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Volume 15, Issue 2, Fall/Automne 2011

James Mensch
Pages 171-189

Religious Intolerance
Hating Your Neighbour as Yourself

Religion has been a constant throughout human history. Evidence of it dates from the earliest times. Religious practice is also universal, appearing in every region of the globe. To judge from recorded history and contemporary accounts, religious intolerance is equally widespread. Yet all the major faiths proclaim the golden rule, namely, to “love your neighbour as yourself.” When Jesus was asked by a lawyer, “Who is my neighbour?” he replied with the story of the good Samaritan—the man who bound up the wounds and looked after the Israelite who was neither his co-religionist nor a member of his race. Jesus’ example has been rarely followed. What is it in religion—and not just in the Christian religion—that leads its members to limit their conception of their neighbour? How is it that, in preaching the universal brotherhood of mankind, religions so often practice the opposite? In my paper, I suggest some answers by focusing on the notions of faith, ethics and finitude.