clear (redistribution of wealth and greater economic equality).

In contrast, the ‘New Left’ has introduced multiple new agendas – and enemies. The ‘Old Left’, it is said, was insensitive about issues affecting a range of marginalised groups, who identify themselves along lines of race, gender and sexual orientation. The three-legged stool of the Old Left – ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’ – was never very secure, but when fraternity was replaced by the demands of group identity, little stability remained.

Among other things, the core Old-Left liberal value of religious tolerance has now come into confrontation with the identity politics of the New Left. Indeed, one central strand of New Left thinking regards all talk of (liberal) ‘religious tolerance’ as mere camouflage concealing deep and systematic disrespect and unequal treatment of religious minorities. From this perspective, what needs priority is not so much the right of individuals to choose their religion as they see fit and without interference, but the rights of religious groups to secure and preserve their standing and identity in a society that would otherwise marginalise them.

How should the Left understand and practise religious tolerance in the face of the emphasis that various groups now place on the value of their religious identities? This is a question that has, of course, become tangled up with overlapping issues, such as racism, anti-immigrant sentiment, and various forms of nationalist xenophobia. But we should keep these issues separate and focus on the difficult enough question of the relationship between religious toleration and identity politics. Much of the (New) Left analysis, which concentrates on the language and agendas of identity politics, has paid too little attention to a very significant distinction that falls within the various identities that have been proposed as a basis for rectifying various forms of social injustice and unequal treatment: the distinction between ideological and non-ideological identity commitments. A lack of clarity about this basic divide within identity politics has led to a serious failure to provide credible understanding of what tolerance requires when we are confronted with questions about the rights of different religious groups to be treated equally and with respect.

Some claim there is an analogy between the identity politics of religion and the issues that arise with other excluded groups based on race, gender, sexual orientation, disability and the like. What is supposed to hold these divergent identities together is that the groups in question have been treated unequally, or do not receive adequate recognition in the existing social and legal system. Religious groups require protection to secure their rights and recognition of their particular interests in practising their religion. Yet, however plausible these claims might be, there is a key distinction that needs to be made between identities that are based on what can be broadly described as ideological or value-ladencommitments, and those that do not carry any such baggage. This distinction is essential to understanding the role of (religious) toleration in a liberal, democratic society…




by Buck RogersStaff Writer Waking Times

“We are not dealing here with purely material reality, but with the spiritual realm.” ~Richard Gallagher

Reported cases of demonic possession are on the rise worldwide. In 2016, ABC News reported a sharp increase in exorcism, while noting that even the Pope himself was called upon to perform exorcism on behalf of the Catholic Church.

Something seems askew with all of this in the age of scientific reductionism, but is there a psychological basis for such a mysterious return to archaic frames of mind?

According to board-certified psychiatrist and professor of clinical psychiatry at New York Medical College Richard Gallagher there is. While most cases of demonic possession can be attributed to hoaxes and trickery, Gallagher has a unique range of experience in working with the real thing.

His journey into this bizarre and unsettling phenomenon began when he was approached by a Catholic priest who sought his advice on the case of a subject of his who was experiencing symptoms of demonic possession. The priest wanted to know if it was merely a mental disorder which was causing such bizarre and frightening behavior in his patient, and so, with an open mind, Gallagher took a closer look. What followed thereafter was an unexpected journey into the world of exorcism on the fringes of human behavior.

“Is it possible to be a sophisticated psychiatrist and believe that evil spirits are, however seldom, assailing humans? Most of my scientific colleagues and friends say no, because of their frequent contact with patients who are deluded about demons, their general skepticism of the supernatural, and their commitment to employ only standard, peer-reviewed treatments that do not potentially mislead (a definite risk) or harm vulnerable patients. But careful observation of the evidence presented to me in my career has led me to believe that certain extremely uncommon cases can be explained no other way.” ~Richard Gallagher

Regarding the peculiar case of a high priestess of the Church of Satan, Gallagher describes how he came to believe that not all cases of supposed demonic possession are fraudulent, but that some sort of genuine paranormal activity is actually taking place. This assessment is founded on his 25 years of experience in this area with several hundred consultations.

“I was inclined to skepticism. But my subject’s behavior exceeded what I could explain with my training. She could tell some people their secret weaknesses, such as undue pride. She knew how individuals she’d never known had died, including my mother and her fatal case of ovarian cancer. Six people later vouched to me that, during her exorcisms, they heard her speaking multiple languages, including Latin, completely unfamiliar to her outside of her trances. This was not psychosis; it was what I can only describe as paranormal ability. I concluded that she was possessed.” ~Richard Gallagher

He describes the phenomenon here:

“A possessed individual may suddenly, in a type of trance, voice statements of astonishing venom and contempt for religion, while understanding and speaking various foreign languages previously unknown to them. The subject might also exhibit enormous strength or even the extraordinarily rare phenomenon of levitation. (I have not witnessed a levitation myself, but half a dozen people I work with vow that they’ve seen it in the course of their exorcisms.) He or she might demonstrate “hidden knowledge” of all sorts of things — like how a stranger’s loved ones died, what secret sins she has committed, even where people are at a given moment. These are skills that cannot be explained except by special psychic or preternatural ability.” ~Richard Gallagher

In short, after decades of direct experience while considering both the scientific approach and being open to a greater possibility, Gallagher believes that demonic possession is very real. And while this viewpoint is certainly likely to earn ridicule and stoke the skeptics, we do know that there is much more to the human spiritual experience than can be explained by science.

About the Author
Buck Rogers is the earth-bound incarnation of that familiar part of our timeless cosmic selves, the rebel within. He is a surfer of ideals and meditates often on the promise of happiness in a world battered by the angry seas of human thoughtlessness. He is a staff writer for
This article (What a Leading Psychologist Knows About Demonic Possession) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Buck Rogers and It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.



Anger Can Be a Good Thing if You Know How to Use It

by Quinn Myers

Sometimes you get so righteously pissed off that it actually helps you make a positive change: You can use your anger as a motivator to hit the gym after a breakup and sculpt the perfect revenge bod, for example, or find a better job to escape your dickish boss. But there’s a thin line dividing that useful anger from the type of anger that leads to self-destructive behavior, like constantly blowing up at little things and alienating those around you. The difficult part, of course, is figuring out where that line is knowing when you’re about to cross it.

How to Make Anger Work for You

Anger can only be a positive change agent when “you fully understand what you’re angry about,” says Carmen Chang-Arratia, a licensed social worker in New York City. Anger with a clear cause, she says, is the type that can be used for good, because it’s clear what the reason for it is.

“These are good points because you can see the beginning and end of your anger: What you don’t want anymore, what you’re looking to get rid of and what you now may want. You’ve crossed the frustration bridge and entered war territory. Anger is a call to action.”

Generally speaking, it’s a good thing to embrace your anger — whether you act on it or not: According to a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, suppressing or ignoring your angry emotions will only bottle them up and lead to depression. Instead, the study claims, “Forming a habitual acceptance of negative emotions helps keep individuals from reacting to — and thus exacerbating — their negative mental experiences.”

Where It Goes Wrong

The longer you leave your anger unresolved, the more difficult it becomes to identify what made you angry in the first place, and things compound from there. “Sometimes things can stack up, but there’s usually one triggering event,” says Chang-Arratia. The anger at this original trigger, she explains, gets spread to multiple more trivial annoyances, causing you to both find it harder to focus on expressing anger at the original trigger in a healthy way, and to flare up in bouts of rage at things that don’t deserve such an extreme reaction. “All that emotion must be stored somewhere,” Chang-Arratia says. “It builds up inside you and becomes depression and anxiety.”

This venting of rage at more trivial things starts its own undesirable pattern of behavior, too, by putting you in a cycle of constant flare-ups. Just like any system of instant gratification, allowing your anger to repeatedly erupt in violent reactions is addictive, and quickly turns into a learned behavior. Worse, this causes you to completely lose the ability to use your anger for positive change.

“If you want to someone to be quiet and you yell at them, hit them or threaten them, the result you want will assuredly happen almost immediately,” Chang-Arratia says. But because it’s so superficially quick and effective — you’ve dealt with the symptom (the noise) but not the cause (the reason someone was yelling at you in the first place) — it’s easy to slip into the habit of expressing your anger through these means. And in the long term, immediately resorting to an angry response every time you become mad threatens your ability to exhibit proper judgment.

This is where things begin to spiral, since venting at smaller annoyances might bring you temporary relief from your pent up aggression, but won’t help deal with your actual problem in the long term. If you’ve missed the mark on what you’re angry at or you spend your time steaming about something you can’t quite put your finger on, you may feel the anger turn inwards, even as you keep directing small bursts of it towards undeserving targets. This is when it manifests itself as depression or anxiety, and can even seep into your relationships, damaging them and compounding the detrimental effects to your overall mental health in the process. You get stuck in a mental rut, unable or unwilling to move on. As a result, people stop wanting to be around you — the guy who’s always brooding — creating a sense of isolation that will just deepen that spiral…